Just because someone is very tall, very short, overweight or underweight does not mean that we are entitled to comment — either positively or negatively — on his or her appearance.
Doing so can bring someone into the territory of sizeism.
Wikipedia defines sizeism as “a form of discrimination based on a person’s physical size, including but not limited to height and/or weight … This type of discrimination can take a number of forms, ranging from refusing to hire someone because he or she is too short or too tall, to treating overweight and underweight individuals with disdain.”
Some may say sizeism is not a current and pressing issue, but when fat jokes are still made in everyday conversations as well as popular films and television shows, the evidence shows the contrary.
It’s not our place to tell a very skinny woman that she “needs to go eat a sandwich” or a very overweight man that he needs to go to the gym more often.
Likewise, it is not necessarily acceptable to stare at a very tall person or a very short person.
Saying, “You’re so tall!” to a tall person (or the opposite to a short person) is not something we are obligated to say.
I have a friend who is six feet tall, and “you’re so tall!” is something she frequently hears, and gets tired of.
Many people who are tall or short can get tired of hearing comments like these, as these attributes are not the only thing that makes who that person is, and are also often out of their control.
A person’s weight or height is not an indicator of whether they are any more or less deserving of respect than we are.
Physical appearance is also not an indicator of personality, intelligence, or what they are or are not capable of accomplishing in their lives.
The media has led us to believe that someone who is tall, thin and in shape is an “ideal” person.
The fact of the matter is that a healthy weight-to-height ratio differs from person to person.
Two women could be placed side by side, both weighing 145 pounds, and look drastically different in appearance.
This is because weight is distributed differently over each person’s body.
Someone who looks overweight and does not exercise often is not guaranteed to be unhealthy.
Someone who is much smaller in body size and works out three times a week is not guaranteed to be healthy.
While it’s true that being drastically overweight or underweight is not something that is healthy or that we should strive to be, that does not mean that someone who is drastically overweight or underweight should automatically become “disgusting” or “revolting,” or deserving of snide comments and cold shoulders.
In the end, we should all be striving to be as healthy as possible for the benefit of our future. What we need to remember, however, is that “healthy” looks and feels different for every person.
In the meantime, we should think before we speak about someone else’s appearance, particularly about their body. We are never going to look exactly like another person in our body shape, size or height.
It is best to stop comparing our bodies to other people’s, and stop discriminating against someone because they do not look exactly like us or like the media’s idea of what is “beautiful” or “desirable.”