I often trash-talk my body and here's why it matters

May 26, 2015 at 10:42 a.m. ET
Image: B2M Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images

How often do you say negative things about your body? "I hate my thunder thighs," "I have to get rid of my belly" or "look at these flabby arms"?

You may be doing this on auto-pilot without realizing how your words are affecting your self-confidence, your actions or the people around you.

The other day I heard myself say to a friend, "My waist isn't a normal woman's waist."

Um... what does that even mean? I realized I was subtly trash-talking my body without intending to.

Ten years ago that thought would have spiraled into a whirlwind of self-criticism, and hating on my body and an endless cycle of overeating... quickly followed up by over-exercising, with the mental stress and physical ailments that those negative patterns exacerbate.

When I started studying mindfulness and began practicing noticing my thoughts, I learned how to recognize when I was saying mean things about myself, stop those comments in their tracks and actually use them for good.

Here's why:

  1. Awareness: Increasing your awareness is the first step to making changes. When you hear yourself trash-talking, take a second to notice it and pause for a moment.

  2. Recognition: Just because a thought is negative, it doesn't mean it's "bad." It might help you uncover valuable information, or recognize common triggers. Be curious and ask yourself questions like: How does that comment make me feel? Am I chiming in with certain family members or friends who are habitually trash-talking their bodies, even when I don't really want to trash-talk mine? Do these thoughts come up when I do certain activities like going to dance class or bathing suit shopping?

  3. After discovering your answers in number two, you can take action to change the situation. Decide on one positive action step you're going to take when you notice your trash-talk. You could choose to stop participating in your girlfriends' body-shaming conversations and hand them a compliment instead.

  4. Affirm. Those body parts you're mocking? They do a lot for you! Focus on how your thighs, belly, arms (or wherever you're trash-talking) help and support you. Create a new statement to add into your body-talk repertoire and repeat this new mantra every time you notice the old one creep in. "My legs are strong and bring me up and down to my fourth floor walk-up apartment everyday!" "My belly nourishes me and is the soul of my intuition." "My arms give big bear hugs and help me write and create new things."

Becoming aware of the habitual comments you make about yourself will help you use those moments for good to improve your self confidence, uplift the people around you and take positive action steps forward.