Photo: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Body dissatisfaction is at an all-time high and it’s reported that 60 per cent of adults have negative feelings about the way they look.

Around two-thirds of people in the western world are constantly on a diet and millions are believed to have an eating disorder. Mental health, happiness and self-esteem are suffering hugely, and it’s so much to do with the way we view our self-image and the body talk that happens as a result.

It’s really time that we paid attention to the kind of things that we say to ourselves because it really does affect us.

It’s not just the words that come out of your mouth that determine your life, it’s the words you whisper to yourself that have the most power. 

Negative self-talk is a huge problem and this has been labelled ‘body talk’. So what exactly does that expression mean? Well, it refers to the conversations we have with ourselves, or others, about our own, or other people’s, bodies or bodily characteristics.

People who discuss body weight and size often have lower self-esteem and body dissatisfaction, and are more likely to diet and engage in disordered eating behaviours, than people who don’t discuss their bodies.

Body talk is also associated with body hatred, and I this is common in people who have had a bad relationship with food for many years. The issue generally begins when they’re young, and continues through to adulthood.

If we keep using negative, critical, derogatory language to describe our bodies, then naturally we will continue to look at our bodies as enemies we have to punish and resent. But the great news is that we have the power to change that. 

If you love your body, you will automatically begin to care about what goes in your mouth and how you look after your health. 

So, we can watch our words and start a much kinder conversation with ourselves and others around us. 

So the first thing to pay attention to is your language. Be really aware when you talk about your body or when others around you do it. It’s amazing how much we criticise ourselves without even knowing we’re doing it, so notice what you say and how you feel when those things are said, then work on checking negative words before you actually say them out loud. 

Number two: show yourself kindness and compassion. Now, I’m not saying it’s easy to challenge body talk, especially if it’s been an ingrained behaviour since childhood. It’s tough to change things and of course there’ll be times when you’re still being negative about yourself. But, if you slip up, don’t berate yourself. Be compassionate. Reframe it by complimenting yourself for the progress you’ve made so far and simply aim to do better next time. 

Number three: don’t follow the crowd. Negative body talk happens in all sorts of communities. Diet clubs are obviously one place it happens, and it also happens online and in the workplace. Some people feel that there’s a social obligation to join in. But if a friend starts criticising the way they look, or if a colleague makes a critique about their weight, you don’t have to join in. You don’t have to say “me too” and share your own insecurities. You can simply do what’s right for you and your own mental health and walk away from the conversation. 

If it’s difficult to walk away from certain situations, then make a commitment to yourself to avoid all body talk. Let your friends know how damaging this is to your mental health and vow only to comment on positive things. Use positive psychology and remind yourself that you are so much more than a body. Turn it into an experience of appreciation, and this leads me nicely on to…

Number four: affirmations. Affirmations are such a great thing to get in the habit of doing. They’re far more than just self-help statements to make ourselves feel better. They can have a very real impact on our overall well-being and quality of life. Repeating the affirmations daily allows us to become more in tune with our thoughts and the way we think about ourself in general. When we’re conscious about our attitude towards ourself, we can make a big effort to stop negative thoughts. When we become more aware of ourselves, we’re able to be mindful of surrounding ourselves with positive things.

And you know, the best thing is the more you practice, the more you notice what aspects of your life are most important to you, as well as things that may be holding you back from being happy.

Affirmations also help you to keep in a consistently positive mood and that then gets nature’s happy drugs dancing around in your brain, and what’s not to like about that?