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ScottyMcGeester's avatar

When did fat shaming as we know begin? And how do you figure out your true weight?

Asked by ScottyMcGeester (1014 points ) August 6th, 2014

This is really a bunch of questions revolving around health/fitness/fat shaming. I’m just writing something up and want to research some things.

I assume the whole “going to the gym” thing started around the 70’s, but I just wonder how and why. When did it develop into “skinny bikini chicks” as “the norm” for guys to be interested in? I mean, it wasn’t always like that since humankind started, right? Being fat was treated differently ages ago, just a little bit. It wasn’t as fanatic or “Oh my god you have love handles you need to stop eating right now” sort of thing.

Also, from a physics standpoint, your weight is different on other planets depending on its gravitational pull. So what does that mean for how much you TRULY weigh and how do you really know when there’s an issue? I’ve often heard that BMI is a poor indicator of weight, although I want to research its flaws.

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50 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Forget weight, either on earth or elsewhere. Use the pinch test, at the waist. That’s a good place to start.

One of my friends says, “Apple good, fudge bad.”

When my father, in his sixties, appeared to be having chronic lower back pain, my sibs and I bought him a membership in a gym near his mid-town Manhattan office.This was in the late 1960’s. I don’t think he ever used it (and it turned out he had early Parkinson’s which he did not tell us about for a long time) but the gym was there and available for all, even an unlikely candidate as my dad.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

Has fat shaming ever really existed? I mean, I don’t really see witch hunts against fat people IRL. If anything, it’s becoming more acceptable to be fat.

zenvelo's avatar

Fat shaming wasn’t called that, but it was occurring in the Seventies. I remember a bitter Letter to the Editor war in the campus news paper when Dolphin shorts were the fashion; a young man wrote that young women of size eight and above should not wear them. And a slender Bo Derek as the epitome of being a “Ten” didn’t help things.

And, remember Twiggy was the top model in 1967.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Women, large and small.

They are all delicious.

jca's avatar

In the US, there’s a stigma against being overweight. Overweight people are viewed as being lower class, etc. (not my personal opinion, necessarily, but studies have shown). As far as it being shameful to be fat, I’ve heard overweight people say that fat is the last group of people that it’s considered ok to bully. I don’t think it’s ok to bully fat people, but it does occur.

Pandora's avatar

BMI is to indicate your fat ratio. Not everyone is the same. For example. My son is 30lbs over for his height but his BMI is fine for his height. He is mostly solid muscle from head to toe. The only problem I see with BMI is that it really can’t tell you how much Visceral fat you have in your belly vs. Subcutaneous fat which is the loose fat just under your skin. Also not everyone develops their stomach muscles the same. If you have built really bulky stomach muscles and have a layer of Subcutaneous fat on top, you may think that you are carrying a lot of Visceral fat.

As to when did the fat shaming start, I would probably say when everyone saw Twiggy as the ideal model to emulate.
People shouldn’t be ashamed for being overweight but as a nation, we have never been this big either. Exercise programs at school for children have been cut down, nutrition values are down, fatty food contents are up (thanks to fast food), more cars on the road and less walking, stress levels are up, and we sleep less and drink less water.
We don’t need to be skinny. But it doesn’t hurt to be in shape and it helps a person to age well. What I mean is that a healthy BMI will help with a persons energy level and ailments that will come with aging.

I am 53 and have put on some weight but I keep exercising to help maintain my fitness level. I don’t dream of being skinny, just as fit as possible. I don’t think at 53 I should be throwing in the towel and accept my body is dying as I age. Yes it is dying, but how I take care of myself will effect how quickly and how badly it happens.

It often saddens me when I see young people let themselves go. They have no ideal how many more miles they have to put on their body and how hard they are making their lives be by not treating their bodies like precious cargo. The human body is not a miracle machine. Some people treat their cars better than they do their own body. I don’t understand why.

But I do get that some people can do everything they can and it just isn’t possible for them to appear fit. And fitness isn’t always an indication of health. I’ve known people who are addicted to working out and have injured themselves so many ways in trying to be fit or have yo-yo dieted themselves and become weak and unhealthy.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@zenvelo Twiggy was like 5’ 6” and weighed under 110 lbs. That was middle 1960’s !!

livelaughlove21's avatar

I’m not sure about the history of it all, but there was a time when being plump was a sign of wealth and fertility. Not so anymore. As for BMI, it’s an outdated system – it hasn’t changed since it was developed. According to their BMI, many bodybuilders would be considered obese. Body fat percentage is a much better tool for determining whether one is at a healthy weight. BMI works alright for people that do not have a lot of muscle mass, but it’s far from a perfect system.

