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Body Shaming: What I've Learned During My Weight Fluctuation Journey

Shannon McDonald (left), Emily Foucault (middle), Kat Stefankiewicz (right)

As background, I started ballet, tap, and jazz dancing when I was 4 years old and went on to dance professionally until I stopped at the age of 21. I will admit I never struggled with body image or had self-confidence issues growing up. I was a short, petite, fit, and confident dancer who worked hard, ate whatever, and didn’t think much about what was going in or out of my system. I pushed myself extremely hard mentally and physically, and everything just worked, kind of. I certainly had my fair share of health struggles from a young age, starting with pain, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, and depression.

However, body image was not something I struggled with. But as a dancer, within the community, I certainly witnessed those around me struggle with their weight, their body image, and their self-confidence. As a teen and young adult, I would encourage others, but I couldn’t relate until my recent weight fluctuation journey, which I’ve now learned was due to my disease and biology.

My weight gain was gradual over many of my adult years and honestly wasn’t noticeable until the very ‘end’ when I was really uncomfortable, which was close to the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. I say the ‘end’ because the weight loss was gradual; it was a slow progression throughout the pandemic, BUT it was quick to others because I was hidden behind the lockdown, which really messed with people's minds. Others were coming out of the pandemic lockdown with a few extra pounds, and here I was coming out sick but 100+ lbs lighter. It was, shall we say, a mind fu*k for many reasons.

First, most people associate weight loss with being a healthy and positive achievement. For me, weight loss wasn’t a goal I set out to achieve; there was nothing exciting about it for me. I was sick and losing weight. Any food I put in my body, my body would reject. I worked extremely hard with my healthcare team over many months to figure out and rewire my brain and stomach to determine what I could eat. All while eliminating refined sugar, which I mentioned in a previous blog post here.

I didn’t plan to lose weight, although, as mentioned, I was extremely uncomfortable at the time and was open to anything. In a recent post, here, I mentioned that the doctors suspected I had a rare tumour, and this is what pushed me to stop eating refined sugar as much as possible. While eliminating sugar, we realized I had an addiction to sugar, which wasn’t surprising given my history of addictions. This was another hill to overcome, and you can see how physical health is so closely linked to your mental health, making most illnesses a whole-body illness.

While on my weight fluctuation journey, I couldn’t believe what others were saying to me about MY weight. Remember I said, I didn’t relate to my peers growing up who struggled with their body image challenges? Well, damn, do I get it now and want to speak out as that fit, confident, petite dancer that I was and AM.

Here’s some of what I heard…

“You look great now.”

- This implies someone didn’t look good before.

“This is the healthiest I’ve seen you.” - This implies the person wanted to lose weight and/or looked terrible before.

And, as I said, I never intended to lose weight. Am I glad I did? Hell yes. But I still have multiple chronic diseases that I’m fighting and it’s not for someone else to tell me that I’m the healthiest I’ve been. This is just rude. Also! Haven’t we learned anything about marketing? Looks can be highly deceiving. I wear fantastic makeup and dress well when I do go out, which is why self-care and a slow-paced lifestyle, I might add, is important.

“Wow, who is this?”

- Leaving the person to question themselves entirely. Ps. I’m still the same Em.

When it comes to body shaming or commenting on someone else's weight, it's important to remember that every person's journey is unique. We all have different genetics, lifestyles, and experiences that shape our bodies. Making comments about someone else's body can be hurtful and is not only unkind but also shows a lack of understanding and empathy.

Additionally, it's essential to realize that body shaming comments reveal more about the person making the comment than the person they're criticizing. Often, people who make comments about others' bodies have their issues with their self-image and are projecting their insecurities onto others.

Weight fluctuation can be a sensitive and personal issue for many people, and it's important to approach the topic with kindness, empathy, and sensitivity. My advice and experience is to avoid the topic altogether; at the core, there really isn’t a reason for you to be commenting on someone else's weight or body, unless you’re their doctor.

I was quoted in an article by The Kit, where I discussed my rare disease, mast cell activation syndrome, and how it contributes to weight fluctuation. I emphasized the importance of just being and accepting oneself amidst these challenges. This perspective was echoed in a recent show by Oprah, where a Tressie McMillan Cottom columnist of The New York Times highlighted the need to address the stigma surrounding body weight to move past shaming. I highly recommend investing the time and watching this show as it provides valuable insights into overcoming body shaming. You can find it here.

Remember, it’s not our bodies that need to change, but the toxic culture around them.

Stay focused!

Emily xo


mental health emergency resources  

For a medical emergency please call 911

CAMH or Canadian Government Mental Health Support Page

Kids Help Phone: 1 800 668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.


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