5 Tips to Deal with Negative Talk About Body Image

September 10, 2013 Patricia Lemoine

A few people have recently asked me how I deal with negative talk about body image when comments are made around me. While the following five tips are my ways of coping, I think they are universal enough to perhaps help you, too, when you find yourself in these types of situations:

1) Know Yourself

First of all, recognize that you have to lead by example. If you’re ready to ask of others to clean up their body talk around you, be ready to do the same around them. This is where therapy and soul searching help. Try to ask yourself if you might be the offender towards others sometimes, or if your actions may attract that kind of talk. The latter isn’t about sounding the victim, but sometimes by choosing situations we put ourselves in harm’s way. These are important questions to ask yourself. The answers you find might completely change your outlook on body image in general.

2) Create Boundaries

Know what behavior and conversations you tolerate and which cross your line in the sand. Take a stand for yourself when others cross it. For example, when I’m stressed, I know I have less tolerance for certain comments or topics surrounding body image. Prime example: if someone says “I feel fat," while internally I cringe, I have two choices… I can share with them how ‘fat’ is not a feeling and take this as an opportunity to educate others and share what I’ve learned over the years in eating disorder recovery, or I can ignore the comment. Sometimes I’ll start an interesting discussion, but when stressed, I’ve learned to let it slide without engaging in it.

3) Don’t Take it Personally

A lot of people speak without thinking, and rarely realize that what they say could hurt sensitive people around them. Even those suffering from the same illness as yours may not realize the impact of what they say because they may be at a different stage in their recovery. The key is to develop compassion for others while you heal. In my case, it meant realizing that others have their own demons to deal with. How they’re dealing with them is none of my business unless they ask for my opinion or advice. It also means realizing that their comments may be a reflection of how they feel below the surface; they could be suffering, and their words are their way to try to make the best of it.

4) Prepare Yourself

If you find yourself in similar uncomfortable situations over and over, try to anticipate what could happen during and how you will respond. If you know you will go into a situation which you can prepare for ahead of time, it might be worth it to plan how you could mitigate certain triggers. The act of preparation is in itself sometimes calming enough to help you see yourself through.

5) Control What You Can

This may be linked to my prior point, or with time is something you can do on the fly. Taking control over a potential difficult situation and making it your own is the best way I’ve found to avoiding triggers . If you know some people or situations inevitably make you uncomfortable, try to avoid them. If you can’t, find a way to minimize the interaction. When that isn’t even possible, pretend to listen, but take it as an opportunity to soul search. Ask yourself: Why is this situation bothering me so much? What could make me ok with this situation/person? What if it didn’t affect me this way, how else could I feel? What if I changed my perception or let the comments slip off my back?

What about you? What do you do when body image talk gets to you? Has it affected your recovery process? Speaking of recovery process, make sure to check out Jess's latest post on coping skills. I've said it before...recovery is no solo trip! I'm glad both Jess and anyone reading this blog has been a part of mine! Thank you for being there guys!

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APA Reference
Lemoine, P. (2013, September 10). 5 Tips to Deal with Negative Talk About Body Image, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Patricia Lemoine

September, 21 2013 at 3:42 am

The Daily Lesson Plan- Life AFTER ED
1. Have you ever had a day that you just feel REALLY fat? And it makes everything else you see feel like a deflating balloon? FAT IS NOT A FEELING. lets put that into what its really trying to say: the small fat compounds and lipids inside your chemical makeup and physical body are having a "sad day". Falso. Thats what we essentially are saying when we say we "feel fat". Fat doesn't feel. Fat isn't sad or stressed. Fat is not an emotion. What are we really feeling? Thats whats got us tied up in knots and blaming it on the way we look. I'd be willing to bet that every time its insecure, and fats the way it manifests itself. So next time you feel "fat" and pretty down right ugly, ask "why am I really feeling insecure?" Is it because I'm stressed about work, school, getting rejected by a man? And I think somehow that my weight makes me worthy or unworthy of success? Because when you feel fat, you really just don't feel secure in yourself and ED wedges his way into a weak spot and creates a parasitic home there. If we figure out what are we really feeling insecure or crappy or nervous about, then we can intellectually realize that our bodies have nothing to do with it. That doesn't change the way we might feel, but using our rational minds to understand what we're really feeling is the first step in regaining real control over our lives, the kind of control we've been tricked into thinking ED provides us but really strips away from us.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Patricia Lemoine
September, 21 2013 at 10:04 am

Thanks Lauren!
Yes, it's what's behind the word 'fat' that truly is the issue behind this so-called 'fat' feeling. Much like ED is not about food, feeling 'fat' is not about our bodies.
Rationalizing the thoughts (by journaling in my case) has definitely helped ind regaining control as you mention it. We do feel in control while suffering from ED bc it gives a rush to self-harm and feel that we are above 'normal' eating behaviors. But the rush wears off and then the pain resurfaces. It's a vicious circles. I completely agree that ED strips away our control in the end. The amazing thing is the clarity that comes from looking back and being able to really 'see' the illness for what it is: an illusion of control over sthing we were tricked into thinking needed some fixing when in fact, it didn't. #staystrong

Steve R
September, 17 2013 at 2:00 am

It's interesting you've mentioned about sort of stopping and thinking before you speak. As I've become more active in the community and speaking about my mental health, I've found that the way I talk about things, both in live conversations and through the internet, has changed *a lot*. Conversing with people like you has allowed me to become more sensitive and considerate of the emotions of others, as well as being more kind to my own emotions.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Patricia Lemoine
September, 17 2013 at 2:46 am

Great comment! It's been great to connect with you too! I think we can all use some kindness when speaking to others about sensitive issues ;)
Perhaps it starts with being more kind towards ourselves...!

Steve R
September, 12 2013 at 5:47 am

Interesting just how closely this advice can be applied to everyday life. So many people choose not to be careful of their words and how they might impact others...People with a mental illness, people of other races, etc.
I really find body shaming to be prominent in today's society. Someone I know tends to have the habit of describing someone to me by immediately starting with their body type, especially if they have more weight. It's also something they'd run to during a conversation, almost as a 'put down'.
Too bad we couldn't more easily have people open their minds and think about why they say these types of things.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Patricia Lemoine
September, 16 2013 at 1:50 am

Thank you for your comment Steve! I'll admit that I sometimes find myself about to describe a situation or a person, and I'll try to re-phrase the description in my head without labels before I speak. It's not easy, but it really makes a difference. More often then not though, we tend to go for the visible attributes to describe...
Words carry so many undertones and you never know how they can be interpreted...
You're right in saying that people usually describe others by starting with their body type or race. I think that'll probably never stop being, but at least for the people in my inner circle, I'm proud to say that they tend to overlook these kind of things. What I've learned over the years, is that if someone tends to constantly describe others in reference to their looks, it says something about how they perceive others in general, and that it perhaps has nothing to do with the person itself, or myself if it's in reference to me.

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