5 Ways You Can Respond to People Who Won’t Stop Commenting on Your Weight
A couple weeks ago we started this challenge and called it #BodyGossipIsBoring.
It started as a personal challenge to myself. I shared it with a few people. The women in my Empowered Women group jumped in. And, it’s been rolling since.
So here’s the challenge: Stop talking about your body and everyone else’s body for at least a week and see what happens. This was in response to the big question: Why does our brain self-sabotage our self-care? We know we gotta do it? So, what gets in the way?
It’s our body, it’s our lives. Why do we have these mental blocks and obstacles that come up for us when we’re trying to practice new habits?
It kept coming back to this: our self-sabotaging thoughts and habits that follow have more to do with our own mental programing, the things that we grew up believing about ourselves.
We get this messaging about “good bodies,” “bad bodies,” “good food,” “bad food.”
It comes in from daily conversations: one-on-one conversations, group conversations, overhearing conversations, watching conversations on TV, watching conversations in interviews and magazines, following social media, and so on.
We hear something and the fearful part of our brain gets uneasy about where we’re not measuring up. We get duped into believing there really is an ideal that we all have to follow.
If you enter into a conversation where someone is talking about ideal bodies, talking about dieting, talking about looking a certain way, talking down about someone who doesn’t look a certain way, there’s a part of you that internalizes that as, “So, having a certain body type makes you worthy to other people, and not having that body type subjects you to their judgement.”
How many times have you been on the receiving end of comments from even people you know and love, like family, friends, family, family, seriously family. I remember my mom would take us to visit her family. I never forgot all the comments her dad and her siblings used to make about her body every time we arrived. It was the FIRST thing they said to her. They’d tell her how much bigger she looked, how much smaller, even saying “this is the fattest I’ve seen you.”
She didn’t (visibly) flinch. She received the comment because it was normal and in turn often made comments herself. So, growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to hear a TON OF BODY GOSSIP.
When people trash on bigger bodies, they justify it with this tired (completely wrong) old argument that they’re only concerned about that person’s health. Seriously, I have a total breakdown of why that’s bullshit coming very soon. Let’s just say this. . .
If they’re truly concerned, it would apply to EVERYTHING we do that sabotages our health and puts increasing costs on health care. You don’t see them screaming at cancer patients. When my mom lost all her hair and gave up both of her breasts to breast cancer, everyone showed her COMPASSION.
When she showed off her balding head, no one rattled in with “don’t normalize poor health!” Because, no one actually cares about anyone’s health the way fat shamers pretend they do.
Truthfully, these shamers have lots of body fears. Most are uncomfortable in their bodies. I recently chatted with a friend who shared how another woman in her family relentlessly and rudely comments on my friend’s body. Turns out, the person slinging these insults is also very hush hush about her own eating disorder. She is in extreme fear of fat on HER body. So, she can’t fathom other women who can proudly live in their larger bodies with zero shame about it.
So, here are some lovely responses you can feel free to steal the next time someone else makes it their business to comment on your body or your weight…
1.) Stare at them and say nothing.
Just stare at them and return the awkward judgement. Stare and stare and maybe like squint your eyes a little bit, or do the like, “Mmm, really? Mm-hmm (negative), yeah. Yeah, yeah, I’m judging you as hard you’re judging me.”
Make it a game. See how just how long you can hold that stare before they squirm out of their chair never to return to bash your body again.
2.) Give them a “gift” from your bag.
I like this one when it comes to unsolicited insults disguised as “advice.” I’ve thought of using this one every time someone wanted to tell me all the reasons I’m effing up my kids because of my divorce and coming out.
Grab your bag or wallet or whatever’s nearby. Let them know that you’re so grateful for this “advice” because you’ve been waiting so long to also share your gift with them.
You reach in, you dig around, and say, “Oh, hold on, hold on, I gotta look for something, oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man, oh, oh.. . . here it is! It’s the fuck I didn’t give about what you think about my body.”
Imagine? They’re so used to getting away with their shitty comments. We’ve been taught, especially as women, to be non-confrontational. So, we take on the crap of so many people just to avoid making them at all uncomfortable. Eff that. Spread your wings woman. Their comment IS CONFRONTATION. And, you don’t have to take it.
3.) Let them know HOW and WHEN you’ll accept advice:
I was at dinner with my mom the other night and she wanted to give me feedback on my love life as a newly singly woman out of the closet.
I said, “You know, I’m not taking advice on that right now, but thanks.”
Her response: “Well you should, you never take my advice.”
Me: “I get that. But when I want advice I pay for it.”
