If you’re on your own self-love journey (yay!) and want to share it with your friends so they too can nix the diet chat and self-loathing, read on…
It’s near impossible to avoid internalising the message that certain bodies (young, thin, white, able-bodied) are more worthy than others. Diet culture and the beauty standard are like the two evil step sisters ruining many of our Cinderella stories.
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who has managed to opt out of diet culture it’s still a daily battle to love yourself.
At Rock n Roll Bride, we’re proud that you, the readers, are pretty switched on when it comes to knowing that happiness isn’t a number on a scale, but we also know that being body positive is still a niche compared to the amount of people believing that their body needs changing.
How can you create a more positive group of people around you? That’s what this article is all about! Your friend might be a few steps behind you on their bopo journey or might not have even taken their first step.
Before we crack on though, it’s important to note that a) you can never force change in anyone else, you can only change yourself (and that’s powerful) and b) we can never fully know the reality of another person’s experience, so staying compassionate and non-judgmental is absolutely essential when putting out your own body positive attitude.
Here are twenty small ways which can inspire positive change in your friendship group and family.
- Put a blanket ban on diet chat.
Your wedding, your rules hunny! You’re allowed to put up a boundary around any food, diets and weight loss chat. This could a create space for a conversation about your own bopo journey but even if it doesn’t, it’s a good way to protect yourself and set a precedent around the type of conversations you’re willing to engage in during your wed-preps.
- Fat is not a feeling. Fact.
How many times have you heard ‘I feel fat’ as a catch all phrase for negativity? Newsflash: Fat is not a feeling, it’s a descriptor. Fat doesn’t mean ugly but when someone uses negativity it perpetuates fat-phobia. Stop your friends from using it by asking what’s really going on. Are they tired? Frustrated? In need of a cuddle? Ask them to find out what they really mean when they blame their body for their emotions.
Important side note: if someone wants to use fat positivity, don’t allow others to say “Oh no, you’re not!”, reclaiming the word fat can be incredibly powerful.
- Stop complimenting each other on how ‘skinny’ an outfit makes them look.
This only supports the idea that being thin should be our greatest pursuit in life. Instead talk about much you like the style or the colour (or see next point!)
- Start complimenting friends on non-physical attributes.
In my experience, any body-based compliment can be a trigger for mixed feelings or body shame, regardless of whether or not it was delivered with good intentions. Bodies are literally the least interesting thing about you and your friends, so start the culture of complimenting their kindness/generosity/hobbies/vibe/musical tastes (insert any non-physical attribute here).
- Teach everyone how to accept a compliment.
Speaking of compliments, if you’re British you may have been taught to be incredibly awkward about accepting one. Screw that. When you reject someone’s compliment, you’re casting doubt on their judgement and batting back their kindness. Here’s all you need to do… say ‘thank you’, bask in their words and then get on with your day. Easy!
- When you hear your friends say something negative about themselves, correct them.
Often, we allow our friends to bash themselves but here’s a great way to stop them. Say “Oi, don’t talk about my friend like that!” It’s a funny way to cut through their narrative and let them know that you don’t agree with what they’re saying.
- Don’t pressure others to love their ‘flaws’.
If your friends are openly talking about how much they hate something about themselves don’t try and force them to change how they feel. The only thing you can do is demo how you’ve managed to change how you see something about yourself. E.g. I used to hate my stretchmarks but now I see them as my battle scars and how amazing my body is for getting through everything I’ve put it through.
- Don’t bash your friends for being tempted by diets.
Likewise, don’t judge your friends for being tempted to diet. Diets are incredibly seductive. You could suggest they read some of the body positive books out there (my current fave is Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison) or talk about how much mental freedom you’ve gained since giving them up. Everyone has to travel their own journey. It’s OK to ask them not to chat about their progress though.
- Stop labelling food ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Food doesn’t have a morale weight. Cake is not bad and you are not a bad person for eating it. Food is just food and importantly, you’re allowed to eat it at any time, regardless of how much you’ve moved or previously eaten that day/week/year.
