Proud2Bme | Expert Q & A: "Help, I'm surrounded by bodysnarkers!"

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Expert Q & A: "Help, I'm surrounded by bodysnarkers!"

Q: Bodysnarking is all around me—my friends make comments, I read stuff on Facebook & Twitter, even my mom says not-so-nice things about the way other people look. How do I put a stop to it?

It’s starting to affect how I feel and talk about my own body!

We asked Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., author of The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like With Who You Are, to share her tips for stamping out bodysnarking. Here’s her expert advice.

A: The ultimate goal is to establish a bodysnark-free zone in your environment. Here are five steps to get there. But before you get started, realize that it’s impossible to change everyone, and the best you can do is to change your internal response to all the bodysnarking.

Step 1: Identification. Identify who is doing the bodysnarking and when it’s happening around you. Spend a few days listening to the people around you and keep an actual or mental log of who is doling out what kind of bodysnark and when.

Step 2: Awareness. Choose the people with whom you want to have real conversations about eliminating bodysnark and fat talk. If you know someone is going to be a hopeless case, it is perhaps better not to waste your energy. But if your friends or your family members are bodysnark offenders, making them aware of what they’re doing is worth the effort. Just pointing out the behavior and reframing it can be a powerful motivator. Ask how they think the recipient of the bodysnark would feel if they heard them say the comment out loud.

Step 3: Education. Speak up when someone you know starts bodysnarking. Do it gently, in a manner they can learn from, not in an “A-ha! Gotcha!” way that will just put them on the defensive or send their thoughts underground. Help them understand that bodysnarking is no different from other kinds of prejudice or injustice.

Step 4: Do not reinforce. If you want a child to stop doing something, the best approach is to ignore the behavior. Don’t join in, don’t rise to the bait, just move on to another topic. It's the same with bodysnarkers. You might be tempted to laugh along with a bodysnarking joke. Don’t. If you give it attention, you’ll be reinforcing it and increasing the likelihood that it will happen again.

Step 5: Model body positive talk. People around you are much more influenced by what you do than what you say. If you are talking up a bodysnark-free game, but your friends constantly hear you complaining about your own body or snarking on others, your attempts to educate will fall on deaf ears. Model respectful comments and help the people around you to develop more positive relationships with their bodies that are not just focused on appearance.

Cynthia Bulik, PhD is the author of Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like with Who You Are and Director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program.


Join the Campaign to Stamp Out Bodysnarking!

Quiz: Are You a Bodysnark Offender or a Body Image Booster?


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