We’ve all been there when a casual conversation gets hijacked by bad body talk – and it feels ick.

“I’ve earned my breakfast now.”

“I’m going to need to go to the gym after this.”

“I’ve eaten rubbish all week. I’ve got to be good.”

Diet culture speak. It’s pervasive. It breeds insecurities. It’s disheartening and restrictive – and it spreads. Often, it’s something we do on autopilot because we’ve been told for so long we’re supposed to feel bad about our bodies.

All that negative noise can be hard not to internalise. So, here’s what to do in those instances when your own neg body talk spirals, or you’re around friends or family (does your mum comment on your body? This blog post might help) trapped in the vicious cycle.

1. Notice your thinking

Separating the emotion is a simple but powerful tool. Tell yourself, this is comparison, or this is anxiety. This isn’t you.

2. Forgive yourself for not being perfect

It’s okay to have high standards but complaining about your body won’t make you healthier, skinnier or happier. At a minimum, don’t give the sucky self esteem thoughts power by saying them out loud.

My tummy might have rolls, but does that make me any less a person? Nope. Image: Lyndi Cohen
My tummy might have rolls, but does that make me any less a person? Nope. Image: Lyndi Cohen

3. Set the precedent

By not dissing your body or others around your friends or family it gives a subtle cue you won’t participate in diet culture (diet culture can be sneaky. Here’s how to tell if you’re on a diet in disguise).

4. Keep a compliment diary

Save nice things people say to you in your notes on your phone. When you need to pick yourself up on a down day, you can read through the compliments.

5. Go into compassion mode

Be helpful and encouraging to those close to you when they’re hating on their body. Let them feel heard, but not judged and take steps to feel better about things, like instead of meeting for a boozy dinner, eat a home-cooked meal together, or go for a morning walk and coffee.

If you can’t meet up in person, a walk and talk can also do the trick. Image: Lyndi Cohen

6. Consider a mantra

Sounds a bit woo woo but it’s a nifty fallback when it feels like everything sucks. One I enjoy is “I am enough. I am essential”. It’s a circuit breaker for my brain when on a neg spiral.

7. Focus on health

Not size – and question expectations and body ideals if you’re up for talking about it. Then challenge yourself and your mates to only use positive body talk. That means thinking about your body as more than weight – but something that can dance, laugh, think, question, and a gazillion cool things more.