“You could be so pretty, if only you lost weight.”
“You eat such healthy food, why are you fat?”
“I’m glad you didn’t ask me to pay for that, because I don’t think you should be drinking something with that many calories.”
These are actual comments that people shared with me when I asked them about the nastiest things other people have said about their bodies.
If you’ve ever received a crazy comment like any of the above, you’d be familiar with the feelings that flood your entire being immediately after: Incredulity, shock, anger, embarrassment and maybe even shame.
I know how I felt when I was 22 pounds overweight and asked: “Why are you so fat?”—I wanted to dig a hole in the ground and never come out.
But I didn’t. And here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t either.
1. The only opinion that matters is yours
“Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown your own inner voice,” said Steve Jobs in his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, and he was right.
Ask yourself these questions: What do you want? What’s important to you? How can you get there?
Be true to yourself. Your answers to these questions will be the beacon that guides you to the values that are most important to you, and the more you’re in touch with them, the less likely you’ll be swayed by nasty, insensitive comments about your body.
There are, however, exceptions to this rule: If someone you love thinks that you might be doing something that could be harming your well-being or the people around you, their opinion should be considered; off-hand, thoughtless comments by acquaintance and strangers? Not so much.
Whatever your goal is, regardless of whether it’s fat loss, weight gain, or simply building your body confidence, focus on the things that will bring out your healthiest, happiest self instead of spending your time reacting to other people’s opinions about what you should look like, eat, or wear.
2. You’re perfect just the way you are
So you don’t have a thigh gap or a tiny waist. So what?
“My thunder thighs will never fit into skinny jeans,” complains a friend of mine from time to time. But make no mistake—she doesn’t hate them. Those thighs of hers make her a strength powerhouse in and out of the gym. They allow her to squat with 200 pounds worth of weightlifting plates on her back and finish half marathons at lightning speed.
Her ‘thunder thighs’ are doing things that they were made to do, and so much more. In other words, they’re perfect. And so are yours, together with the rest of you.
3. Nobody knows your body better than you do
You’ve already lost 20 pounds, with another 20 to go.
Sugar, which used to be your weakness, is no longer something you crave for.
Those jeans that you couldn’t zip up 6 months ago? They fit!
You’re more energetic, confident, sleep better and couldn’t be happier with the gentle transitions you’ve been making with your food, fitness and health.
Guess what? The colleague who asked why you were “still so fat” despite your eating healthy doesn’t know all that—all the more reason not to take his or her insensitive comments, or anyone else’s, to heart.
4. Somebody else wants the body you have
While I was out running recently, a woman who was headed towards me suddenly gave me a look of frustration, threw her hands up and yelled at me: “But you’re already skinny!”. A little later, someone else went: “You’ve got an amazing butt!”
Ironically, I wasn’t feeling very confident about my body that day, and was wishing I had someone else’s figure.
My friend with ‘thunder thighs’? She’s also got sculpted arms, a tiny waist and legs all her friends would kill for.
It can sometimes be hard to see your own beauty when you’re constantly wrapped up in all the things that you think are wrong about it, but there’s always someone out there who wishes they could have your gorgeous hair, beautiful skin, strong legs, or sexy shoulders.
Here’s an exercise you can do to help shift your perspective: Ask someone you trust to list what they love about the way you look. Write their answers down (they might surprise you) and celebrate them!
5. Today’s definition of ‘perfect’ isn’t realistic or healthy
Turn the pages of any magazine and all you’ll see are women who look they’re about 6-feet tall, have bony torsos, are extremely skinny, have large breasts and walk on legs for miles.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t fit that description and don’t know many women who do either.
Let’s take a couple of steps back to the 1400s, when large hips, fat rolls and cellulite made up the ideal (perfect even) woman—a huge contrast to our current expectations of what a woman should look like, despite juggling marriage, kids, full-time work, a social life and everything in-between life throws her way.
Realistic? Nope. Healthy? Not in the least. Damaging? Very. Should you love your body even if it doesn’t fit this stereotype anyway? Hell yes, because women don’t come from a cookie-cutter assembly line.
Just ask model Kate Upton, who’s been called ‘fat’, ‘well-marbled’ and ‘lardy’. Upton ended up having the last laugh by landing herself coveted spots on the covers of magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Sports Illustrated, not to mention a gig as the face of Guess.
6. Your body changes with time
I started out as a scrawny, skinny kid who hardly ate. When puberty hit and my hormones went into overdrive, so did my appetite. Depression throughout my teen years then triggered binge eating—something I struggled with for many years.
As a result, my body ballooned in ways that I wasn’t comfortable with. It left me feeling terribly insecure, shy and socially awkward.
When I transitioned into my early 20s, I decided that I’d had enough, and started taking control of my body with exercise, fixing my issues with food and learning how to manage my emotions.
Over the years, my body has transformed from scrawny to big to lean, back to big, and I’m pretty much settled on lean and muscular for now.
But what if I were to get pregnant? My body will change again…permanently (hello wider hips, stretch marks and loose skin!), and I’d have a different set of issues to deal with.
No matter what stage in life you’re at, your body’s not going to look or feel the same five to ten years from now. Embrace it, love it, improve it and take care of it the best you can—it’s the only one you’ve got.
7. You’re too busy living life to the fullest
Life’s too short to let yourself get knocked and stay down by unsolicited comments from people who hardly know you, about your body.
You’re too busy making things work: Your career, family, spouse, kids, close friends, workouts, and everything else that you love to dwell on the negativity (and insecurities) of others.
8. Someone else’s negativity is about them, not you
Do you have someone in your life who literally takes offense at the fact that you’re starting eat more healthily, exercise and re-prioritize your habits? If your answer is “yes”, chances are they’re a major source of not-so-positive comments, sent via delivery express, your way.
In fact, the unpleasant things that people say about you almost always stems from their own insecurities or jealousy, and have nothing to do with you.
You’re rocking the boat they’re on, and they don’t like it because it means they’re going to have to face their cold, hard truths and start changing too.
What can you do about the haters? Live well, focus on people who elevate you, and get better, not bitter.
9. There’s no one else like you
It’s human nature to want to be accepted and validated—we all want to be liked and loved. Sometimes, this results in us saying “yes” a little too much, following the crowd or not standing up for ourselves when someone disrespects us.
But here’s the thing: The more you say “yes”, follow the herd and mute your voice, the less comfortable you’ll be in your own skin and less likely you’ll be to reach your full potential (and this includes looking and feeling your best).
Want to find your own personal flavor? Ditch the people pleasing (and opinions about your body that are not yours) and focus on what makes YOU special.
10. The less you care, the more at peace you’ll be
“Don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are,” says Eckhart Tolle in his book, A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose.
According to Tolle, we are fields of conscious Presence. In other words, we are not the skin we’re in, the hair we have, the clothes we wear or the six packs abs we flaunt.
The less reactive you are, the more alive you can be in the present moment, and the more peace you’ll experience in your life (and body).
Featured photo credit: http://kaboompics.com/one_foto/1006 via kaboompics.com