5 Ways to Say NO to Negative Body Comments
“Wow, I can see the veins above your eyes!” - actual quote from an otherwise wonderful person who loves people and wouldn’t intentionally hurt a soul. It happens. No matter who you are or what you look like, someone has probably said something negative about your body.
It happens to celebrities who hire a nutritionist, 2 chefs, a personal trainer, a pilates instructor, and a boxing coach.
It doesn’t matter how popular or “fit” you are: people will feel obligated to make negative comments on your body.
These comments are NEVER ok.
Negative body comments can bring your otherwise positive day to a screeching halt. They can trigger reactive actions like binging, food restriction, other forms of self-harm. If you catch yourself commenting on someone else’s body, ask yourself how they would feel if they heard you. Then make a 180º turn and change the subject.
But what if someone says something hurtful to you? It would be super awesome if you could set boundaries and let that person know that what they said is not ok. But…speaking up for yourself is incredibly hard to do. It’s also incredibly important. And I totally get it: sometimes it’s easier to step in if the negative comments are about someone else’s body.
But, sometimes enough is enough. You deserve to be treated better. And you deserve to feel proud of yourself for taking a stand. Every time the issue comes up, you have a choice to make: go with the flow, or enlighten the person talking - even if that’s you!
So what do you say to those folks who can’t keep their thoughts to themselves?
1) “There’s so much more to me than my body. I’m working on a new skill right now and it is really challenging me!”
Good for: close friends and family, people you trust, or if you want to get really emotionally intimate with that person in order to make a point. This response is tactful, gracious, and celebrates you as you are now. Then you get to tell them how awesome you are, and you might learn that they are actually struggling with their body image.
2) “I don’t really care what you think about my body.”
Good for: the hecklers, the catcallers, the people online who won’t date you because you wear glasses and feel the need to inform you of that fact. A great way to end the conversation, or start one if you’re brave!. If you struggle with getting tongue-tied when you have to defend yourself (*raises hand*), this one is easy to remember and reminds you that what they think doesn’t matter.
3) “Hmm interesting. I suppose you think I should I do something about that. Well, right now I’m focusing on XYZ.”
Good for: acquaintances, distant relatives, people you have to be nice to but you don’t mind making them sweat a little. A little more blunt than option #1, and helps the person realize that what they said was not appreciated without openly calling them out on it. Also redirects the conversation to a positive topic.
4) “Why is that important to you?”
Good for: anyone that you want to educate a little. I love using this when people say “facts” that are hurtful towards themselves or someone else. Like, “Sugar causes cancer, so you shouldn’t eat it.” or “Not too much avocado! We don’t want to get fat!” Usually, comments like this reveal what the person believes about themselves. If you ask, they might open up a bit and you can show them a different perspective.
5) “When I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.”
Good for: people who said something very rude and/or unhelpful. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life, so tell them to shut up in an educational way. By using this phrase, you establish that their opinion doesn’t matter to you, and that you are aware and capable of asking for feedback if you want it
Before you go, I’ll answer a question that might be in your mind: why does a nutrition blog have an article about body shaming? The short answer is: body shaming affects your health. The long answer is for another blog post.
If you ever feel the need to shame yourself or others because of the way the body looks, try to identify where that feeling comes from. It’s likely that you have some internal work to do regarding your beliefs about health, food, and the value of bodies. For more reading on this subject, check out these amazing resources:
10 principles of intuitive eating: https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/
How to overcome your own body shame: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-sex/201707/how-overcome-body-shame
Reimagine beauty with the Body Positive project: https://www.thebodypositive.org/stories
Build positive body image with these worksheets: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/positive-body-image/