Problematically, causal negative talk about body image during normal conversation doesn’t stay at the conversation. Instead, it follows us and impacts us on a deep level. According to Refinery29, “these comments don’t just affect the person making the complaint — studies suggest that so-called “fat talk” is associated with increased body dissatisfaction,” and, they continue to explain, “these types of disparaging remarks from peers “can reinforce those [media] messages to the point that we internalize them.” Negative remarks about body image, even when it isn’t about our own, exacerbates a point that society and mainstream media goes out of their way to make all the time. Bodies are flawed and worth being discussed all the time. Additionally, we ought to feel bad about the fact that none of us have “perfect” bodies and likely never will.
Here are some of the ways Refinery29 cites to dissect negative body talk to protect yourself and a loved one:
Try to Determine the Source of the Problem
Sometimes negative body image talk, when it is consistent, can be indicative of a larger and more harmful problem than a mere comment. If you have had concerns your loved one might struggling with an eating disorder or body dysmorphia, ask compassionate and leading questions about their preoccupation with what is wrong physically. Without concern of a serious problem, just realize there is something inspiring such language.
No Need For Solidarity, So Don’t Join In
When someone cries, our first instinct is to ask what is wrong and try to make the crying stop. Similarly, when someone talks negatively about their bodies, our first instinct is to agree with them and admit to our own physical flaws. Joining in on the body bashing only enables a loved one’s perspectives and even if you don’t believe what you are saying, plants the ideas in your own mind, causing insecurity and doubt.
Stand Up For Body Positivity
Take your loved one’s commentary as an opportunity to fight for body positivity by lovingly responding to their comments with facts about body image and insight as to how you help yourself be more positive. Most people are not body positive because they really don’t know how to be. Set the example of loving yourself for who you are.
Open The Discussion About Body Image
Sometimes all a loved one is looking for is a quick validation to let them know they are not as broken, unwanted, or repulsive as they might feel. While it is okay to help them through a difficult moment, it is more helpful to open up the larger discussion behind their statements. Negative body image talk has an effect on everyone who is involved. Take the conversation to a more meaningful place where learning can happen.
Avalon By The Sea provides residential care for eating disorders as a primary mental health condition as well as a co-occurring condition with substance use disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling with body image and it is causing harm in your life, call us today for a confidential assessment: 1 888-958-7511.