Ask Bodyposipanda: How Do You Stay Body Positive When Negative Thoughts And Influences Are Coming From Those Closest To You?
I’ve always been overweight. My whole life I’ve been overweight. I live a fairly active lifestyle and eat healthily because I choose to, and because it’s what makes me happiest. However my mom is constantly sending me articles and videos and 'inspiration' stories all relating to weight loss, and how to lose belly fat and people who have lost 150+ lbs. It’s exhausting just trying to match up to what she wants me to be. So I guess my question is, how do you maintain body positivity when the negative thoughts and influences are coming from someone closest to you?
First off, you are good enough as you are and I'm sorry that you've been made to feel otherwise. That kind of constant body shaming from a family member can do so much damage, and often they truly believe that they're being helpful, rather than hurtful.
Bear in mind that your mom has grown up surrounded by the same diet culture messages that we all have – that thinner is always better, that weight loss is always praiseworthy, and that losing 150lbs or getting rid of belly fat is something that everyone should want. That doesn't make her berating you about it okay in any way, but it's something that's helpful for me to keep in mind when people act that way, so that I don't become too resentful towards them. She's passing these toxic messages onto you because they're the only way she's been taught to think about bodies, and weight, and worth.
Here's what I suggest you try: the next time you're together in an environment that feels like a good place to start the conversation, get honest with her. I mean really honest. Let her know what effect the constant weight loss pressure is having on you emotionally (you can do this without it coming across as an accusation by focusing on how you feel rather than what she's done). Tell her how you've struggled with your body image in the past, and how all the weight loss reminders make it feel like you're not good enough for her.
Tell her that you're trying something new, explain a little bit about body acceptance and how, if it's going to work for you, those comments need to stop. If she says something along the lines of 'but I only want what's best for you', then assure her that this is what's best for you, since all those years of believing that your body wasn't good enough never resulted in anything positive, did they?
If she's willing to listen, and learn more about it, then offer her some resources on body positivity (articles, books, social media pages), or just let her know that you're happy to have discussions about it. If she isn't willing to listen or stop doing it, then it's time to set your boundaries and enforce them.
Remind her when she brings up weight loss that you're no longer willing to have that conversation, and ask her to please stop bringing it up. Be firm. I know you might feel guilty or awkward about doing this, but I need you to know that nobody, not even your family, gets a free pass to body shame you. Even if they think they're helping. You are allowed to put your mental wellbeing first. You are allowed to stand up for yourself. You are allowed to have boundaries.
Continue to remind her as many times as you feel you're able to (this will be process of unlearning for her too so she might slip up without meaning to). Change the conversation whenever you need to. And if all else fails – walk away, leave the table, hang up the phone. Make sure you have a safe body positive space online to come back to when she makes you doubt yourself. Hopefully, eventually, she'll learn to respect your boundaries, even if she doesn't understand.
Love & bopo,
P.S. You never need to qualify your weight by saying that you eat healthily or work out – you would be entirely worthy of self love and body acceptance whether you did those things or not.