PLEASE STOP BODY SHAMING

I wasn't planning on writing this post. In fact, I'm a bit nervous about publishing it. Although I talk A LOT on social media about weight, body image and why I think it's important to not alienate anybody because of something as unimportant as their body shape/size I'm usually limited to 140 characters (thanks, Twitter) and so I'm used to writing everything as concisely as possible in a way that might make people WANT to educate themselves more on the subject of body image. Writing a blog post where I have more of a chance to explain my views and subsequently more of a chance of accidentally offending someone, which is not my intention by any means, is a bit scary. I am by no means an expert on issues like this but having suffered with anorexia for 5 years now I have frequently been on the receiving end of some quite nasty, uninformed and stereotypical comments regarding my condition and my size as a result of this which means that I have a lot of personal experience with how things like weight SHOULDN'T be dealt with.

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Recently, singer-songwriter and presenter Jamelia sparked an argument on Loose Women by stating that she believes that "Plus size clothing should not be available on the high street." and I've had a lot of people messaging me looking for some kind of reassurance or justification on their own body size and doubting whether they are entitled to be able to purchase clothing for themselves in stores on the high street which I think is really, really upsetting. OF COURSE everybody has the right to be able to walk into a shop, regardless of their body size, and be able to pick out clothing that looks nice and fits their body shape. Jamelia's justification for her above statement was "I do not think it's right to facilitate people living an unhealthy lifestyle" and in some respects I totally understand this justification as promoting any unhealthy body image can be seriously damaging. However, I think what she has failed to realise is that people come in all shapes and sizes and what is a healthy size for someone may not be a healthy size for another and vice versa. Some people are naturally considered to be underweight and some people are naturally considered to be overweight. There are so many extraneous variables that can affect weight and body size (eg. illness, weight training, bone structure) that it is impossible to fit everybody into a "healthy" category as everybody is different and leads a different lifestyle. The main way of deciding if somebody is a correct weight is by looking at Body Mass Index, which takes into account your weight and height. It would be naive to assume that BMI is a perfect calculation because it isn't, but it does give the best indication of where your weight should lie based on your height. According to the NHS website, the healthy BMI range for an adult is between 18.5 and 25. To those of you who aren't familiar with bmi, this range is HUGE in terms of how many stones/pounds/kgs it is between 18.5 and 25. The "healthy wight" range is so large that trying to pigeon hole people into fitting into a certain clothes size based on this is absolutely ridiculous.

I do not believe that adding smaller and larger clothing sizes "encourages" people to strive to become a smaller or large size than what is considered healthy for their body type. It's extremely ignorant to assume that eating disorders and other unhealthy relationships with food start SOLELY because of things like available clothing sizes or media influences. Although there are obviously exceptions and everybody is different, disorders usually stem from something emotional, whether this is a feeling or a particular event/set of events, that then trigger a mental reaction in the brain. They are SO much more complex than someone walking into a shop, seeing a size 4 or a size 20 and thinking "ah, yes, I need to be that size BECAUSE IT'S AVAILABLE!!!" In reality, making smaller and larger clothing sizes more readily available would just do what it says on the tin: Make. Alternative. Clothing. Sizes. More. Readily. Available.

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Jamelia then went on to say "I don't believe stores should stock clothes below or above a certain weight. They should be made to feel uncomfortable when they go in and can't find a size." and this comment really upset me. WHY would you want somebody else to feel uncomfortable? WHY would you purposefully want to make somebody else miserable? It just doesn't make sense to me. I've been in so many situations where I've been made to feel horribly uncomfortable based on my size. I've cried in changing rooms because I've felt too big/too small for the clothes that I've chosen. I've left shops feeling guilty for being too big/too small for the clothes that they stock. I've felt isolated and victimised because of my size. I'd be willing to bet that you've felt this way at some point too. THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER ALTERNATIVES TO PROMOTING HEALTHY LIVING THAN BODY SHAMING.

body shaming weight size

The term "plus size" really doesn't sit right with me in this context either. I think that misinformed people view plus size as being a size 16+ but the origins of plus size actually lie within the fashion industry, where plus size is considered to be a size 8 and upwards. Basically any size that does not fit the sample size/set manufacturing size of garments for the runway. I used to work in a well known clothing store and our most popular sizes there were sizes 10-16, suggesting that this is the average size in the UK. By this logic, a large proportion of the population are actually deemed to be "plus size". Imagine if we all walked into a clothes shop and couldn't purchase clothing because our size wasn't available? I'm all for nudity but some situations do require us to wear clothing, unfortunately.

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I know how much of an issue it is already to find clothes when you're smaller than average and clothes when you're bigger than average so why would anybody want to make this situation worse by eradicating such a large proportion of available clothing sizes? If anything we should be encouraging companies to manufacture clothing in a wider variety of sizes so that everybody is able to have an equal chance of purchasing clothing that they like that makes them feel good about themselves. I'd quite like to get rid of clothing sizes completely because of all the issues they seem to cause on a daily basis but when I was having a little breakdown about my size once in a clothes shop a fellow customer pointed out to me that clothes sizes are there to help people shop. They exist to take the stress out of shopping. They exist so that you can walk into a store and pick out your size or order something online safe in the knowledge that it will (probably) fit you. We need to remember this and stop creating negative stereotypes based on what are quite simple NUMBERS that don't mean ANYTHING.

