Body image comments should be informative, not hurtful

People commenting on and criticizing other people’s bodies is nothing new, but the age of social media has only exacerbated people’s awareness of bodies, whether that be their peers from school or distant celebrities.

There has been a growing awareness in recent years that commenting on others’ bodies is taboo, especially when it comes to their weight. Young people, sick of well-meaning friends congratulating unknowingly unhealthy weight loss, snide comments from family members and insults on celebrities’ social media posts, have been advocating for people to stop commenting on people’s bodies at all, whether the comment seems positive or negative on the surface. The larger point behind it digs into the fact that people never truly know what others may be going through.

This conversation was brought to the forefront with actor Chadwick Boseman’s death in 2020 —  when he secretly had colon cancer but people speculated about his weight loss for years — and with “Mean Girls” actress Reneé Rapp revealing last year that she faced body shaming while working on the Broadway musical but has also dealt with an eating disorder for years.

With all of this in mind, it’s easy to understand why young people advocate for not commenting on others’ bodies. Even when it comes from a place of concern, the questions and comments can still cause unintentional harm.

But, then, sometimes the comments can be helpful, as in the recent case of comedian Amy Schumer. She revealed in February that comments online calling her face “puffy” led her to discover her Cushing syndrome diagnosis, according to NBC News.

There’s a fine line between concern and judgment regarding comments online. Of course, it can be impossible to gauge tone through the written word, and receiving an onslaught of such comments about one’s appearance regardless of their intention can be overwhelming.

However, there is a helpful way to approach concerned comments. Similar to Schumer’s situation, I remember hearing years ago how one of the stars of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop,” Tarek El Moussa, discovered he had Stage-2 thyroid cancer from a viewer’s recommendation. According to Today, registered nurse Ryan Reade noticed El Moussa had a lump on his throat while watching the show in 2013 and reached out to producers to suggest he get it checked, which most likely saved his life.

While how we interact with high-profile people has certainly changed a lot in the last 10 years, situations like this can be the blueprint for how to approach expressing concerns for celebrities’ health and appearances. It would be better to make the comment informative, backed up with facts about why the appearance change is concerning. Otherwise, regardless of what the outcome could be, it’s better not to say anything at all.


Featured photo courtesy of Peabody Awards, Wikimedia