Body negativity does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or a size 22, we can all suffer from days where external pressures wiggle into our subconscious to become inner monologue [note: I wrote this before I learned that not everyone has an internal narrative and I’m still questioning reality].
I tend to refer to these days as “bad body days”, which I recognize is problematic, but what I really mean is that I’m not feeling negatively towards my body and I don’t know how to deal with it. These low points often make it difficult to get dressed & operate in professional environments, no matter how many external compliments & reassurances I receive.
No amount of personal mantras and body positive quotes seem to do the trick, but what inevitably lifts me out is heartfelt conversations with my friends. To share that comfort, I reached out to influencer friends across the size spectrum and asked if they could share some of their sage advice with you. I hope you’ll be as uplifted & find reassurance in their words as I do.
I used to try to resist feeling body negativity. I’d find body-positive quotes and make them the background image on my phone, and I made sure to curate a social media feed with diverse bodies, etc. And is all helped, for sure! But the most groundbreaking and earth-moving moment for me was when I allowed myself to really sit with the negative feelings I was having.
I would set aside 30 minutes (using the timer on my phone), to sit and ‘feel the feels.’ I found that by fully being in my feelings I was able to move through them. Eventually, the feeling passed. I’d come out on the other side. And later in the day, I’d look in the mirror and say, ‘Wow, I’m hot as fuck.’
Ushshi, size 24
One of the main ways in which I am at odds with my body sometimes is when I’m dealing with the physicality of when it burdens me. Whether or not you are dealing with chronic illness or health issues that limit aspects of your life such as mobility, or you have a spectacularly bad injury that will eventually heal, or you’re struggling with your mental health in a way that’s more than situationally based – everyone knows what it’s like to feel like your body is failing you in some way. It’s hard in that moment to not be demoralized, to catastrophize, or to divorce your body from your concept of self and the idealized existence you imagine.
It’s in those moments that I’ve learned to (still learning, it will always be an ongoing process) to sit with it, my body, my feelings around it, the pain. Not to run from it and escape or chastize this experience but to really allow me to exist with it. To know that pain and struggle is a part of life, that for everything you give up or are stripped off there are five new avenues for new skillsets and experiences to flourish, that perfect control over one’s life, body, or future is a complete and utter myth. That there will always be a new normal and you will find meaning at every struggle and stage of your existence.
Alison, size 14 petite
Two years ago, I started working out with a personal trainer. It’s hard to feel positive about your body when your body is failing you, and mine started failing me. I was 43, my knees hurt, my back hurt, I was getting migraines again and dealing with insomnia. I found a trainer who respected the fact that I was there to get strong and healthy, not to get smaller. But what I gained from it was seeing my body as a machine needed to get through life instead of a separate entity I am battling with. My body feels more like a reliable car than a bad boyfriend so when I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see or I read negative comments online about me I take it less personally.
Some may find the opposite, but I found taking my photo on a regular basis for my blog and Instagram has helped me with body image. My husband literally takes hundreds of photos for a blog post that will only contain a handful. I scroll through them and I see things I don’t like, but I also see how it’s a shot – a second captured, but not the whole story. I see how I look when I fake laugh trying to reduce my double chin and when I really laugh with my whole being. I see how in one shot my stomach can protrude so far, and in the next one, it’s not as large. It reminds me that I am not a still creature and my personality speaks louder than my shape.
When I am feeling negative, I journal. I don’t remember where I got this concept, but I force myself to fill a page in my journal with positive attributes. It may start with cliché statements like I have nice eyes or a great smile, but as I go down the page I get more creative, and I dig deep and recall all the great things that make me me. I often do this before I speak at a conference or attend a public event where I don’t know everyone.
Nicole, size 6
Body image has always been a tough conversation for me, and only recently have I shared anything about it. As little as 2.5 years ago, at 5’7, I weighed in at 116lbs. At the time it didn’t feel scary but I had lost my period for months and attributed it all to “training” I had been doing as a competitive athlete. Fast forward to today, ~50 pounds later, I try to remain as body neutral as possible – for myself AND for others.
Fixating on your own or someone else’s body – good or bad – is easy. It’s physical – it’s right in front of us. I try to take an opposite approach and not even focus on it; meaning I put zero pressure on myself to hate OR love my body and give absolutely zero comments about other’s appearances. People are more than their bodies, so offering that level of awareness & compassion has really allowed me to respect myself in a new light.
Gianluca, size 2XL
I struggle with negative body image frequently, which is especially hard as someone who is constantly writing about body positivity and advocating for this community. When these bad days hit, I’ve learned to turn to the people who inspire me most.
For me, these the incredible plus-size women in my life who are more experienced in body positivity than I am and who can provide practical advice and reminders. I turn to them in these dark time for help, and that’s been the best thing for me: Having a personal group of friends who understand what I’m going through so perfectly. During these times, I also push myself to only watch inclusive entertainment — even if it’s just Kellie Brown’s YouTube channel for hours on end — and to read inclusive media like features about plus representation.
For me, what helps most when I’m struggling with negative body image is to force-feed myself body positive content and messages to counteract all of that. This provides me with the healthy reminders I need and the motivation to continue to push myself past these hard moments.
Whenever I’m going through a period of negative body image, I try to ask myself, “where exactly is this coming from?” Oftentimes, it’s me being anxious about something external, and totally unrelated to my body image. If I find my life suddenly feels out of my control, that’s when the negative self-talk is at its worst. As soon as I saw that relationship, it became a lot easier to identify, and deal with—and ultimately, find out the cause of invasive, negative thoughts helps me be kinder and gentler with myself.