How to cope with negative body talk

We know how difficult it can be to escape the conversation around health, diet or body talk. With diet culture, we are constantly surrounded by this messaging, which is then even more saturated at the beginning of a year.

If you feel stuck in this void of social pressure and negativity, here’s a gentle blog to remind you that you are enough already, as you are.

Let’s face it: it’s the beginning of another new year and diet culture continues to communicate in both subtle and un-subtle means that we are not good enough, just as we are. But we have a choice about how we respond to these messages.

It’s important to remember that these messages are just that – messages. Whether we hold onto them and how we respond to them is our decision.

At Orri, a lot of the work we do involves supporting clients with exploration and reconnection to their true, authentic selves. Our work together provides clients with the opportunity for finding their voice – something that may have been silenced a long time ago.

We pick apart the messages we’ve internalised and ask ourselves, is this mine? Or is it someone else’s? Is this serving me?

This recovery work is challenging, and is not a process that will be “fixed” or completed overnight. Coming to a place of self-compassion and acceptance, towards ourself and body, is an embodiment experience. It takes time to integrate this, and as life continues to happen it may fluctuate.

To aid this inner work, we have some reminders for the next time you come across negative diet talk.

Expand your internal dialogue beyond that of body weight or shape

Your body is just one aspect of who you are. Yep, just one.

You are comprised of so many things: your desires, your personality, your family, your values – so many more interesting things. This is more to you than you may think. And this may be really conflicting to read, especially if you are in eating disorder recovery. Your eating disorder may have defined you by your body size for so long that this has influenced your perspective on who you actually are. Your identity may be completely tied to your sense of your physical self.

You might therefore feel resistance, regret, sadness…allow yourself to acknowledge what arises – it’s all welcome. It’s all wisdom that we can lean into.

We can, if we want to, begin to lead the dialogue on our bodies. If you’re not sure where to begin, perhaps these questions can provide a good starting point:

What’s one way I can celebrate my body every day?

What do I love and value about myself?

What does self-love or self-compassion mean to me?

Who do I love, and who do I know loves me back?

What do I value about myself?

“Media pressure to transform yourself by eating a healthier diet, exercising more and losing weight can be difficult to avoid. For some, these messages can amplify the internal dialogue and make the struggle with poor body image and a difficult relationships with food even harder.”

Paula Tait, Orri’s Lead Dietitian

Check in with your expectations for yourself

The “perfect body” doesn’t exist. Repeat this aloud or in your head as many times as you need to. Like different dog breeds – we’re all human but we can look completed different.

You can’t “leave” your own body, which means it can be evermore conflicting, painful and anxiety-provoking to sit with yourself during moments of difficulty. Especially if you’ve had a negative life experience with your body.

Give yourself space and check in with your emotions and felt sense here. Why do I feel the need to be perfect? What’s underneath these expectations? Do I want to be beautiful, or do I want to be seen, heard, and accepted?

Perfectionism is a trait that often listed as a symptom of someone suffering with an eating disorder. Challenging the pull of perfectionism in eating disorder recovery is crucial in bringing you closer to your authentic self again. The sooner you allow yourself to learn this and to ‘let go’, the freer you will feel.

We explore more on perfectionism in this blog.

Recognise your triggers

It can be particularly difficult in recovery when socialising with friends or loved ones, especially when they may not fully understand your eating disorder. Whilst it may not be their intention to cause offence, words can hurt, which in turn could trigger a negative response in your eating disorder recovery. Take a moment to reflect on who you surround yourself by. Do these people cheer you on in your recovery, or do they bring you down?

Before engaging in conversations that may inhibit your recovery, check in with your boundaries. What doesn’t feel right here? What can I do to protect myself at this time?

You might want to remind them why this conversation may not be helpful and know that you do not need to partake if you don’t want to.

You can also remind them to consider their use of language. Instead of engaging in conversation that picks apart appearance, we can say in response, “I am sorry you feel you look a certain way. I am unlearning the belief that my worth based on my body – maybe we can learn to be kinder to ourselves, together.” Remember our point further up – you are more than your body!

During or after time with others, make a note of if, when and where your critical voice arises toward your body. Consider how you can respond lovingly to those challenging times and, if this is difficult, reach out to a specialist for additional support.

Remember, your self-worth is not defined by a number on a scale

You are worthy of people’s love and kindness regardless of your body shape, size, or weight. It may be that a life experience or a person may have taught you to feel or believe otherwise, but the truth is that you are already worthy.

Take a moment to recognise what influences your relationship with your body. Is this your belief or someone else’s (ahem, diet culture, social media)?

Be curious and recognise that our perspective is always flexible and can change if we will it.

Hold compassion for your experience

Take a moment to recognise that sometimes it’s really hard to be in your body, and it’s ok to feel that it’s hard, but it’s also courageous to step forward and say: “This is not what’s important right now. Relationships, memories, and being in my body is what I’m leaning into. This is where I’m putting my energy.”

As humans, we are constantly changing. Our bodies change as we age and the more we learn to accept this flux, the kinder we can start being to ourselves. Diet culture does not like us knowing this.

It takes courage to accept that change is happening, but with courage comes possibility.

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