I’m part of a fitness website and people often come to me for advice. In certain situations, I tell them to throw their scale out. I still weigh myself weekly, but some people simply cannot stay off that scale and they put way too much meaning into that arbitrary number. Body fat percentage, like I said, is a good number to pay attention to, but also body measurements.

@gailcalled “Use the pinch test, at the waist. That’s a good place to start.”

What is this pinch test you speak of? Hopefully you don’t mean the “if you can pinch an inch, you’re fat” thing my mom always talked about when I was a kid, because that’s a load of BS. I can pinch an inch and I’m at a perfectly healthy weight and body fat percentage. My husband can pinch more than an inch and he’s on the “lean” side of the BF% chart. Maybe we’re doing it wrong, but unless you’re pinching yourself with body fat calipers, it’s the wrong kind of pinch test.

“One of my friends says, “Apple good, fudge bad.””

Your friend is crazy. Apple good, yes, but fudge also gooooood.

It bothers me when people think, “I can’t have that food because it’s “bad.” No food is bad. Everything in moderation. If I want some fudge every once in awile, I’m damn well going to have some. Should I have a huge portion of it for breakfast every day? Probably not.

LuckyGuy's avatar

That body style did not begin in the 70’s. Look at the styles from the 60s 50’s 40’s…. the flappers from the 20’s were thin a rails. Turn of the century women wore corsets to make their waists look smaller. It was going waaayy before the 1970’s.

Body weight has jumped precipitously over the past 30 years. So has diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, and disability claims.

As the economy continues to tighten I predict at some point in the future attractiveness will be inversely proportional to how much medical care a person requires.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m going to sound pretty bad here but it’s at least honest. Where I live you can guess someones socio-economic status simply by looking at their weight and be correct around 80% of the time. Being overweight is one thing and being slightly overweight is not really strongly associated with health issues. Around 30% of the population here is obese with the adult population being much higher. It really is an epidemic that needs to be addressed. A good part of the problem is in education and also poverty.

hominid's avatar

@ScottyMcGeester: “This is really a bunch of questions revolving around health/fitness/fat shaming.”

There are plenty of great questions here, but the title of your question is a little confusing:

@ScottyMcGeester: “When did fat shaming as we know begin?”

I think it would be worthwhile to explain what you mean by “fat shaming”, provide evidence that exists – including the scope and the players involved. I’m not sure what that term means at all, so I don’t have reason to believe that it is a phenomenon that exists.

But as far as the questions related to fitness trends, body type trends, etc – I think much of it is tied to socioeconomic class, as others have pointed out above. And there have been complete shifts here as well over time.

ScottyMcGeester's avatar

Okay, wait, let me rephrase every single question I have, plus more:

When did “fat shaming” as we know begin? By fat shaming I mean looking down not merely on obese people but just people even slightly overweight, having this anxiety to lose belly fat and look a certain way. (Anxiety over having big thighs and pleasing guys to have a “thigh gap”, etc, etc)

When did “working out” really become a thing? This is what I estimated to be around the ‘70’s, only because the oldest things I came across from gym equipment and workout books came from around then. (Awkward photos of middle aged men with 70’s stache wearing a sweatband around forehead and using dumbbells)

How has the perception of being fat or overweight changed throughout society over the years? Something that came to mind was the Ancient Greeks, who sculpted the ideal form of having abs and stuff. But even so, would they point to someone with a beer belly and say, “Haha, you’re fat!” ?

Did any early societies have a sense of fitness or health? Again, the Ancient Greeks came to mind but this is why I’m ultimately asking. Of course they didn’t have the equipment we have, but how did they come to know that someone could have abs like that if there was no sense of health and fitness like today?

Lastly, the whole figuring out your weight properly question was answered already so I don’t need to rephrase that.

rojo's avatar

I think that you would find that in the western world slenderness as a standard of beauty became more common once we began to wear less clothing which began somewhere around the 1920’s and progressed in a more or less steady rate through the re-introduction of the bikini in 1946, well into the 60’s and continuing through the present (Although if you go into Walmart you can see many who are not slaves to fashion).

While a plumpness was once considered a sign of health and wealth and clothing helped hide the bulges and bumps, once beach wear was skimpy enough to expose the occasional love handle, people both male and female began to work harder at not having them.

hominid's avatar

@ScottyMcGeester: “By fat shaming I mean looking down not merely on obese people but just people even slightly overweight, having this anxiety to lose belly fat and look a certain way. (Anxiety over having big thighs and pleasing guys to have a “thigh gap”, etc, etc)”

I’m still confused. How is experiencing anxiety to lose belly fat and look a certain way related to this? Who is doing the shaming and who is the shamed in this scenario? Is this is systemic problem with the world, the U.S., or certain socioeconomic classes?

