Our diet talk and negative body talk can also add significantly to burgeoning body image issues and eating disorders in children and adolescents who hear us. Many of us know the sting when we hear our parents discuss their bodies or their own with contempt and disgust. A 2010 study of 356 high school girls found that the way parents talk about diets and bodies – both their children’s bodies and their own – can contribute to eating disorders in adolescent girls.
And it hurts us, also. A 2013 study in Body image found that negative body talk in young adult women was associated not only with lower self-esteem and body satisfaction, but also with eating disorders, a distorted view of our own bodies, and depression. Indeed, according to a 2003 study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders Just three to five minutes of negative body talk can have significant negative effects. (Positive body talk, on the other hand, has been associated with greater body satisfaction, higher self-esteem, and better friendships.) Talking about our body-related insecurities can alleviate them in the short term, but in the long term can hurt us as much as the people around us.
So how do we process our own body-based insecurities and fears without hurting the people around us? Fortunately, the solution is simple: Please agree first.
If we believe that consent is important ̵
“Hey, I’m working on some body imagery and could use a friend to talk to about it. Are you ready for this “
“Ugh, I’m having a terrible day with body image. Can you talk about it “
“I have dietary issues and could use some troubleshooting help. Can you speak today No problem if not. “
However you put it, there are two key components to soliciting consent for a body image interview. First, Ask directly and give them time to answer. And secondly, Be ready to accept a “no”. Negative body talk has become so ubiquitous that many of us respond poorly to boundaries and expect them to be a kind of birthright. But if we value approval, it can’t be a hollow exercise – we have to be ready to accept any answer, not just the one we want to hear or expect.
Of course, we all have body image issues – in a culture that is so relentlessly focused on size, how could we not? And of course we need the support of our friends and family to work this through. However, an essential part of any friendship is to respect each other’s boundaries and not only work to bring joy and support to one another, but also not to harm one another. And when it comes to body image, a quick request for approval can go a long way for our loved ones, our relationships, and ourselves.