Body Shaming: Being Fit-Shamed on Work Trips

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This post is part of a series, in which we asked writers to share their experiences with body shaming.

Fat-shaming is recognized to be cruel. It’s an immature act that targets the most vulnerable thing about women — our appearance — and it turns our bodies into weapons against ourselves. But on the opposite spectrum, not equally harmful but undeniably damaging as well, is fit-shaming. 

In my line of work, I travel often. I eat out a lot, and I have enviable access to great food, and lots of it. I’m immensely privileged in this. And more so than that, I have enviable access to amazing fitness centers with great amenities, and the luxury of working out in well-equipped resorts nearly by myself. It’s perhaps these Zen, focused-in, and unplugged moments that I look forward to the most when I travel for work.

However, not everyone feels the same about physical activity and “clean” eating. After all, “You’re on vacation!” many often say. “Live a little!” Although there is value in kicking back and letting loose, there are also ramifications for some of us … and it’s not always aesthetically or vanity-driven.

No Body Shaming Is Okay

For me, eating poorly upsets my stomach. Badly, embarrassingly even. Working out settles it, as well as puts my mindset in a place where I crave responsible choices that keep my gut happy. Moreover, exercising takes the edge off the guilt of indulgence. It boosts my endorphins and sense of self-worth and well-being. It takes my mind off worry, anxiety, and an endless to-do list that runs a refrain in my mind. It helps me to focus on the music in my ears and the beats thrumming through my blood, so I can concentrate on my form through micro movements or ballistic ones. It helps me tune in to myself. 

But just as the eating and workout habits of someone with a larger build is not the business of a random observer, neither are those of someone with a smaller frame. And yet judgment remains par for the course for both.

I was considered a party pooper for not wanting to eat fried foods with everybody at the snack stations during lunch, or gorging myself at the breakfast buffet while everyone piled on the pancakes and potatoes. I was a spoilsport for not wanting to drink sugary, high-calorie beverages and spirits, especially at the pool bar. Not invited to happy hour because I don’t process alcohol well, and so chose not to imbibe. Sneered at and judged for being “healthy” when I opted to pile vegetables onto my plate — something I didn’t even necessarily do for virtue, but just because I love vegetables, and a medley of all-I-could-eat greens was irresistible to me. And instead of the classic “mean girl” scenario, where the leaner woman was in the seat of power, the situation was reversed and I was shamed, mocked, and derided by those who did not share my shape, to the point that even my professionalism and passion for the job was questioned.

All because I was making unpopular personal choices that were actually good for me. 

It’s easy to call out people for being different. It’s not something people should do, but there it is. Sadly, it’s often women who are both the targets and the perpetrators, a perfect example of the bullied becoming the bullies and drawing power from it. 

However, as harmful and hurtful as it is to make someone feel badly about their more indulgent decisions, eating habits, or shape, it should be recognized that it is also detrimental to go in the other direction. It’s important to accept oneself in any and all shapes and forms, especially as women — we have enough on our plates and enough judgment from a patriarchal society than to have others of our sex or gender pile on.

It’s important to remember that, on both sides of the spectrum, there are valid reasons for the choices we make. Just as a fuller-figured woman could have a thyroid disorder, for example, and be unable to get lean no matter how healthfully she lives, a thinner woman could also have a gastrointestinal issue that makes her unable to eat rich foods or drink cocktails. Things are never quite so simple as they seem, and it’s easy to forget that when our thinspiration culture sets impossible standards, glorifies “skinny” and starvation chic, and centers so much on physical appearance. We live in a world that creates resentment for those who aspire to these standards from those who have accepted them as falsehoods, and guilt on either end. 

But no matter our size, at the end of the day, we could all use a little more forgiveness. 

Tags: Self Confidence, Body Image, Body Positivity

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Su-Jit Lin

Su-Jit Lin is a food, travel, wellness, shopping, and lifestyle writer who is passionate about writing stories that help. See Full Bio

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