I'm not personally attacking Jamelia here, or anybody else who could potentially hold the same views as she does, as it may simply be a case of misinformation, lack of education on the issue or a poor choice of words. She has since apologised for her comments, and rightly so in my opinion, but I think it's really important that we stop giving people who lack education in such fields a global platform with which to share their misinformation. All this does is encourage and strengthen negative and incorrect stereotypes. We need to be pushing for a more openminded approach to issues such as this. We need to be educating people on healthy living in a more well rounded manner. We need to be promoting a balanced diet. We need to stamp out incorrect and damaging views on foods and exercise. We need to stop making people feel bad for the way they look. We need to stop alienating people who do not fit the desired "norm". We need to start supporting each other and uplifting each other and encouraging each other to be the best that we can be.

TL;DR:
♥ Stop judging people based on how they look.
♥ We are all worth so much more than a number on an item of clothing.
♥ THINK before you comment on someone's weight/size. Is it REALLY necessary?
♥ Everybody is entitled to equal opportunities, especially when purchasing clothing.
♥ Some people may just be misinformed on the issue - take a moment to politely educate them!
♥ Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. You're greater than you think you are.

If you want to share any experiences or anything that you've found helpful when dealing with issues such as this that you think could be helpful to someone else then feel free to do so below! And I would really love to hear your opinions in the comments, even if they differ to mine! :)

Love, Hails.

13 comments

  1. This is gorgeous Hayley. Beautifully articulated and explorative of the different perspectives on the issue.

    Beth xox.

    www.bethnorton.co.uk

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    1. Thank you so much, Beth! You're lovely :)

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  2. I love this article. I'm 6 foot 1 and firstly I find that the only shops I can buy clothes in are New Look (only online) and Topshop. Their clothes fit me perfectly and I love them for it. Sometimes I'm a size 6/8, sometimes I'm a 12/14, it all depends on the material of the item.
    Because of my height, I look (and technically am) underweight. My BMI can be anything between 17.5 and 18.5 as my weight does change a lot. But I'm 'underweight' because of my height. In fact, I think my weight is very healthy. I am healthy, I live a healthy lifestyle. I pig out on pizza and burgers and wine, but I also exercise and so I'm happy.
    People comment on me - "wow aren't you tall" "there's no meat on you"
    Wouldn't it be lovely if we could all just compliment each other? Yes I would love a bigger bum and boobs but my genes just won't allow it, and the reality is, I'm actually quite happy just as I am - even if it does mean I can never buy Primark jeans at £6 like most other girls! :)

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    1. I find New Look and Topshop really good for my proportions too and I'm 5ft 4" haha it's nice to see brands catering for a wide range of people! I agree - we all spend too much time focusing on our own flaws and the flaws of others when we should be uplifting each other and making others, and subsequently ourselves, feel good! Thank you for your comment, it's been really nice to hear things from somebody else's perspective! (I also can't buy Primark jeans either *cries at the price tag of every other pair of jeans to exist*)

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  3. Thank you for writing this! Showing this to everyone I know, such an important issue and beautifully written x

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    1. Thank you for reading it :) And thank you so much for the kind words x

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  4. I love that you've covered both sides of this and made it so inclusive. You have such a lovely, genuine feel to your writing. Adore this post and the body positivity!
    Excited to read more from you cutie!

    thefashionconsciousfeminist.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Thank you, Robyn! I tried to make it as broad as I could without being too waffley or wandering into territory I'm not familiar with/knowledgeable about haha :) I hope that you enjoy everything else that I have coming up soon too! x

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  5. Love this Hails :) Its so right that so many people are misinformed on this issue and I'm so glad you've written it!

    I don't know if you saw 'plus sized wars' but it was really interesting in terms of asking the industry questions like "do you think it can ever be fashion before size?". My heart really hurts for our society that people are made to feel like less because of a number on the label of their t-shirt. I also despise the term 'plus size' - smaller girls don't get called 'minus size' and it must be hurtful right?

    I don't know how I feel about size 4s being available everywhere. It's quite interesting how different UK sizing is to US and that actually, if you're in a size 4 you're a US 00. These are sizes that are natural for people but that is really so rare, especially in White British girls.. It's about finding a balance between catering for everyone and the possibility of triggering illness when it comes to lower sizes. I agree with you saying "i need to be that size because its available" - but there is some brilliant info on Beat's website around triggers for ED patents and these are a big one unfortunately.

    Arhhhh I've got myself into a mess now.. It's a difficult topic. V. impressed with your writing :) xxx

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    1. I haven't seen that yet but it is on my list of things to watch! I saw people tweeting about it a lot and it seems really interesting and thought provoking! I know a lot of lovely ladies (and men) who are considered to be "plus size" and although some are totally owning it - and fair play to them!! - I know a lot of others are made to feel so insecure about it and it drives me crazy because they're so beautiful and deserve to have all the confidence in the world!

      I completely understand where you're coming from with the size 4 thing - I was a bit wary of including that in this post for fear of potentially triggering - but then I thought back not that long ago to when I was a size 4 and thought about how rubbish I was made to feel when every item of clothing didn't fit me properly. I think having badly fitted clothes is the most triggering thing for me and wearing baggy things just made me feel bigger, which only strengthened my illness at the time, unfortunately. I think it would have done me the world of good to be able to feel nice about myself whilst clothes shopping but I fully understand that, for me at least, a size 4 was not natural or healthy and shouldn't be promoted for my height/body type! I guess triggers are different for everybody, I just feel bad for people who are naturally really small and are made to feel alienated and insignificant for their size!

      Good point though and brilliantly worded - I think it's very difficult ground to cover, especially taking EDs into consideration, which is why I tried not to touch on them too much in this post, despite it being a very personal and important issue to me! Thank you for your comment, lovely! :) xxx

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  6. I live a healthy lifestyle. I pig out on pizza and burgers and wine, but I also exercise and so I'm happy. Plus Size Clothing Canada

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    1. Gotta get that pizza and wine in haha :)

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  7. Thanks for your great post.I like this very much, please write more about these,wait for your update...

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