When you think of your favorite badass girl crush—whether it’s your best friend, favorite trainer, or a celeb—is her superhuman ability to shrug off unsolicited comments one of the things you admire about her? Someone can hurl an insult or a compliment her way with equal fervor, but she’ll just smile politely and go back to living her best life. But it’s easier said than done—that’s why it’s a superpower.
Even though Ashley Graham, Jessamyn Stanley, Dana Falsetti, and so many other body-positive babes are shattering restrictive ideas of what a woman’s body should look like, it’s hard not to be sensitive to comments about weight—positive or negative. Cutting remarks or backhanded compliments about having a “pretty face” or looking “good for your size” can be enough to make even the most confident person want to hide under her duvet. But it’s easy to become fixated on compliments, too. Ever post a selfie and get a comment on how skinny you look? Wanting more compliments can become a vicious cycle and turn even a healthy habit into a quest for validation.
It raises the question: How do you handle people who comment on your weight and not let it affect how you see yourself? It’s something wellness teacher and Eat With Intention author Cassandra Bodzak has personally experienced. As someone who struggled with disordered eating in the past, she used to take any comments about her weight to heart, to the point where it became almost all-consuming. But now that she’s worked through it, any comments just bounce off her. What’s her secret?
Here, she reveals how to deal with commenters and have a healthy relationship with your body—at any weight.
How to handle comments about weight loss
Chances are, if someone tells you how skinny you look, they’re just trying to pay you an honest-to-goodness compliment—even if it comes out a little weird. If you’ve been working hard to transform your body, it’s awesome to take a beat and acknowledge your hard work; but there’s a way to do so without starting to crave more compliments.
Here’s how Bodzak says is the best way to deal: “It’s really important to reframe it in the moment, inviting that person into an even more important conversation,” she says. “Instead of saying something like, ‘Oh thanks. It’s great to be a size 4 again,’ you can flip it and say, ‘Thanks! You know what, I made a few changes and now I feel so good in my body, have more energy, and sleep better.’ Or, ‘Thanks! I’ve been working out twice a week and it’s really helped me deal with my stress.'”
“It’s really important to reframe it in the moment, inviting that person into an even more important conversation.”
The key, Bodzak says, is being present in your body and in tune with what it wants and needs. She stresses that this goes beyond hitting up an OrangeTheory class and grabbing a green juice on your way home. It’s about knowing what will make you feel your best. Part of getting there is being more aware of how what you eat makes you feel—for better or for worse. “Folding a body-loving meditation into your practice can also help you get more connected,” Bodzak says.
Bodzak also points out that weight loss isn’t always positive: Many people unintentionally lose weight when they’re stressed or grieving. “How you respond to this depends on your relationship with whoever you’re having the conversation with, but if it’s a family member or close friend, it can be an opportunity for you to open up about the underlying problem,” she says. “You can respond by saying something like, ‘I’m going through a really stressful time right now, but I’m working toward taking better care of myself.'” Again, it flips the script, allowing for a more meaningful conversation.
How to handle flat-out negative comments
Then there are the comments—be they made by a relative or left on a social media post—that serve no purpose other than to try to bring you down. The best way to handle these potentially crushing remarks, Bodzak says, again depends on your relationship with the person making them. “If it’s your mom, for example, who says something like how she’s noticed you’ve gained weight, that can be an opportunity for you to have a deeper conversation about an underlying issue that’s really going on. Maybe you’re stressed out. Maybe you have adrenal fatigue.”
And as for everyone else, Bodzak has a solution for that, too: “This is going to sound crazy, but the best thing you can do when someone says something rude about your weight is to come back with a compliment. Cut it off and change the subject.”
Confused? There’s solid reasoning behind her kill-’em-with-kindness method: “By not engaging, you choose not to receive that comment and you choose to be a better person,” she says. “It completely shifts the dynamic and now that person is left to sit with knowing that what they said was inappropriate.”
Bodzak says that once you find that so-coveted inner peace with your body, chances are, negative comments won’t even faze you. How exactly do you get there? There’s no fast track, but regularly showering yourself with good ‘ol self-love is a great start. Little by little, you’ll find that you are a badass babe just like the women you admire.
Kate Hudson has some powerful advice on loving your body, too. And just in case you need a reminder, weight loss does not equal happiness.