“You’ve gotten so fat. Who’s going to marry you?”
“Why are you eating all that? A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips.”
“I would never date a woman who looked like you.”
“Your cellulite is so hideous and ugly.”
Have you ever had your body criticized by family members, parents, or others like this?
We don’t come out of the womb hating our bodies. But when we hear constant criticism like this from people close to us, it makes us start to feel like acceptance or love from others is only available when our physical vessel is shaped a certain way.
South Asian culture, which I’m from, is notoriously toxic with comments on our bodies/ weight gain. The pressure around marriage, the thin ideal beauty standard, and overbearing parents all contribute to an environment where body shame is highly normalized.
When you’re experiencing body shame and criticism, “It doesn’t matter what they think!” “You look so gorgeous babe! They’re just jealous!” can be the least helpful advice ever. Everyone cares what people think. We are all human.
So, I created this blog-post to share with you:
- The truth about why people criticize and judge other bodies.
- The lasting effects of body shame on your self-esteem and how to reverse them
- 3 tips to overcome body shame, for good
- How to approach weight loss without toxic shame in the way way.
Why do people criticize and judge other bodies?
Criticism gives us a false sense of power over other people. When a person lacks internal inner power, they tend to criticize and judge others to feel power over them.
This often happens with parents: When a child grows older, the parents experience a loss of control and power. To cope, they start criticizing the child’s weight. It’s very often a power play: The criticisms are a way to constantly maintain the power dynamic.
Or, for instance, if you grow up with a mother who is insecure in her own body, she may project her own fears and insecurities onto you by criticizing and shaming your weight.
Judgements of others are always just a mirror into how we see ourselves. They are a reflection of our own fears and insecurities.
When people criticize, our natural reaction is to get defensive. But I challenge you: Can you drop out of defensiveness and just show that person compassion and understanding?
This does not make body shaming OK. But compassion can help you understand the critic, and realize it’s not really about you: It’s a projection of their own fears and insecurities.
From a place of understanding, you can take effective action, whether that is:
- Ignoring the comment
- Creating physical distance (go to your room, hang up the phone, etc)
- Stating a boundary, such as: “Thank you for your concern. However, I would prefer we do not discuss my weight together as it is something personal to me. Can you respect this boundary for me?”
We cannot change other people, but we can change how we understand and react to them.
The Lasting Effects of Body Shaming:
Shame causes us to disconnect and dissociate from our bodies.
If you’ve been body shamed for years, you have likely internalized some of that shame:
What this might look like?
You avoid looking in mirrors naked after the shower, as it makes you feel fear and self loathing.
You avoid taking photos of yourself, essentially denying your body’s existence.
You deny your body sensual pleasure or intimacy.
You don’t buy yourself nice clothes because you don’t feel like you’re allowed to feel good in your body until you lose weight.
You experience anxiety around your body at social events.
You find yourself frequently eating past fullness frequently — either overeating or binge eating.
You struggle to honor your body with exercise or other mindful movement
These are all signs of disconnection from your body, often due to internalized shame or trauma.
And if I can take a wild guess…
You very likely continue to shame yourself heavily: My stomach is so fat. I can’t believe my hips are so gross. Your body is disgusting. Who would want to date you when you look like this?
(If you shame yourself the most, no one else can shame you harder, right?)
So many women think that shame motivates — but this is just false. (More on this later). Like I said earlier, shame is a toxic emotion that disconnects us from ourselves.
Shame often cause us to form subconscious beliefs like:
Your body is the root of all your problems in life.
You will never be attractive, no matter how hard you try.
You have no value unless your physical vessel is shaped a certain way.
All our actions start from our beliefs. If we are going to dismantle shame, we have to identify and re-wire our core beliefs about our bodies.
How to Dissolve Body Shame
Disclaimer: You’re not going to resolve years of body shame from reading one blogpost. BUT, here are some tips to get started:
TIP #1: Start Practicing Body Neutrality
Here’s the truth: You don’t have to love your body all the time. Sometimes, it’s OK to just be neutral about your body. It doesn’t have to be labeled “good” or “bad,” it can just be… a body. Instead of hatred, just start by being neutral. You have a body. It is what it is. The end.
Positive body image is NOT loving your body’s appearance at all times. It’s recognizing that you are SO MUCH MORE than a body, and that your worth goes beyond the shape of your vessel on earth.
TIP #2: Stop Disconnecting; Start Connecting Back Into Your Body.
For years, I was disconnected from my own body with binge eating and bulimia — But the funny thing was, I didn’t even realize I was so disconnected. You might not even realize you’re disconnected, either.
Instead of disconnecting, start taking small actions to connect back into your body:
Exercise in a way you enjoy, and really focus on being present in your body. (If you need a place to start download our free dumbbell workout guide).
Experience sensual pleasure.
Meditate, connecting back to your breath (I love using the Insight Timer app).
Wear a nice outfit that makes you feel confident / powerful / sexy
Start to nourish and honor your body with wholesome foods, instead of numbing stress with sugar.
As you do this, you will start to go from OUTSIDE your body –> to INSIDE it. Your body will start to feel like your home again, as you connect back to it.
Repeat after me: “It is safe to feel at home in my body.”
TIP #3: Recognize that your body is an instrument, not an ornament.
This one is big, and something I work with all my clients on.
At the end of the day, your body does not exist for the viewing pleasure of others. It exists as a vehicle for you to live through.
Sure, we want our vehicle to function well, but the purpose of the vehicle is not to be an ornament to be looked at.
It’s the paint-brush, not the canvas of your life.
How to Approach Weight Loss Without Body Shame in the Way:
So many women I speak to try and shame themselves skinny: They think the self hate and shame “motivates,” and if they were to possibly accept themselves they would never be motivated to lose weight.
Like I said, this is completely untrue, and actually has the OPPOSITE effect: Shame only disconnects us from our bodies. And when we are disconnected from our bodies… We overeat, numbing our bodies with food, we skip the gym, lacking motivation to take care of ourselves.
If your weight loss journey is fueled by self-hate, shame, and fear, it will not last. It will lead to self sabotage, yo-yo-ing, and rebounding.
If you do choose to pursue weight loss, I would ask yourself:
>> Am I doing this because I want to feel my best and connect back to the best version of myself? Or am I doing this from a place of fear and self hate?
Self hate is NOT required to change our bodies.
Think about getting a haircut: You don’t shame and hate yourself into cutting your hair do you? Or when you cut your nails? It’s just a thing you do to feel good, without the negative emotion in the way.
Self hate does not motivate. Every time you feel the self hate creeping in, shift into neutrality like we discussed earlier.
You’re allowed to accept your body AND want to change it at the same time.
And remember: You’ve been shaming yourself for years. Has it worked?
Try accepting yourself and see what happens. 🙂
Can you resonate with this post? Tell me below.