Your COVID-19 jokes about getting fat are not funny. They’re hurtful.

I have written and rewritten this post in my head for weeks. Watching it get worse, observing how upset and hurt I feel, seeing friends struggling to avoid the negative self talk, and the downward spiral of shame. Yes – I’m talking about the horrible amount of fat shaming and diet talk that is flooding all of the social outlets. So with that… a content/trigger warning for those that have already been bombarded with this crap. I am going to post some examples of posts and memes that I have been seeing that are degrading, harmful, and downright nasty.

I know that the majority of people who are posting this stuff are doing it out of habit – a lifetime of a steady stream of diet culture shaming us into believing that people who are fat are less than human. But I hope you can appreciate the fact that we all have the ability to learn, grow, and expand our thinking beyond what we have been told. Lived experience is real, and it speaks volumes for those that are brave enough to listen.

So, we are heading into week, what, 12, 29? (I have no idea) and sure, quarantine has certainly created space for reprieve, reflection, rest, rejuvenation (why do all these words start with the letter r?). It has also unearthed a plethora of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and a roller coaster of emotions about the state of our world. Living with these issues day in and day out can bring to the surface our insecurities, and our worst fears. For a lot of people (mostly women), a common fear bubbling to the surface is the fear of gaining weight, also known as…fatphobia.

Social media has become a lifeline for many people who are isolated – an online community where you can find connection which is in short supply at the moment. But the problem is that at any moment, a friend, colleague, or distant relative can drop a meme and immediately send someone into a state of panic. For people who are recovering from disordered eating or those that struggle with eating disorders, this is dangerous, and in some cases life threatening. It also perpetuates a culture in which fat is the most undesirable state a person could want. How do you think that makes fat people feel? That your WORST nightmare, even in the midst of a global pandemic, is that you’ll end up looking like me. Got it.

Fat-shaming images, people demonizing certain foods, and beating themselves up for eating them – it’s all on display and their shame and fear of being fat is broadcast out into the world so we can all feel even worse about ourselves. Comments and posts like: “I was horrible today, I’m a weak, horrible person – why did I eat those chips! or “OMG, someone tape my mouth shut”, or “How am I going to stop the #quarantine15?” It’s toxic and and it needs to stop.

Here are a few examples I have found. Thanks to friends in the Healthy at Every Size and Fat Positive Sacramento groups for sending me a few of these as well:

While I understand the need to offload shame and guilt, and recognize that most people who post these things are doing it out of a desire to make light of something that you know everyone will relate to, ask yourself how it would feel to see someone you care about make YOU the butt of their joke? It doesn’t feel good. I struggle to comprehend why people don’t realize that these comments and memes when read by someone who is struggling with body shame, results in a lot of tears, anxiety, and pain from people that you claim to care about.

Look, everyone has the right to post whatever they want and say whatever they want about their bodies. I 100% believe in body autonomy – plus it’s their social media feed (and yes, I have and will continue to unfollow, snooze, and unfriend people). What I can’t get down with is when your feed is causing harm to peole who struggle daily. Many people are losing their jobs and staring down the reality of food insecurity, and other trauma. It is insensitive, triggering, lacking in empathy, causing a lot of pain, and is doing a lot more damage to one’s health than they realize.

Is it worth it for a cheap laugh at the expense of a friend or loved one?

Rachel Hope posted a great piece on Medium about the subject and she quoted a response from a tweet that really resonated:

I want to be real clear.

If you laugh at, share, or make funny comments about that Taiki Waititi tweet about Wall-E, I want you to know I SEE YOU.

My body — this amazing resilient body that has seen me through SO MUCH TRAUMA and keeps on trucking, this body that allows me to help people and experiences joy and pleasure and life — IS YOUR WORST CASE SCENARIO. Noted.

I hope you imagine what it’s like to move through life knowing that to be like me is literally your worst fear. That your isolation fears are to end up looking like me.

I also hope you know how much data we have that the negative health outcomes for people in larger bodies are NOT because of the size of their body but the STIGMA and the violence and the hurt of hearing people on a daily basis being horrified of ending up like you.

So…just know I see you. Other fat folks and disabled folks see you.

What really gets me worked up, is that fat-shaming comes from everyone, and I mean EVERYONE – including the “woke” people. People who work and move in social justice spaces that are dedicated to advocating for the marginalized. But this? They don’t see. A privilege they don’t even realize they have. It’s called Sizeism, and it is their BIGGEST blind spot.

I will leave you with a plea – I know I can’t regulate what people posts on their social media accounts, nor do I want to. That is your prerogative, and everyone has the right to their own opinions. This is more of a request. Please take a moment and ask yourself – is hurting my friends and loved ones worth the 10 second laugh you’ll get by floating this garbage into the world?

As always… Maya Angelou’s quote always rings true: “when you know better, you do better.” Thanks for listening. Please stay home, stay safe, and be kind yourself and others. Xo

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