Comments about food and body image are everywhere because the truth is diet culture is everywhere. And even when you’re ready to leave that life behind, you still live in a world that may not be. Setting boundaries regarding your food and body is key to healing. Try following these four steps to set healthy, meaningful boundaries for yourself that others will listen to. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but I promise, it WILL get easier the more you practice.
01. Define your needs
What boundaries do you need, and with whom do you need them? How are these boundaries going to help you get your needs met? You must first know what you need to be specific in your ask. When we do not know what we need, we often set unclear boundaries, which are just as ineffective as not setting any.
02. Lay it all out on the table
Once you define your boundaries, communicate them to that person. This is probably the most challenging part of the entire process. It may feel confrontational, but it doesn’t have to be. Remind yourself that setting boundaries do not make you a bad person, a mean person, or a needy person. Setting boundaries is simply about taking care of yourself so that others no longer treat you in a way you do not want to be treated.
03. Stand your ground
If you’ve never set boundaries with this person before, don’t be surprised if you are not taken the first time seriously. This is especially true if you are dealing with someone who is used to being the dominant person in the relationship. Remain confident, and do not budge. Remind yourself why boundary-setting is necessary.
04. State the consequences
Yes, consequences are necessary. Without them, this person has no reason to abide by your boundaries. So, what happens if this person breaks the established boundaries? State your consequences so they know what happens if they do, and make them relevant enough that the person feels compelled to comply.
What does setting healthy boundaries look like in action? Here are some examples:
- I appreciate your support, but I’m not looking for advice now.
- I'm not okay with you making jokes about my body. If you continue, I will leave.
- I'm not okay with you posting pictures of me without my permission.
- I value your opinion, but I will decide on my own.
- If you raise your voice, this conversation will end.
- If you continue to comment about my weight, I will no longer spend time with you.
- I understand you are trying to help, but comments about my food are not helpful.
- I appreciate your concern, but I am not ready to discuss it.
- You can disagree with me, but I deserve to be treated with respect.
Triggering comments will always be out there, but you can be armed with the tools to cope healthily. So next time you come up against a food or body image comment that doesn’t feel okay to you, try using these steps to set boundaries. People will only treat you the way you allow them to treat you. So if you are not okay with how you are currently being treated, then it’s time to set some boundaries.