Be the Change: Subtle Ways You Can Help Stop Body Shaming Among Friends

updated May 3, 2019
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There’s a weird competition that can happen when friends gather together, and it’s all about who gets the prize for feeling the most down on their body. Things like “God, I shouldn’t be eating this strudel” and “I look like a whale in this dress” are swapped as casually as hello cheek kisses, and they seem to have become part of our everyday conversations. But rather than just wishing your friend gave up on mentally beating herself up every time she had to choose between spinach and a cupcake, take control and teach her it’s time to stop. Below are seven subtle ways you can model body positivity— because if you won’t be the one to do it, who will?

Embrace Your Own Differences

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When your pal points out you already have a couple of gray hairs growing out of your bangs, smile and say “I know, how amazing do they look? I love them.” It might make her snort, but hearing someone embrace a seemingly “negative” feature will make them take a second look in the mirror the next time they’re sizing themself up.

Swap Out “Skinny” With “Strong”

Help your friends stop making “skinny” the end-all be-all goal of working out by swapping it out for “strong” instead. Whenever you talk about the gym or working out, mention you love how strong and powerful you’re getting, and how it’s improved your self esteem. If you’re popping squats and slapping the running track in order to be the healthiest version of yourself rather than just losing pant sizes, the way you see your body changes. Skew your language towards how fun it is to use your body, not towards how you need to punish it in order to fit into sale sizes.

Don’t Correct Them If They Say They Feel Fat

We’re so used to hearing, “No, you look fine!” after making this self-deprecating statement that it sounds almost canned by this point. Instead, compliment your own body. If she says she hates how her thighs look in those shorts, glance down at your own and say you love that extra curve. Seeing someone respect their own Today Body will inch anybody within earshot slowly towards that same happy place.

Wear Things That Break The Rules

We all have certain silhouettes and cuts that fashion rule books say we can’t wear because they won’t be “flattering.” To push back against them, be the person in your group that plays with whatever fashion she so chooses. Have a tummy? Wear the clingy dress and skip the Spanx. Have curvy thighs? Wear those shorts and minis happily. Do you barely break five foot? Make those maxi dresses yours. If they see you embrace trends, they’ll be more prone to play with the items they’ve always secretly wanted to try. too.

Point Out What You Love About Other Women

Do you see a girl rocking out-there vintage? Point out how much you love her authentic style. Do you see a curvy chick decked out in shorts and a crop top? Applaud how amazing she looks. Or if you find a woman looking beautiful in an outfit—whether she’s muscular, plus size, thin, grey haired, or in her twenties—always praise her appearance. Showing that people in all shapes and sizes are beautiful will help your friends see the light.

Slip In Your Opinion Casually

When she complains about wrinkles, maybe you can find a way to nonchalantly mention how you learned to love your crows feet because they remind you of all those brunches you both spent in tears laughing. If you do this every time she brings up a perceived flaw, she just might start seeing it through your eyes.

Send Them Body Positive Content

Don’t be obvious about it (you don’t have to tag her 37 times a week), but every now and then send your friend an email about women pushing back against unrealistic body standards, tag her in an inspiring post on a body positive blogger’s Instagram, or send her a kick-ass short on the power of loving the body you have. She gets bombarded by enough negative messages—balance it out with a few positive ones of your own.

In the end, your friends are too beautiful and wonderful to not notice it themselves. Show them what they’re missing.