Fat Shaming and Eating Disorders

Fat Shaming and Eating Disorders

Illustration of a person looking away from their reflection in a mirror in shame.

You don’t have to live long to pick up on the societal pressure to be thin.

Think back on your own childhood and adolescence. When did you start to hear adults talk about dieting or needing to lose weight? At what age did your peers begin to comment on and make fun of one another’s bodies?

Fat shaming starts early, and, unfortunately, so does the opportunity for an eating disorder to develop. Today we’re going to look at the connection between fat shaming and eating disorders.

What is Fat Shaming?

 Fat shaming can take many forms. In the most obvious way, fat shaming occurs when someone puts down another person because of their size or weight. This can happen directly to the victim’s face, behind their back during in-person conversations, or online.

Fat shaming can also look like family teasing, a well-meaning but inappropriate poke of a soft stomach, or conversations that hold the appearance of physical health up as the gold standard for worthiness, appreciation, and love.

Let’s pause for a moment to talk more directly about fat shaming that looks like teasing.

More than 39% of overweight children admit to enduring playful and borderline mean jokes about their bodies from family members and peers. What was once considered lighthearted teasing, we now know, often leads to one of three problems: weight gain, binge eating, or dangerous attempts at weight control. (1)

The Connection Between Fat Shaming and Eating Disorders

Our cultural norms surrounding the “correct” body image are, without a doubt, the biggest contributor to the development of eating disorders. (1) Consider this breakdown of how many children and adults view their own bodies as flawed and not living up to the ideal standard.

What percentage of men, women, and children carry a negative body image?

  • 40% of adult men
  • 60% of adult women
  • 30% of preadolescent boys
  • 50% of preadolescent girls (2)

Societal standards encourage negative body image. Fat shaming confirms insecurities. It’s like being in a loop:

First, a person receives information: You are not good enough.

They then internalize that information: I am not good enough.

Finally, they receive external feedback that their beliefs are true: You are not good enough.

It makes sense, then, that an eating disorder may follow. After all, eating disorders develop as a person tries to cope with negative emotions, especially those surrounding body image. And the research backs this up. Many people struggling with an eating disorder report that the thing that got them started was bullying and fat shaming from others. (3)

Sometimes the connection is less direct. Fat shaming is known to cause self-esteem issues, anxiety, and depression, all of which also act as triggers for eating disorders. (4)

If you or someone you love struggles to endure fat shaming and you worry about developing an eating disorder, give us a call today at 562-434-6007.



  1. https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/eating-disorders-weight-shaming-and-clean-eating
  2. https://www.verywellmind.com/body-image-and-eating-disorders-4149424
  3. https://news.llu.edu/health-wellness/how-weight-shaming-can-lead-serious-eating-disorders
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6565398/