Talking about our body in a negative way may seem like a way to bond with our friends, but it’s totally damaging to us and those around us. Here are simple ways to shut down those conversations and change our inner dialogue about our bodies.
Working in a gym teaching Pilates reformer and yoga classes, I often hear women talking negatively about their bodies. Like, every day.
From shaming themselves for how much they’ve eaten to criticizing specific parts of their bodies to pointing out recent (real or perceived) weight gain, it never stops.
In almost every conversation, one woman begins by sharing something negative about herself or her body and then the next woman chimes in with her own body bashing. It becomes a back-and-forth body negativity competition.
Before you know it, everyone is talking about how they’re going to stop eating sugar, start drinking less, cut out carbs, start a new workout program, etc.
It’s the dieting cycle playing out over and over again.
Honestly, it makes me sad that women are spending so much time tearing themselves down. It also makes me sad that rather than lifting one another up, women bond over bashing themselves.
And these conversations reveal only some of the negative thoughts women have about themselves. We all have our own inner dialogue about our bodies that never gets shared.
Whether that negative body talk is your own inner voice criticizing your thighs or it’s a conversation with your girlfriends or partner about how you need to shrink your belly, it has to stop.
Negative body talk is totally damaging. It makes us feel as if our body isn’t good enough, and not worthy enough, and it makes us feel as if we don’t have value because our body isn’t small enough.
Stopping Negative Body Talk Conversations
I totally get it, when you don’t join into the “I hate my body” conversations, you’re an outsider. Those conversations serve as a bonding experience for women. And diet culture tells us that women are supposed to hate their bodies and be on a constant pursuit of thinness.
But the words we speak out loud are hurtful to you and those around you. You never know what someone else has gone through or is dealing with.
Personally, I find these conversations to be triggering. I struggled with yo yo dieting, disordered eating, body image issues and over-exercising for years. I often have to do my own inner work after these conversations to remind myself that I am enough as I am and that my body doesn’t need to be fixed. I’ve done a lot of work around this over the years, so I have the tools to recover from these conversations. Unfortunately, not everyone can walk away from these conversations unscathed.
Here are a few suggestions for turning these negative conversations into more positive ones:
- When a friend or partner begins talking negatively about their bodies, refrain from joining in and trash talking yourself. Don’t put yourself down in order to connect with the other person or the group. Ask them what they’re needing from the conversation. Sometimes people just need reassurance that they’re enough as they are.
- Ignore the comments completely. Sometimes it’s best to just change the subject to shut down the negative comments. This works with friends who are unwilling to change their mindset around their body.
- Challenge the thin ideal and diet culture in a kind and compassionate way. Maybe a larger conversation about body image is the way to handle the conversation. A gentle reminder that thinness doesn’t bring happiness and that diets don’t work may be helpful.
- Move the conversation away from being weight-focused and toward health. This is often my approach in the gym. Bringing up how the habits they have are improving their health or asking them if they have health and/or wellness goals typically shifts the focus of the conversation in a more positive direction.
- Listen to what they have to say, then question whether the comments are an actual health concern or just body bashing. If your friend brings up the same things over and over again in conversations, maybe they’re in need of some outside support. If your friend has a health concern, suggest that she seek help from a doctor or intuitive eating professional. If your friend is criticizing her body, suggest that she seek support from a mental health provider that specializes in body images.
Stopping Your Inner Negative Body Talk
Start noticing when you’re thinking negative thoughts about your body. How does it make you feel? What happens after? Do you vow to “get back on track”? Do you ramp up your workouts? Do you numb your feelings with food or wine or social media?
I’ve done all of those things after moments of criticizing my body.
When I notice that negative inner dialogue creeping in, I often use the mantra – “I am enough as I am.” I’ve been using this mantra for years now, and it totally helps me practice respecting my body as it is in this moment. And that feels so much better than beating myself up and going through the damaging cycle of diet-workout-binge.
It may also be an opportunity for you to ask yourself what you really need. A desire to change our body often means we’re feeling unsettled, unsatisfied or unfulfilled in other areas of our lives. Ask yourself if you’re truly living the life you desire.
Ready to stop dieting and start making peace with food and your body? Download my free Anti-Diet Starter Guide.
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To find out more about my health coaching programs, click here. I’m a holistic health coach and an advocate of intuitive eating. My one-on-one coaching programs help you to make peace with food and your body, trust your body more, stop restricting, experience pleasure from food, move your body in ways that feel good, and learn how to nourish your body without focusing on weight loss.