Does this differ from any other anxieties individuals may feel to be taller, shorter, stronger, richer, less anxious, more social, smarter, less hairy, more hairy, less pale, more pale, etc?

@ScottyMcGeester: “Anxiety over having big thighs and pleasing guys to have a “thigh gap”, etc, etc”

Anxiety to have thigh gap is proportional to the desire one feels to appeal to those who desire thigh gap.

What are we talking about? Are we talking about capitalism? Are we discussing a food and marketing industry that is designed to co-opt our evolutionary desires for sugar and fat, playing the supplier in our addiction to food. Or are we discussing the same capitalist system that has spawned opportunistic remedies (that don’t work) to these addiction problems?

Or is “fat shaming” simply a term used to describe – in a loose way – a common beauty standard among a certain group of people in a culture?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fat shaming is a ghost or spook invented by people who do not want to have to confront their sedimentary lifestyle and poor dietary habits. It is not what you eat, it is what you keep. Back when the West was young, people ate big, and they ate all of the stuff that today you are supposed to avoid, white bread, real sugar, honey, meat, potatoes, eggs, bacon, etc.; they ate all of that, but they worked it off, laying fences, plowing fields, picking crops, driving cattle, etc. They did not sit on their arse for much of the day; the sun was up, their bodies where moving, and most likely did not stop until dusk. There were no Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, In Shape gyms etc. living was your gym. When people no longer had to expend that much energy to live and do chores, but their eating did not cut back and the weight piled on, they want to make all that cellulite, and other fat fashionable rather than just eat, breath, and move.

pleiades's avatar

First off, I think you’re putting “guys” into a box when you assume we all like skinny bikini girls. That’s laughable at best.

Don’t compare now to then ever. Fat used to be idolized in the earliest ancient civilizations. And what is this fat shaming? I have honestly never seen it yet. I see fat chicks with skinny chicks with medium chicks all the time. I see fat dudes with skinny dudes with medium dudes all the time as well. If you’re around people that seriously talk about fat people like it’s the most horrible thing on earth, I’d say get away from that environment or call your HR dept. I don’t know…

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think there is more fat shaming today then say 40 years ago when I was very young. We might hear it more because there are so many more overweight people now, but per capita I think there is less shaming. In the 80’s and 90’s there was the whole push for Big is Beautiful, and overall I feel we have less tolerance as a society to witness or employ shame. In the last 20 years people speak out about wanting to see average weight people in advertisements. Average in America is overweight.

My grandmother as a young child was pushed by her mom to gain weight. In those days the wealthy were heavier. She probably was the top side of the normal range, or maybe slightly over. It seems to me when food is plentiful the rich want to be thin, and when it is more scarce they value being a little heavier. In the 50’s and 60’s my grandmother realized she preferred a thinner physique and believed it was healthier, so in the mid 60’s she permanently lost 20 pounds when she was in her 40’s.

chinchin31's avatar

weight is not important. If you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see work on it.

jca's avatar

I have some very rich people in my family, and among them from what they say, even 20 lbs overweight is a sign of someone’s class. They’re ultra-chic and very into nice clothes (the kind that probably don’t come over size 10 US), hair colored and coiffed, nails and the whole shebang. My aunt was talking about someone marrying a woman who was a bit heavy, and how she looked out of place among them. Then the woman lost the weight and now she fits right in. They all have the “Kelly Ripa” look. (If you google Kelly Ripa, you’ll see what I mean – very thin, nice hair and makeup).

JLeslie's avatar

Kelly Ripa is too skinny.

JLeslie's avatar

@livelaughlove21 She has a round face so she gets away with it in clothes, although even in clothing she is obviosuly too skinny in my opinion. She just needs to gain 5 pounds and she would look much better.

@jca So, do you think the woman in your story who married into the social class was shamed into losing weight? Do you think her husband also helped the process along, or just being around the other women took care of it?

I feel fat when I am around people with a lot of money. Fat and not as put together. Many of the women have a certain look that I call the the WASPy let’s go boating and be drinking by 11:00am crowd. Many republican, skinny, blond, women have a similar look, we see them on Fox news. Then I also have Latin American women around me who also look amazing, they don’t necessarily have a ton of money, but they have the look. Many of them get “American” men and I think the men love it. My grandma once said to me, “no wonder men like Asian women, they’re thin.” I would add good hair to the list for Asian, Latin American, and Arab, and come from cultures where the men are at least a little macho. I don’t feel shamed, but I feel I really want to be able to be that. To be thin and look good every time I step outside. Naturally good, I don’t mean dressed to the nines.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: The person in my family who “married rich” was always in good shape, used to dance professionally, owned an aerobics studio, worked out and even now wins senior competitions for training. She met the hubby in a gym – he’s in pretty decent shape himself.
Once she got married, she acquired the coiffed, bleach blonde look, and now she never leaves home without being made up, even when she wears jeans with Chanel ballet flats.

