Fat talk has many faces. It’s anything from “I hate my body,” to “I can’t believe I had cake,” to “You think you have big thighs? Umm, hello, look at mine.”
On Monday, to celebrate Fat Talk Free Week, I shared my 10 tips to stop bashing your body.
Today, I’m honored to share the wise suggestions of several experts from the Eating Recovery Center.
These tips are important for building a positive body image and leading a healthy, joyful life. Because the last thing fat talk brings anyone is health or joy.
1. Adjust your perspective. “If your mom, spouse or best friend gained five or 10 pounds, would it change the way you feel about them? Why would it be different for you?” said Jamie Manwaring, PhD, primary therapist at Eating Recovery Center’s Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents.
The reason our loved ones are in our lives is because of who we are, not what we look like, she said. And here’s the thing: If people are only in our lives for our looks, do we really want them in our worlds in the first place?
2. Evaluate your surroundings. There are just some shows and some people who make us feel terrible about ourselves. The ones who boost our body-bashing and perk up our inner critic.
Ask yourself, “Do I feel better or worse about myself and my body after watching that show or hanging out with that friend?” Manwaring said. Surround yourself with positive media and supportive people.
3. Focus on your body’s abilities. “Our bodies help us run fast, climb mountains and swing in the park,” according to Julie Holland, MHS, CEDS, a chief marketing officer at Eating Recovery Center. “Don’t forget how important those things are over how your body looks,” she said.
4. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit — and buy what makes you feel beautiful right now as you are. “Keeping reminders of what we used to – or want to – wear only reinforces the negative voices in our heads that say we should look a certain way or be a certain size,” Manwaring said.
5. Be aware of what you say about others. “When you comment on a celebrity or close friend’s weight gain – or loss – others around you might take that comment more to heart than you think,” Holland said. You never know where people are coming from and how they feel about their bodies. Anyone can internalize these kinds of comments.
6. Accept compliments, and dish them out. When someone compliments you, how often do you say, “yes, but…”? According to Jane Miceli, MD, a psychiatrist at Eating Recovery Center, our minds go to this place fairly often.
Instead, “Learn to truly hear a compliment and say thank you to whomever gave it to you,” she said. She also suggested expressing genuine compliments to others three times a day for a week. “…And watch your world change.”
7. Compliment yourself. It’s hard enough accepting a compliment. Saying something nice about yourself may seem utterly impossible. But as Holland said, “Instilling a positive body image starts with you.” She suggested making this into a game. For instance, compliment yourself at every red light, she said.
8. Go beyond food and “fat.” Fat talk is usually a facade. It usually means that something else is going on, said Bonnie Brennan, MA, LPC, clinical director of Eating Recovery Center’s Partial Hospitalization Program. If you notice that you’re engaging in “fat talk,” focus on what’s really bothering you, she said, “without using any words having to do with food or body.”
She gave the following examples: “I feel out of control”; “I’m going to be rejected”; or “My life is changing.” Often, fat talk has less to do with calories, food, fat and stretch marks and more to do with fears “of not being loved or accepted in some way,” she said.
9. Go beyond “Do I look fat in this?” If you find yourself asking this question, instead ask yourself, “What am I seeking?” Brennan said.
If someone else asks you this question, consider these responses, which Brennan received from groups of patients with eating disorders: “I love you just the way you are”; “You are a beautiful person inside and out”; “There is no answer that is the right answer.”
10. Embrace acceptance. The more we embrace acceptance, the more we can relinquish “unhelpful struggles,” according to Dr. Miceli. Often, she said, we wage a war against ourselves and our biology.
The next time you’re engaging in a certain activity, ask yourself: “Is this a joyful activity or a control strategy based on fear?” she said.
11. Cultivate compassion — both for yourself and others. “As humans our minds see the flaws first, in ourselves and in others,” Miceli said. She suggested working to “love more and judge less” and “to see the other 95 percent of yourself and those around you.”