“It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now … with its aches and its pleasures … is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” ~Pema Chodron
I took a photograph with my mom last night. She sighed when she saw the photo, saying she looked “so big.” My heart sank.
A few weeks ago, I was picking up sushi from the local supermarket with her, and she looked down at the to-go pack I was picking up and asked, “You’re really going to eat that? It has so many carbs.” Again, my heart sank.
These two little scenarios shed light light on why I had so many body image and food issues growing up as a kid. If your mom, your main symbol of how a female “should” be, is consumed with calorie counting and her weight, you’re going to have some degree of that too, at least in my experience.
More importantly, these scenarios showed me how far I’ve come. Because these things didn’t trigger me. Instead, they empowered me. Words like this now slide right off of me because of the strong relationship I now have with my body and food.
As much as I don’t want to admit this, talk like this used to infuriate me. I’d feel like part of my soul was burning up inside.
Now, I accept that that is how my mom is. Calorie counting works for her. It’s not my job to change that or her. It’s my job to practice acceptance and to choose to recognize that comments about weight and body image are coming from a place of insecurity within her, not me.
That being said, how do you deal with people who make comments about your food, your body, or your choices on what you eat? While there are no black and white, clear cut, yes and no rules, there are some things to remember and tools you can use to help you stay grounded, centered, and most importantly, calm.
I’ve discovered the more you do this work, the easier it becomes. Like all good things that last, it takes practice and dedication.
Here are eight ways to rise above negative comments about your body and food.
1. Don’t take things personally.
We constantly need to remind ourselves of this, because when people make comments about us (in even the slightest negative context), it’s hard to not take them personally. But know that their comments about you show more about them.
People who are truly happy with themselves (or the area of life they’re commenting on) don’t try to bring others down. Instead, truly happy people do the exact opposite—they’ll try to lift you up.
People who are happy with themselves aren’t jealous or worried that there will be less for them, and they don’t make hurtful comments. No. Truly happy people are present and there for you, rooting you on. If they’re not, it’s a sign that your action, statement, thought, feeling, belief, or appearance, triggered a wound within them that needs some healing.
2. Use people as a mirror.
In that same context, watch when you get triggered. Triggers are strong emotional reactions to people, words, and situations. When someone's words trigger you, don’t beat yourself up for reacting. Instead, use the person as a mirror for yourself and allow yourself to look within and investigate why you were triggered.
If you do this when people make negative comments about your body or food, you’ll take the anger and emphasis off of them and put the focus back onto the only person’s reaction you can control—your own.
This is what will further your personal development and self-love journey more than anything else. Even if you come up with no answers here, simply digging deep and exploring these emotions will allow you to expand your perspective. And it will provide insights on why you feel how you feel and what changes you need to make in your life, propelling you forward.
3. Express how you feel.
In all honesty, we can’t get upset with someone until we voice our feelings and tell them that what they’re doing or saying is upsetting us. Once you do this, it’s important to set boundaries (more on this below).
There are so many times when people think their comments about your body, your diet, or your food choices are “helpful,” “inspiring,” or they’re just “trying to tell you what worked for them.” Whether or not something is helping in your journey, is your decision, not theirs. Let them know.
4. Set boundaries.
We teach people how to treat us. So if you never tell your friends, family members, or partner that commenting about your body or food in a certain way isn’t acceptable, they might continue to do it. Stand up for yourself. Often, what we think people should know, or people should be able to tell, they can’t. Tell them and teach them how to talk to you.
An example: “When you’re always making comments on my weight I feel like I’m not good enough and that you don’t actually want me in your life. Can you please no longer bring it up unless I do?”
Notice that you’re stating the action that bothers you, stating how it makes you feel, and then asking for what you need.
If you begin to speak your truth and notice things aren’t changing, set boundaries with your time and how and with whom you spend it. You should spend time with people who generally make you feel good and who push you to grow in a positive way. If not, it’s time to reevaluate. And know that that’s okay!
Not everyone is meant to be in our lives forever. Usually, once the growth period is over in any relationship, it’s time to move on.
5. Have a grounding practice.
When you begin speaking up for yourself it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So it’s important to find an activity that works for you that makes you feel calm, connected with yourself, and peaceful.
There are many ways to do this: hiking, journaling, walking, meditating, painting, reading, exercising, singing, writing, deep breathing. The trick is to find what works for you, and once you do, to use it to bring you back to center when the chatter from others becomes too much.
6. Reflect on your progress.
If you’re receiving negative comments about your body, food, or weight, it’s hard to recognize all the good you’re doing. As human beings, especially sensitive ones, it’s super easy for us to reflect on everything we’re not and to let the negative talk (others and our own) consume us.
Rise above this by making the time to reflect on your progress, how far you’ve come, and the amazing work that you’re doing right now to move forward along your journey.
Keep a notebook and every day, write down three things about yourself or your choices that you’re proud of. Try it. It's a serious life-changer. It’ll help you refocus your energy on the good.
7. Practice radical acceptance (and don’t wait on the apology).
This one is hard, but possibly the most rewarding. When you begin to not take others’ comments personally and accept them as who they are, it will change your world.
You’re not trying to change them. You’re not trying to get them to see things a different way (this can be exhausting, especially when someone isn’t ready). You’re not trying to get them to apologize. Instead, you see them as who they are—working (or not working) through their own stuff—and you accept that.
This may translate into you seeing them less, setting more boundaries, or expressing how you feel in a loving way. But at the end of the day, you see them, you accept where they’re at, and you choose your actions accordingly.
8. Don’t wait on your weight, regardless, of what anyone says.
For years I thought I wasn’t lovable or good enough unless I looked a certain way. This couldn't be more wrong. Don’t you wait on your weight to do the things you want to do too! That chatter inside your mind is only your fear holding you back. And part of that fear of not feeling good enough comes from others who don’t feel good enough themselves.
I’ve found it’s never really our bodies that hold us back; it’s our fear. Move through the fear and do “the thing” anyway. When you do this, what you find may very well surprise you—you’ll begin to break through your own body jail you’ve put yourself in and start living your life.
And at the end of the day, your body is here to help you live the life you really want. Use your body to do what it’s intended to do—to help you live. And along the way, take care and speak kindly to it. Your body deserves that.