Kelly Ripa, IMHO, may look too skinny with a bathing suit on but with regular clothes, to me she looks good. I admire small hips, as my hips were not and probably never will be small. I know she works out ardently, too.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Kelly Ripa is in shape. Nothing wrong with that.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@jca @ARE_you_kidding_me Of course she works out – and? Who just wants to look good in clothes? You can see every rib the woman has, in her chest of all places! She looks pretty unhealthy in those pictures. Maybe it’s just because she’s older…I don’t know. She looks good here, so it could just be very unflattering angles in the first set of pictures. Either way, they’re scary-looking.

I think the female celebrity with the best body is Jessica Biel, but that’s just the type of body I like and strive for. A little meat and some nice, lean muscle. These ladies look strong, but still feminine. No, women don’t have to look like that to be “in shape.” Jessica Alba, for instance, is tiny without looking scary.

jca's avatar

@livelaughlove21: The Kelly Ripa photo you linked is not available to view.

Anyway, like I said, there are lots of pics of her looking good with clothes on. Jessica Biel, I agree, looks good too.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@jca It’s popping up fine for me.

Anyone else not able to access it?

jca's avatar

I just tried again. It says “This webpage is not available.” Maybe it’s the computer settings. I will try again at home.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@jca Here is an alternate link.

jca's avatar

@livelaughlove21: Gotcha. That’s not a bad look, to me.

When you see her calf muscles (on the show) you can see they’re very defined. I think it’s a good, healthy look. I think we’re used to seeing people that are not that thin, so when someone is thin, we think it’s too thin.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@jca Not at all. Kelly is 5’3” and 100 lbs, which is about 15 lbs less than her ideal weight, medically speaking, and technically underweight, according to her BMI. I’m not saying she’s too thin because I’m used to seeing overweight people – I’m saying she’s too thin because she’s too thin.

I think the bigger concern is people thinking famous that people that truly ARE too thin look great because that’s what we’re programmed to think. The thinner, the better.

I also think that you’re not clear on what muscle “definition” actually means. You can see her abs and calf muscles because she has a VERY low body fat percentage. We all have abs and calf muscles, they’re just covered in a layer of fat (some layers bigger than others, of course). I know she works out, but I seriously doubt she’s eating enough to gain any real muscle. If you dropped to a 17.7 BMI, you could see your calf muscles as well. And in a nice pair of heels, they’ll look defined whether you work out or not.

jca's avatar

@livelaughlove21: Whatever. She looks good to me.

JLeslie's avatar

Kelly Ripa has looked too skinny to me in clothing for years. I had not even seen her in a bathing suit before the link here. Also, the blonde on Modern Family, I can’t think of her name, she is too thin.

I think Halle Barre in her day had a gorgeous body. She still looks good.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@jca That’s fine. You’re allowed to think that dangerously thin women look good. It doesn’t make her any less underweight, though.

jca's avatar

@livelaughlove: absolutely.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Her BMI is probably around 20 which is perfectly healthy (5 foot 3 and 110 pounds). She’s not too thin she’s where she needs to be. The rest of us are just so damn fat that she just looks unhealthy thin.

JLeslie's avatar

5’3” and 110 (if that is what she really is, which I have my doubts) is skinnier on her than the average person, because she is fairly muscular. Her fat ratio is probably very low. I don’t think she is dangerously thin, I just think she would look much better with 5 more pounds. I think as she ages being that thin might work against her, especially if she gets a serious illness; God forbid. However, I do agree that since so many of us are fat, our perception of normal is skewed. But, I am around thin people a lot and she looks skinny to me. She looks like she easily fits in children’s clothing.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Source? Everywhere I went said she was 98–100 lbs. There’s no way in hell she’s 110 lbs.

I’m a member of a huge fitness site. I see thin women all the time. No, I haven’t been brainwashed by fat people, for goodness sake. I just know that seeing the bones in your chest is not a good thing.

jca's avatar

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/usshowbiz/article-2542146/Shes-totally-ripped-Kelly-Ripa-shows-astonishing-beach-body-holiday-Mexico.html

Too thin? It’s a matter of opinion.