- Stop buying women’s magazines (especially Women’s Health #sorrynotsorry).
In the words of Mary Schmich, made famous by Buz Luhrmann’s Everyone’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen), “Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.” Magazines are made to highlight your flaws in the pursuit of capitalism. don’t buy into it .As for Women’s Health, it’s just diet culture in lycra. Avoid.
- Ban all use of the word ‘perfect’.
Weddings are a shit show for ‘perfectionism’ (perfect dress, perfect bride, perfect day… ahhhh!) but in reality, it’s an impossible marker for success. So, ban it entirely and instead go for ‘good enough’. Enjoy the mental freedom.
- Don’t buy into fashion rules. The only thing you need to wear that thing is the right attitude.
Firstly, your body is not a fruit so keep apples and pears for the fruit bowl. If an item makes you feel hot AF then that’s literally all that matters. Wanna wear horizontal stripes? Go for it! Want to rock a gender fluid bridal outfit? Yes, yes, YESSSSS! Share this attitude with everyone around you.
- Don’t put your bridesmaids in the same outfit.
If you want to be a true goddess of a body positive friend then consider how matching outfits might impact your friend’s body image. Nothing says awesome wedding photos like all your gang feeling themselves, and let’s be honest that means feeling comfortable. See next point.
- Never compare bodies.
Body comparison is the thief of joy. It’s tempting to allow a sentence such as “If I had your legs I’d wear shorts all the time”, but this only perpetuates a culture of body shaming ourselves. All bodies are beautiful because beauty is subjective! As a bride, you can try and steer your besties away from the comparison trap by avoiding matching outfits.
- Create a positive changing room experience
I have spent many miserable moments in changing rooms. The lights are awful, the mirrors are awful and they’re cramped as hell. They are not conducive to loving your body. Why not order online create a Queer Eye inspired ‘trying on’ party with as much positivity as the Fab 5. Even when items don’t fit try and avoid the term ‘flattering’ or ‘unflattering’ which supports the idea that certain bodies are made for certain clothes.
- Send body posi blogs and social media posts
One of the easiest things you can do to change how you feel is to change the messages that you’re receiving. Start a culture of sharing body positive content between your pals and go further by pointing out positive representation of fat, trans, disabled and other marginalised folk. The more we’re exposed to a different narrative, the more we can believe it for ourselves.
- Go on self-care dates
Nothing says ‘you’re worthy of love’ than a pamper date. When we feel bad about ourselves, we often don’t think we should indulge in self-care. Set up a beauty day and make your friends see that they can feel good without losing a single pound.
- Be a self-love queen
Shower yourself with compliments, tell your friends how much you’re enjoying wearing your outfit choice, show gratitude about how much your body can do for you (be careful not to slip into ableism though, all bodies are worthy regardless of their physical ability) and demo how you eat depending on what your body needs. Be the role model you wish you’d had.
- Tell your friends how beautiful you think they are on the regular.
Don’t be shy when it comes to telling the people in your life how wonderful you think they are. We internalise the words we hear around us, particularly when it comes to how we think we look. Be your friend’s biggest cheerleader.
- Remember that people are listening and learning regardless of whether you think they are.
You might think that your words and actions are falling on deaf ears but people are always watching and listening. For years, one of my best friends was stuck in diet land so I couldn’t believe it when she came to me and told me that she’d started a body positive journey. Although you can’t force people to think like you, you can show them the path you’ve trodden.
About Harri Rose
Harri Rose is a coach, author and one voice in Anti Diet Riot Club. She is a specialist in body acceptance and is the creator of ‘Wonder Collective’. Wonder Collective is the first club where recovering dieters and disordered eaters can embrace the magic of life through 13 ‘pillars of wonder’. Her first book ‘You Are Enough’ is out now.
Rock n Roll Bride readers can claim a 10% discount on Wonder Collective membership, just email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the code RNROLL10. Find out more at harrirose.com.
- Photography: Dark Roux Photography