“I feel so fat.”
“I shouldn’t be eating this. I’m so bad.”
“Look at me in this photo! I look HUGE! Is this really what I look like?!”
Negative body self talk
Most of us say or have said negative things about our bodies out loud (my hand is raised, as I have said all of the above before) and these comments make us feel awful. Has saying something negative about your body out loud ever made you feel better?
I talk about this often with my clients: not saying negative things about ourselves out loud. Not because we shouldn’t express ourselves or talk about what’s bothering us, we absolutely should, but because saying negative things out loud only makes us feel worse.
What we say to other people
Whether we’re complimenting someone on their body or shaming them (which, hopefully, none of us do!), body comments are no good in my book…and I’ll tell you why.
Let’s talk about “body compliments” first because commenting on someones body in a positive way seems totally harmless… but in a way, it is a little harmful.
Now, I know some people will disagree with me here, because they like it when people say “have you lost weight?!” But, before you get stuck on thinking “but I love when someone says I look good!” go with me here…
The first time I ever lost weight, as I shared in my story, everybody noticed. People would say “Paige! You look so good!” I actually had high school boys send me texts that said “I heard you lost weight and are lookin’ hot now” (ew). Of course, being a teenage girl, these things made me feel good.
Not to mention, this was the FIRST time that I had ever received this much attention. People were noticing me. People wanted to know what I was doing. People were asking me for advice. “Paige, what did you do? How’d you lose weight?” I felt like people TRUSTED me.
All of this attention and “positive” body talk led me to identify myself by my body. Over time, I developed a huge fear: since people noticed my weight-LOSS, what would happen if I experienced weight-GAIN?
People would notice. They wouldn’t trust me. I wouldn’t be someone people looked up to. I would lose my likability. I’d go back to getting little attention. I wouldn’t be seen.
This freaked me out.
I felt like everyone was watching my body. Of course, no one was ACTUALLY watching me, and no one ACTUALLY cared this much, but if you’ve ever done a diet or lost weight before, you know how easy it is to get swept up in yourself and your own journey.
The pressure was on, and I felt it everyday. The “positive comments” took over, and became totally back-handed. They stopped feeling good, and only trapped me further.
I began to feel insulted when people would say I looked “healthy” instead of “skinny.”
I bet that anyone reading this who has been called “skinny” before agree’s that “you look healthy!” feels like the biggest insult. You quietly retreat and want to escape into a hole of shame because you’re stuck thinking that someone thinks you’ve gained weight enough so to let you know it (even though, that is not the persons intention).
I used to feel SO weird that a “you look healthy” comment made me sad, until I started talking to other women who’d experienced the same thing and felt the SAME way. What a relief to know you’re not alone, especially in things that otherwise wouldn’t make any sense.
The pressure for all of us
When people make body comments, whether they’re positive or negative, it puts MORE pressure on us.
Either the comment is negative, it feels bad, and we feel like we need to make a change OR the comment is positive and puts the pressure on to STAY at the weight which people are noticing.
Just ask yourself: Have you ever lost weight from a diet? Did people notice? What happened when you gained the weight back? Did it feel embarrassing? Did you feel ashamed? I’ve so been there.
I’ve heard it so many times: Someone loses weight from a diet, they get attention, people compliment them, and when that weight starts coming back (not because they have a problem, but because diets are not sustainable for anyone) they feel incredibly insecure, ashamed, and embarrassed.
They fear very similar things like I described above: that people will stop trusting them, stop looking up to them, stop being proud of, or noticing them, etc…
What we can do
So, the question becomes: should we stop making so many comments about each others bodies out loud?
Since we can’t control what other people say, I believe we need to both prepare ourselves to become less sensitive to these comments and stop saying them so much. How good would it feel to recognize and give people attention for things other than their bodies.
I for one make every effort to NOT comment on someones body, even if everyone else around me is doing it. Frankly, it’s just not that important to me. I want people to know that I love them and notice them no matter what.
You know what goes hand in hand with this that I’ve experienced to be a total blessing?
The less I’ve made comments on other peoples bodies, the less I notice other peoples bodies, and the less I feel like anyone is noticing mine. The pressure is off, and I’m much more open to accept my body the way she is, no matter what.
You’re all beautiful, and don’t need someone else’s comments to build you up or feel good. You have permission to feel good right now, just because you decide so. OWN IT, GIRLY. You don’t need to wait a moment longer to feel good.
Justifying food comments
Let’s wrap this up with a final note on justifying-our-food-choices comments. While out to eat, I often hear women say “I can’t believe I’m eating this desert, it’s so fattening. Oh well, at least I had a long run today” or “I usually don’t eat this badly”.
None of us want people to think badly of us or our choices. It’s in our nature to care what people think.
That being said, there’s no need to justify your eating choices. Just like it’s up to you to own your confidence, it’s also up to you to make your own food choices (and to be okay with them).
We are all unique: each of us needs a different amount of food for fuel, we each intuitively crave different flavors, and are each in different places in life at any moment. Instead of making comments that could potentially tear a person down, why not say things that are certain to build someone up?
For example, comment on how great a persons outfit looks, or how you love her new haircut, or how awesome they are doing on that difficult project they’ve been working so hard on.
And a few tips to not insulting others… let’s be smart and refrain from comments like:
“OMG. You really cleaned your plate there!”
“Are you really going to eat all of that?”
“You really sucked that right down! You must have been hungry!”
WHY DON’T YOU JUST GO AHEAD AND CALL ME “COW.”
If you’re craving a piece of desert, or a nachos for dinner, you should be able to enjoy either with no guilt and not have to justify your choices to anyone. You get to choose what works or doesn’t work for you at any moment. Same goes for if you want to pass up dessert. No need to justify this either!
When we begin to focus on loving ourselves, factoring in other peoples opinions don’t matter as much.
What do you think? Do you want to work on making less comments, and encouraging others to do the same? Or do you think that we just need to become less sensitive to these type of comments? I’d love to hear your thoughts!