Megyn Kelly and I have things in common. We are both lawyers. We were both fat-shamed by a parent. She recently revealed that she was fat-shamed while a law student. She asked her step-father to do it as a weight loss technique. She says,
“Some women want to be fat shamed”
My experience with fat shaming is different. It happened earlier in life. It was involuntary. It was hurtful.
I would go home from school to eat lunch. I loved Chef Boyardee Ravioli. Sometimes I would not even heat it up, eating out of the can. My mom would come home from selling real estate and see me doing this. She told me if I did not curb my eating, I would grow up to be a “fat pig.” It’s the type of thing her mother said to her about food. Fat-shaming in families is often generational. Ms. Kelly implies that her father had her best interests at heart. So did my mother.
The fat-shaming did not stop at home. Some bullies at school agreed with my mom. One day, walking home, they assaulted me. My brother Mark had given me a pair of shiny, gold, bell-bottom disco pants that he had worn. They fit him fine but were tight on me. The bullies thought the pants looked too stretched and funny for me to wear them. They ripped them off, tearing them to shreds. They threw them into a busy street, leaving me in my shirt and underwear.
Like Ms. Kelly’s experience, the fat-shaming worked! I began to restrict my food intake. I engaged in anorexic behavior years before anyone talked about eating disorders. I transitioned to binging and purging. My bulimia continued through law school, into my forties. I went into recovery in 2007.
Ms.Kelly assigns credit to her stepfather as a positive. I do not blame my mother or the bullies. Fat-shaming does correlate with different mental health issues. This is not the same as cause.
Back in my day, something going “viral” meant fifteen kids in the lunchroom knew about it. Fat-shaming existed as brick and mortar bullying. I wonder if Ms. Kelly considered how the negative impact it can have in today’s viral, social media world.
Are we going to teach children that they are doing their friends a favor when ugly words come out of their mouths? Are teens and young adults learning that if it’s okay for Megyn Kelly, it’s okay for them to fat shame their friends?
Let’s teach our kids kindness in words and actions. Teach them that we are all worthy of love, regardless of outward appearance. Let’s consider how weight stigma affects self-esteem and shapes views on appearance as a societal value.
I am fifty-seven years old and still struggle with the relationship between food and exercise. Do I blame the weight based taunts of my teens as the cause? Of course not. I do acknowledge that there is a correlation.
The next time Ms. Kelly wants to put her face on something as hurtful as fat shaming, I hope she will consider its potential life-long impact.
Let’s and eat to live and not live to eat or live to diet. Let’s our children that regardless of their appearance, that they are enough.
Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The Addicted Lawyer. Brian is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales Of The Bar, Booze, Blow & Redemption (affiliate link). A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his résumé as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery on April 8, 2007. He left the practice of law and now writes and speaks on recovery topics, not only for the legal profession but on recovery in general. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.