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Even Gigi Hadid gets body-shamed — Here's why it needs to stop

It’s pretty universally accepted that body-shaming isn’t OK, but unfortunately, people still do it — and sometimes in a very public way.

Gigi Hadid is the latest celebrity to speak out after being body-shamed, addressing people who claim she’s gotten “too skinny.” In a series of tweets on Sunday, Hadid answered people who have been calling her out for her weight, citing her battle with Hashimoto’s disease.

Hadid is not the only celebrity who has been body-shamed while struggling with an illness. Actress Sarah Hyland wrote on Twitter in May that she hasn’t “had the greatest year” and pointed out that her weight has fluctuated in the past as a result of a kidney transplant in 2012. However, she didn’t give specifics on whether that was linked to her current health issues. “I will say that this year brought a lot of changes and with that, physical changes,” she continued. “I am not a fan of ‘being skinny.’ Which many of you have told me that I am too much of. ‘Eat a burger,’ ‘your head is bigger than your body and that’s disgusting.’ And you’re right! I should eat a burger! ‘Cause they’re fucking delicious! But guess what. I do.” Hyland also said that she’d “basically been on bed rest for the past few months,” causing her to lose a lot of muscle mass. “My circumstances have put me in a place where I’m not in control of what my body looks like. So I strive to be as healthy as possible, as everyone should. Oh, and no, that’s not Photoshop. Those are my legs. Those are my arms,” she said. Hyland added that “no one should aim to be the weight that I am at right now” and that, while she’s not thrilled with the way her body looks, it’s due to her health—and she can’t please everyone.

In 2015, breast cancer survivor and E! host Giuliana Rancic told People that she was accused of having an eating disorder after a weight loss, which she attributed to a cancer-suppressing medication. “It’s really hurtful,” she said. “I’m sorry that some people think I’m disgustingly skinny, as they put it, but there’s nothing I can do. I’m lucky that I even have the type of cancer that reacts to the medicine.” She added that it’s hard for her to look in the mirror at times. “I am really thin,” Rancic said. “I want to look fit and beautiful and sexy, and I can’t.”

Of course, people have been body-shamed for gaining weight when they have an illness as well as for losing weight. In 2017, actress Sasha Pieterse revealed on Dancing with the Stars that she had gained nearly 70 pounds over two years due to polycystic ovary syndrome. “[It was] one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through,” she said at the time. “I had no idea what was going on, and I didn’t have any way of solving it.” Pieterse also said it was “really hurtful” when people would call her “fat” or assume she was pregnant. “They were angry. They were mad I looked like this,” she said. The actress also addressed the matter on Instagram in 2015.

Clearly, body-shaming isn’t OK under any circumstances, whether someone is struggling with an illness or not. But it can be pretty difficult to deal with being shamed and deal with an illness at the same time, psychologist and body image expert Sari Shepphird, PhD, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s hard enough to feel like anyone can relate to you when you have a serious illness,” she says. “You already feel like you’re not yourself, and dealing with body-shaming can tear a person down tremendously.”

“In general, body-shaming ‘devalues’ people and reduces their self-worth down to their outward appearance,” Tom Hildebrandt, PsyD, chief of the Division of Eating Disorders at Mount Sinai Health System, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. If you’re struggling with an illness on top of that, it can make someone feel worse about themselves at a time when they may already be having difficulty with body changes they’re going through, he says — and that can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and problems with eating.

If you’re body-shamed, Hildebrandt recommends treating the comments like a racial slur — that is, something that’s incredibly offensive and wrong. For some reason, body-shaming is seen as somehow more acceptable than other forms of bullying, and it’s important to show people that it’s actually not. “People should be held accountable,” he says. “There’s no context where body-shaming is useful or healthy.”

If your body has changed due to an illness, you can mention that in your response to try to enlighten your critic, or not — it’s ultimately up to you, Jennifer Carter, PhD, a sports psychologist who specializes in eating disorders at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. However, some people use it as a teaching moment to educate people about their illness, which can have a profound effect on shamers — and even get some to apologize, she says.

But again, your response (or lack thereof) is your choice. “You have the right to your own body and to do what you please,” Shepphird says.

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