From the time we are young girls, society teaches us that skinny is what we should strive for. Far too many young girls learn how to count calories before they learn how to drive, at least, this was the case for me. In the eighth grade, skinny became all I wanted to be. Even though consciously, I knew that I was worth much more than a number on a scale, it was difficult for me to break away from constantly thinking I would be better if I just weighed a few fewer pounds. Now that I am finally beginning to accept my body, I’ve begun to work on projecting body positivity to others. This challenge is just as difficult when phrases such as “do I look fat?” are a part of our everyday language and ads for new weight loss programs fill commercial breaks.
- Avoid Using Weight as a Measure of Worth
One simple way to develop a more body-positive mindset and combat the cultural epidemic of body shaming is to avoid using someone’s weight as an insult. Using weight as an insult is equally as damaging as defining yourself by it. Growing up and even now, I hear way too many people using “fat” as an insult. As embarrassed as I am to admit it, in the past, this is something I would use to insult someone, too. Whether you’re saying this to a person’s face or behind their back, it reaffirms the ideology that being fat is inherently bad. This is simply untrue. Amazing, beautiful, worthy people come in every size. Saying someone looks skinny or thin as a compliment can be equally as damaging. While it may seem like a well-intentioned remark to say a friend looks skinny in a new outfit, it could actually be a very damaging comment. These types of compliments insinuate that a person’s worth is associated with their weight. Instead, you could choose another way to affirm them, just by simply saying, “you look great!”
- Avoid “Diet Talk”
First, let me clarify that trying to eat healthier and strict dieting are two very different things. If you or someone you know are trying to develop a healthier lifestyle, that’s great! But oftentimes, strict diets are more commonplace, especially with college-aged women. Phrases like “I haven’t eaten anything all day,” or “I need to lose five pounds” can be really damaging to those who hear them. You never know the struggles with body image others may be silently facing. At first, it may feel hard to cut this type of talk out of your chit-chat with friends but after a while, avoiding these topics will become second nature. You may be thinking, what if your friends or family are constantly bringing up these topics? When handling these situations, you can kindly reframe their comment in a positive light then try to casually change the subject. When someone mentions they haven’t eaten all day you could remind them to stay healthy or offer to go grab a healthy dinner with them. Remember that everyone partakes in this body negative talk at times so be kind to yourself and others!
- Remind Yourself and Others That All Bodies Are Beautiful
Positive self-talk can make a huge difference in the way we think about ourselves. Make an effort to flip negative thoughts on their head and give yourself compliments often. If you’re really feeling down about your body, make a list of everything you love about yourself. Complimenting others can also go a long way. Not only will it brighten their day, showing kindness to others is proven to strengthen friendships and make social connections. Both of which are linked to improved mood. Over time, this intentional kindness to yourself and others will become automatic.
- Consume Content that Displays All Body Shapes
Something that I’ve tried to consciously do in my efforts to combat body-shaming culture is actively diversifying the material I consume. Almost all of the bodies that fill our screens are thin. For example, heavier set actors have a lower chance of being cast in a leading role. If they are cast in a leading role, the film is almost always about their fatness. Two great examples of this are Rebel Wilson in Isn’t It Romantic and Amy Schumer in I Feel Pretty. Despite the fact that they were cast as the lead, their entire character is centered around fatness. Because of this, diversifying the material you consume exposes you to the range of body types which will show you that there is no such thing as perfect.