I got 110 lbs from googling Kelly Ripa Height and weight 2014, and a link to body measurements.org came up. That’s also where I got the above link with photos on beach. Abs are cut, legs don’t look dangerously thin to me.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@jca Yeah well I found two sources that say 98 lbs and 100 lbs. At her size, 10 lbs is quite a difference. She looks fine in the recent pictures, though still thinner than I’d ever want to be, so maybe she’s gained some weight recently. Good for her if that’s the case. She sure as hell wasn’t 110 lbs in those first bikini pictures.

And “too thin” isn’t an opinion if a person is medically underweight. If Kelly is now 110 lbs, then my thinking she’s too thin is an opinion. At 98–100 lbs, her being too thin is a fact.

Ahem, someone still doesn’t know what visible muscles mean, even though I’ve already explained it. You can see her abs as well. Perhaps you think she looks great, too? Skinny dudes in high school that don’t work out at all often have visible abs. It’s called extremely low body fat percentage. I never denied that Kelly works out, yet you keep bringing up her abs and calves. Yes, you can see her muscles, she doesn’t have any fat covering them. If she’s got as much muscle mass as you seem to think, she would weigh more than it appears.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

The source is linked in my original post. It seems like you have some kind of personal problem with this. I can’t stomach the glorification of unhealthy skinny either but she is simply not the example to point out. While she is probably on the skinny side of normal weight she is not unhealthy thin. We don’t bat an eye to anyone who is slightly overweight. I really can’t find any pictures that show her ribs so I don’t see the justification with her being too thin. If she was really starving herself she would not be so toned, her muscles would have wasted away. Perhaps at one point she dipped down into borderline too thin but I just don’t see it.

livelaughlove21's avatar

First off, I certainly don’t have a “problem” with any of this. I’m simply stating facts based on the numbers I got in my own search. Here and here are sources claiming she’s 98–100 lbs. Underweight is underweight – I don’t have a problem with it, it just is what it is. You two seem to be getting quite defensive over Kelly Ripa in general, so I don’t think it’s me with the problem. Do you know the woman or something? Sheesh.

Second of all, please tell me where I said she’s starving herself. You don’t have to starve yourself to be medically underweight. Your muscles don’t just “waste away” because you’re underweight. That’s ludicrous. If she lifts and eats at a slight caloric deficit even though she’s not overweight, she’ll lose body fat while maintaining the lean muscle mass she already has. I’m not saying she’s anorexic.

It seems I’m not getting through to people about visible muscles. The word “toned” means nothing. Muscles either get bigger or get smaller, they don’t “tone.” What people call the “toned” look is simply low body fat. That’s it.

Also, this popped up in the search you linked. Yep, the original picture posted previously. You’d have to be blind to not see her ribs.

I’m just about done here. I don’t care enough about Kelly Ripa to keep up this ridiculous argument. Bottom line: Kelly was NOT 110 lbs in the pictures I just linked again. She looks better in more recent pictures, so it’s possible she’s 110 lbs now. At her height, 110 lbs is not underweight, but 100 lbs is. That’s quite literally all I’m saying.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

At 100 pounds 5’3” is technically underweight and you have to search through dozens of pictures to find one of her at or near that weight. She looks very healthy in almost every picture. Again, she is not the best example to use.
Muscle tone means simply having muscle and also having a low enough body fat percentage to actually see them. Nobody is arguing that. Unhealthy skinny people who are starving themselves generally don’t have it. People who workout regularly usually do. If she is guilty of anything it’s probably over exercising.

jca's avatar

@livelaughlove21: If myself and @ARE_you_kidding_me are “getting quite defensive” over this then you are getting quite in the opposite direction. OK, it’s a matter of opinion, based upon the current photos or whatever photos – some will say she is too thin, some will say she is not. End of story.

gailcalled's avatar

I have seen her very recently on TV (briefly) and found looking at her painful. She lloks clearly anorexic. I could do an anatomical drawing of most of the bones of the body from how she presents. And I am told that the camera adds t0 lbs.

gailcalled's avatar

edit; looks

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Hell, if more 43 year old women had a body like Kelly Ripa maybe they would not get cheated on or dumped as much as they do; instead of being damnators they ought to be imitators.

jonsblond's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Attractive women with nice bodies also have mates that cheat on them. You do know that, right?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@jonsblond Attractive women with nice bodies also have mates that cheat on them.
The women with good bodies who were cheated on were not upstaged because the other woman had larger saddle bags, or more cellulite I am thinking….who knows, maybe he was a chubby chaser in denial before he met her.

JLeslie's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central You really are unbelievable.

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