How To Help a Friend Struggling With Body Image

“I just look so ugly in this! I can’t believe how fat I am! I just wish I looked more muscular.” Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve heard a friend say this a time or two, or maybe you’ve said it to yourself. Body image is something we can all struggle with throughout our lives. It can also be hard for us to see our friends and loved ones struggling with body image. We may love and appreciate them for the humor, brightness, generosity, and kindness they bring to the world, but they may be blinded by negative body image and unable to see past the image that they see in the mirror.

So, what can you do to help a friend who may be struggling with their body image? Here are a few tips to get started!

  1. Compliment them on something not related to their body.

Remind your friend how much you love and care for them based on other things. Maybe they make you laugh really hard, are generous and give selflessly, or are excellent at listening to people. Focusing on their personality reminds your friend that they are more than their appearance.

2. Ask them about other things going on in their life

Maybe your friend is going through a bad breakup, hard times with family members, or struggling with some larger mental health issues. Being there to support your friend and listen to them is important because it helps them feel validated and less lonely.

3. Reframe and challenge negative thoughts

If a friend is saying negative things about their body or the desire to achieve a certain look, ask them why they feel that way. If they say they’ve been spending 2 hours at the gym everyday, ask them why they want to work out so much. Helping them recognize when they are being negative towards their body can help them understand that how they feel about their appearance doesn’t determine their worth as a human being.

4. Follow encouraging and positive social media

It can be such a downer to see “perfect” photoshopped insta-fit models all over the place. If you find yourself or friends becoming sad or upset due to social media that you follow, unfollow them and seek out positive accounts instead. Check out our blog’s body positive social media accounts post!

5. Practice self care together

Going to the movies together, taking a hike in the mountains, grabbing a cup of coffee, checking out a new band, or trying the new restaurant in town can be a good way to take the focus off of how your friend may feel about their body.

6. Listen non-judgementally

Sometimes your friend may feel like they look absolutely terrible, and its okay for them to express that to you. It isn’t realistic to feel 100% confident in our bodies at all times. But, if your friend is struggling more often than not, they probably need a solid support system. Pratice active listening skills and refrain from giving them unsolicited advice or saying things like, “well, I think you’re gorgeous”. This might invalidate people’s feelings or emotions. Learn more about active listening and empathy here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

7. Know your resources

Maybe your friend needs help from a professional. Did you know that we have a nutritionist and wellness coach available at the Office of Health Advancement? At MSU, we also have Counseling and Psychological Services that can help students and get them free counseling for mental health concerns.

Activity

Get together with your friend and create a list of people that you both admire: people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world. Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.

Challenge

Listen non-judgmentally. Sometimes your friend may feel like they look horrible, and they may just need you to listen to them. If they are open to it, help them challenge negative body thoughts. Every time your friend says something negative regarding their body, try to reframe it into a positive or encouraging statement. For example: If your friend says “I look like crap right now!,” then you could say, “Maybe you don’t love the way you look right now, and that’s okay, but you mean so much more to me because of what a great friend you are!”

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