Trigger warning: Disordered eating
The world would be a wonderful place if no one felt judged for the way they look and everyone accepted and loved themselves—but sadly, that is not the case. Very few of us have body positivity from an early age, but most struggle with it at some point in their lives. Some more than others.
It is often the case that people who struggle with body image issues may also have eating disorders, because I did. When it comes to people with a struggle with body image issues, it is important to remember that it might affect what they wear, eat, and feel and how they interact with others.
It can be challenging to reach out to someone who is struggling with body image, but it is important to be sensitive and acknowledge that it is challenging for them. Try to recognize when someone is struggling without making assumptions. Someone struggling with body image can be thin, curvy, athletic, etc.
Here is how you can love someone who struggles with their body image.
1. Support With Food
They might not feel comfortable eating in public, so try to be understanding and kind during mealtimes. Don’t pressure them either way.
2. Support With Socializing
They might feel uncomfortable hanging out with family and friends due to body image, so make sure to include them when hanging out and don’t let them be alone. Ask them if they would like to participate.
3. Respect Their Boundaries
An important part about helping others is knowing how much help they are comfortable getting instead of how much help you are comfortable giving. If they are uncomfortable, do not push them.
4. Practice Active Listening
It is much easier to keep talking and listening to only the sound of your voice. So, paying attention to what they are saying and remembering them can help with building trust.
5. Be Patient
Pressuring someone who struggles with body image to talk can only add additional stress to their lives. Remember that you are here for them and that you cannot rush them. Just wait patiently for them to be ready.
6. Ask Them What They Need
Always remember that you are here for them and the best way to help someone is to ask them what they need to be helped with. Your way may not always be the best way.
7. Give Them Encouragement
People who struggle with body image can get easily discouraged in this fight, so they need someone to constantly encourage them and tell them that they can win. It is important to also remind them that they are loved and valued irrespective of their physical appearance. Tell them you have faith in them.
8. Compliment Their Non-Physical Attributes
Inner beauty is more important. Compliment them on their skills and positive qualities such as their kindness. Remind them that what makes a person more beautiful is their inner beauty.
9. Encourage Them To Get Support If Needed
It is not necessary for them to talk to you or a professional if they do not want to, but if they feel that they need more support, tell them that it is okay to talk with trained professionals to help them.
10. Don’t Force Them To Eat Or Exercise
It is not okay to force someone to change their diet and workout behaviors because YOU think it is best for them—it will do more harm than good. Adding pressure on people who struggle with body image can lead to shame and guilt.
The truth is that everyone has a different story. I have been through phases in my life when I starved myself all day or counted every single calorie and ate so much that I felt sick to my stomach. I have had days when I exercised three times a day and then ate only apples all day. It is not easy, and it is easy to be angry at others. I needed to know that the people who loved me would be there for when I was ready and if I needed help. I wanted them to remind me that I was loved irrespective of my size and my weight.
We cannot value our worth based on the number on the scale or size of our jeans, but it is a process and till we are ready.
It can be challenging to have a tough conversation, so if it is hard to have the talk, you can still show your support by being there. Remember that it is very overwhelming to the person you love. Letting them know that you are there for them whenever they need you is one of the best things you can do.