In a country like Nigeria, body shaming is so commonplace that we have our own lingo for making inappropriate and negative comments about a person’s weight, size, and general appearance. These words include Orobo (fat/plus-sized), Yellow (light-skin) and Blackie (dark-skin). While people often associate body shaming with people on the big side, slim/skinny face their own share of skinny shaming, the opposite of fat-shaming. With people often calling them Lekpa (thin/skinny) and other derogatory terms, slim men and women are made to feel terrible for how they look. The result ranges from eating disorders, and depression to putting their health at risk by taking weight gain pills. For this week’s Nigerian Lives, we reached out to five people who share their body-shaming experiences.
I have experienced body shaming a lot; from people, friends and church members. Some people think they are complimenting you so they don’t care that they are being rude. I kinda grew up not necessarily liking the way that I looked because that was literally all I would hear every time. They would say things like — ‘you are very skinny’ or ‘are you not eating?’ It was like a recurring thing. It was manageable for a while because my sisters and I were slim but it got to a stage where they eventually gained weight and I was left behind on the weight-gaining train. Then, it became an issue. It affected the way I saw myself. I was questioned about my weight because my sisters gained weight and I did not. It made me insecure and I would cry as I wondered why things were not changing. It got to a period where I was obsessed with my weight. I would check my weight every day to see if I have added weight. Someone once told me that I’m all bones and guys won’t have anything to hold on to. With time, I realized you really can’t please people and eventually, my mindset changed. I started loving my body and I am not as bothered as I used to be. I also get compliments from people and now I enjoy being slim. I want to gain weight but not beyond 50kg.
As a slim girl, I used to be really insecure. In my late teens, I didn’t like being skinny because it meant my mates and even people I’m way older than, tried to bully me. People called me ‘flat yansh’ and ‘flat chest’ so much that one time, I bought this fake butt pad just to have a round bottom. A girl once said if only I had a booty to go with my breast, I would be really attractive to men. I remember taking these weight gain pills. One time, I took one pill and some kind of steroid drug. It worked for a while as my butt got bigger but the side effects were scary. I bled nonstop for a month. As I grew older, I began to fall in love with my body especially after I had my baby at 22. My belly didn’t get big, I didn’t get stretch marks and I still don’t have them. I pretty much don’t look like a mom thanks to being skinny. Now, I have met someone who literally adores my body and is quick to tell me how much I look good being skinny. It helped a lot with my esteem. I am still a size 6.
I was never really conscious of my body until I left Nigeria. I was once told that men only like thick girls. Those comments made me depressed and I think I had low self-esteem but it was not obvious. At some point, I felt I would never be in a relationship because I am not thick. Over time, I grew to appreciate my body and when I see slim girls in relationships, I am hopeful that there are men who find petite girls attractive. My mum also wanted me to gain weight. She didn’t necessarily body shame me but she would scold me because she felt I didn’t eat or get upset that I looked slim. Sometimes I find myself trying to add weight to please my mum.
As a skinny guy, people will always see you as a joke. They will take every opportunity to make fun of you. If you are with your guys and you want to chill, they will say things like ‘let’s feed him well, he is skinny.’ During holidays, family members make you feel like you are sick and unhealthy or not eating enough. People often ask me how I handle women. Sometimes you can’t approach females because they wonder if you can handle them. It can affect one’s self-esteem sometimes but it doesn’t get to me.
I’ve been body shamed at the gym. When you are a skinny guy trying to start your fitness journey, people tease and make fun of you. I am not as toned as other guys are so I get things like ‘who is this skinny guy in the gym?’ and ‘I’m sure you can’t lift this amount of weight’.
*This article is based on real-life events. The names used are mere pseudonyms to protect the identities of the individuals mentioned in the article.
Nigerian Lives is a Culture Custodian weekly series where we hear from Nigerians who share tidbits about their experiences. It goes up every Monday.
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