You DO NOT have to accept advice you didn’t ask for. Lots of people like to be experts on other people’s lives. This is true across the board, but especially with health matters. How many times has someone told you to just put some essential oil on it?
So here’s a phrase you can go ahead and take with the body shaming comments and modify to your pleasure:
“I’m not taking comments on that right now, and my comment card box is full so you’ll have to come back later when it’s not so full, which will probably be never…so never come back and never make that comment again.”
4.) Own your self-love and explain nothing!
When my mom did receive comments like “Oh Barb, this is the fattest I’ve ever seen you!” from family, she felt compelled to explain why. She’d talk about her stress, how busy she was, or confess her love of chocolate. In my kid eyes, I learned you had to explain yourself when someone else was uncomfortable with the way you looked. Like our bodies need some sort of justification for not matching the fantasy painted by media and Barbie Dolls.
Even the silly simply stuff gets trashed on. When I dyed my hair purple, I had to explain that to people. Oh woman! Were some people so unexpectedly annoyed. Certain family members and certain people in the community had to know why. I’m a 30 year old mom, what was I thinking? My ex’s boss even let me know how ugly I looked, in front of my kids. That was awesome.
Just because they’re being an asshat, it doesn’t have to detract from your right to self-love and acceptance. So, another response would be, “I know, isn’t it great? I’m pretty pleased with myself ;)”
Say someone comments, “Oh man, you’ve put on some weight.” Or, “Are you sure you want to eat that?”
You: “Hells to the yeah I want to eat that because I’m a grown ass adult and I can choose what to eat, and I’m okay with that.”
End of story. Love the shit out of your body in front of them. It might make them really uncomfortable, but they’ll have nothing of worth to say. They’ll have nothing of value to add to that, end of conversation. And whatever they say next has been completely deflated, it has no more charge when you’re owning your self-love.
5.) Be brutally honest about THEM:
Sometimes the only response needed is:”You know, I’m pretty sure it’s absolutely none of your business.”
And if they give you the tired old response, “Well, I’m just really concerned about your health, don’t you know obesity is an epidemic and it’s costing health-care, tax payers, blah, blah, blah, and it’s costing you money and it puts a strain on our society and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
So, if they do that, if they give you that line, heres what you can do. . . .Follow them around and comment on every little slightly or intensely unhealthy thing that they do.
“Oh, you’re wearing high heels today? Did you know that high heels can cause pelvic floor issues and that you’re gonna probably have to get all these check-ups done for your pelvic floor, your prolapse, your hip replacement, and that’s costing tax payers lots of money for health care. Don’t normalize sexy shoes!”
“Are you going to use that cellphone because you’d think you knew that cellphones might lead to cancer and, um, it’s just that I’m concerned about your health. Don’t normalize cell phone abuse!”
Nobody does that. Because, it’s no one’s damn business.
And then the final line, and this ones super serious and it’s actually very easy to do, it’s very genuine, which is,
“The state of my health is between myself and my health care providers that I choose.”
And, that’s it. How my health is right now is my business and the business of my health care providers when I make it their business, and that’s it, so I’m not taking comments on that. I like that line. “I am not taking comments on that right now” and leave it at that.
Most of all, take care of you. Check in with YOURSELF. See if there’s any yuck you need to shake off after that encounter. Go love on yourself. Remind yourself of your intense self-worth.
Their crap behavior is not on you, it’s on them. It’s them and their own insecurity around what they believe about bodies.
You can look at how they speak and treat others, and how it also reflects their own self-loathing and body insecurities, and say, “I am so glad I’m choosing something different for myself.”
Hey, they may come around. Truly. I’ve seen it happen. But, you’re absolutely not responsible for getting them there.
You can love them and you can show them the way that you’re loving yourself and that you’re trying a different route to personal health and self-care. You’re showing off self-care, self-love, moderation, whatever works. You value a peace of mind with food and your body so that you can live your freaking life and not be in your 60s and popping diet pills or skipping meals out of fear of calories.
And maybe you’re not fully there on this self-love train. I don’t know if we are fully anywhere. We are all working on something. Maybe you are still working on peace with food and your body. But, that the point. You’re choosing a different route and it’s a daily journey. There is a place for everyone, at any time in your life, to transition to something different because there’s a different solution. And, I strongly welcome anyone who wants to talk about that to reach out!
If this message resonates with you, join the convo on Facebook. We’ve got a free group for that 😉
And I’d love to tell you about the people, teachers, and mentors who came into my life and shifted my thinking in a big way.
(Full disclosure: any links I share are my links as I’m proud to affiliate with and share what I actually use and have learned from myself. The use of affiliate links also allows us to keep doing what we’re doing and donating the money we donate to support organizations that help women and men build their lives after abuse.)
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