Ending the Cycle of Negative Body Talk

Written by a Rec Well student employee

Growing up as a girl, it felt like I couldn’t escape messages surrounding body image. Everywhere I looked, women’s bodies were on the chopping block. I looked at my mother who I glorified as the most beautiful woman. I looked to my favorite TV show, Friends, where Monica was my favorite character. I loved her style and motherly attitude towards her friends. I looked to my best girlfriends from school. I admired how authentically they were themselves – bold, smart, and so beautiful. 

Therefore, you can imagine my confusion when my mother uttered, “Ugh, I am so ugly. None of these clothes fit me. I need to start my diet tomorrow”. Or when Monica talks about the shame she felt for being a fat person. Or when my best friends exclaim, “I hate the way my thighs look in these jeans. How could anyone be attracted to me when I look like this?”. All the influential women in my life, the ones I thought were most beautiful, saying they were ugly and undesirable. I internalized these comments and wondered, “If they are not beautiful, what am I?” 

Talking negatively about your body not only negatively affects your perception of yourself, but the perceptions of those around you. Studies predict that with more exposure to fat talk within families the participant is more likely to have a lower score for their body image (McFarland, 2019). I feel as a woman, it is a normalized experience to hear negative body talk. In the media, in families, in health class, in the gym, in group hangouts, etc., negative self-talk is everywhere. It affects everyone, especially women. How can we combat this? 

It is crucial to monitor your media diet. While consuming media, ask questions like: What content am I digesting? Did that post make me feel good/bad about myself? Does this video perpetuate unrealistic beauty standards? You have the power to change and build an algorithm that aligns with your goals and values of self love. Personally, if I see content that involves negative self-talk, I indicate on the platform that I disliked the video/post and to not show me similar content. Slowly, you can build a feed that is less damaging for your mental health. 

Additionally, surrounding yourself with people who don’t engage in negative self talk is a great way to end the cycle. As stated before, negative self talk tends to snowball to other people. Therefore, being around people who celebrate each other and their bodies invites you to engage in the same positive behavior. 

Lastly, give yourself grace and allow help where needed. Ending the cycle of negative self-talk is difficult and takes time. If you are someone who engages in negative self-talk frequently, seeking professional help may be beneficial on your self-love journey. Personally, I did counseling through UHS Mental Health and found the counselors extremely helpful on my path to positive/neutral self-talk. Getting help is not embarrassing and can change the way you view yourself and the world. Resources are linked below. 

Overall, as women we live in a patriarchal society that centers our bodies. But we are so much more than our physical appearance. We are smart, kind, loving, and aim to support one another. In order to facilitate change, we all must take a part in ending the negative self-talk cycle. 



Work Cited:

Webb, Jennifer B., et al. ““Mom, quit fat talking—I’m trying to eat (mindfully) here!”: Evaluating a sociocultural model of family fat talk, positive body image, and mindful eating in college women.” Appetite 126 (2018).

Martz, Denise. Fat Talk: A Feminist Perspective. McFarland, 2019.