Ways to Stay Positive About People Who Have a Poor Body Image

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Long before Megan Jayne Crabbe became an advocate for body positivity, Authorand social media sensation with over 1.3 million followers, she was a teenager with anorexy. But even after Crabbe recovered from the often deadly illness marked by restrictive eating, an intense fear of weight gain and a distorted body image, he struggled with self-acceptance.

When Crabbe discovered body positivitychanged his view of the world. Being body positive focuses on viewing all bodies as inherently “good” and recognizing that every person deserves love and self-confidence, regardless of societal standards of beauty.



“Before I learned about body positivity, I had entire friendships that were built on diet culture and body-sharing loathing!” says Crabbe, who lives in Essex, UK and was previously known online as BodyPosiPanda. “Fortunately, most of my friends accepted body acceptance pretty quickly because they could see how happy I was with myself.”

Crabbe’s experience and his decision to prioritize his own health and happiness over the entrenched beliefs of some friends begs the question: What do you do when you’re body positive and the people around you aren’t? And what can you do to maintain your own physical and mental well-being in a world that so often still reinforces, and sometimes even celebrates, messy body beliefs?


How to stay grounded in body positivity

Because diet culture and body negativity are so commonplace, it can seem impossible to escape the echoes of fathobic talk, self-loathing, and judgmental criticism about others’ bodies. But a little preparation and planning can actually help preserve your mental health and prevent you from falling prey to toxic conversation topics.

“The best strategy is to have a strategy, really,” says Los Angeles-based psychotherapist Alyssa Mass, MFT. “If you have a healthy body image, then please don’t internalize other people’s not-so-healthy image. This is not a club you want to belong to and if you’ve been out for so long, good for you!”

Many of us have been conditioned to engage in negative self-talk. Think of the scene in the movie. Bad Girls in which friends bond over statements like “My hips are huge,” “I hate my calves,” and “My nails stink!” But Mass says it’s possible to be a compassionate friend while protecting your own peace.




“The best way to stay out of this conversation is to do just that: stay out,” says Mass. “You can listen to your friends and be empathetic to their struggles without imitating them.”

“If your friend was depressed and told you everything that was wrong in her life, would you think the same about yours? Probably not. If you need to change the conversation, do it. If she needs to leave the room or put on her headphones, do so. Search for conversations you want to be a part of. The most you can say to a friend is: ‘I hear you, even though I don’t agree with you. Is there anything else we can do or talk about that would change this energy?’”


Negative Body Talk



For Crabbe, staying focused on her own body positivity goals meant setting strict boundaries with those who weren’t as invested in the journey themselves.

“There’s nothing wrong with gently saying, ‘I’m working really hard to build a more positive relationship with my body and food, and conversations about counting calories or wanting to change our bodies can put me in a difficult state of mind. . Do you mind if we put those conversations aside? I’d rather hear about xyz!’” she says.

“If that person has any regard for your well-being, they will respect a simple and clear boundary. If they continue not to, then you can distance yourself from that relationship physically and emotionally.”


Build your wardrobe to feel good, now

To reinforce your own body positivity, select a wardrobe that encourages physical comfort.

Doing that is a particularly powerful way to maintain a commitment to body positivity, no matter what kinds of messages you get from those around you, says Amanda White, author, practice director and therapist at Therapy for Women Center in Philadelphia.

“A helpful strategy is to begin dressing and caring for your body as it is now,” says White. “Many of us go a long time without buying or wearing clothes that we like or feel good about because we are waiting to change first. Instead, ask yourself: ‘If I knew my body wasn’t going to change, what would I do differently? What would I wear, what would I do? How would you take care of me?’”


Set up a safe zone

Crabbe also suggests creating a consistent safe space free from pervasive negative body talk. This haven can help balance or even cancel out any triggering or upsetting comments. And it doesn’t have to be a physical space.

“Make sure you have a body-positive haven to return to after potentially damaging conversations: social media feeds full of empowering voices, books you can turn to for the facts, podcasts to listen to, or even TV shows that show the truth. real diversity. Crabbe says. “If the voices of diet culture don’t completely go away, work hard to drown them out.”


Detoxify your social networks

Because so many of us spend so much time on social media, platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and more can have a profound impact on how we see ourselves. In fact, research has shown that social media use is consistently linked to negative body image, and that link can grow stronger over time.

But you can change that by choosing what type of content you engage with. Studies have also shown the psychological benefits of engaging with body-positive content on these same platforms.

“We are all the curators of our own social media,” says Mass. “You select what you post in the social media stratosphere. So treat what you take with the same care. Make your social bubble work for you. The unfollow button is your friend. If someone’s account has a negative impact [you]unfollow or at least mute.”

Crabbe says the “unfollow” option is a key tool in creating a healthier social media feed. “To me, that seemed like unfollowing celebrities who are known for being incredibly beautiful, unfollowing influencers who sell diet products. The people you follow should make you feel empowered, inspired, challenged in a healthy way, and less alone. Otherwise, what are you there for?


Look for different voices



White also encourages people to seek out new and diverse voices in social media spaces that can help dismantle some of the body negativity that is so pervasive in mainstream culture.


“Follow people of all different body types, sizes, and abilities,” says White. “Unfollow people or brands that negatively impact how you feel about yourself or promote dieting or weight loss.”

To find voices of support and empowerment, Mass suggests researching certain hashtags on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. You can discover like-minded people with similar goals and values.

“Following #bodypositive is an easy start, but have fun,” she says. “Get out of your comfort zone and find some accounts with messages that echo how you would like to talk to yourself. Let those be the voices you read/hear/digest.”


it is a process

Some people in Crabbe’s life took longer to come to terms with body positivity and defy “their own internalized fatphobia and reluctance to let go of the beauty standard,” says Crabbe. And other friends “have had a harder time letting go of the cultural messages they’ve heard all their lives that conflate weight with value,” says Crabbe.

“I only have a couple of friends who are still actively involved in diet culture. But we both recognize that there needs to be a boundary in our conversations when it comes to negative diet and body talk,” she says. “In the end, when I decided to pursue body acceptance, I knew in my heart that I was willing to lose people if I had to. Because the friends I had that weren’t supportive of my healing and happiness within me probably weren’t the friends I should have anyway.”

As Crabbe continued on her own body positivity journey, she learned many lessons about staying true to her own principles as a role model and as a human being committed to her own self-love evolution.

For those struggling to find their own voice in a society that is often inundated with harmful beliefs and messages about body image, she offers a few words of encouragement.

“You’re on the right team,” says Crabbe. “The rest of them will catch up eventually.”



Sources

Author of the photo:

Luis Alvarez/Getty Images


SOURCES:

Alyssa Mass, Marriage and Family Therapist, San Diego, CA.

Amanda E. White, author; practice director; therapist, Therapy for Women Center, Philadelphia.


Current opinion in psychology: “Concerns About Social Media and Body Image: Current Research and Future Directions.”


Journal of Health Psychology: “The Case for Body Positivity in Social Media: Perspectives on Current Advances and Future Directions.”

Megan Jayne Crabbe, author; Body Positivity Advocate, UK.

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).



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