Negative body talk: a challenge

I know that when I feel down about myself, food and body are the first things I tear into. And I've, uh, noticed this as a pattern here in the blogosphere.

What I'm wondering is: is this negative body talk at all helpful?

I'm not saying you should never do it. In fact, this is the place for honesty if ever there was one. That's one of the things that makes this group of women great. But what I'm wondering is if going into detail about every single part of your body that you hate and why and how this makes you the world's worst person is really productive.

For starters, the act of writing it all out seems to solidify it in my mind. It makes the bad body image so much more real.

For another, it puts me, as a friend, in an awkward position. What do I say? I don't want to give Ed the time of day by engaging in a pointless debate. Yet I also know that these feelings are very real.

This is not meant as a criticism to ANYONE, more as an avenue for self-exploration. What purpose does saying all of these negative things fill? Sometimes (and this is hugely embarrassing, but there you have it), I've been known to use this kind of negativity as a way to fish for compliments. Or at least reassurance that things aren't always what they appear. But really, people telling me I'm delusional about how I see myself doesn't really help things any. Why? I don't believe them. I need to hear it, but I don't believe them.

I think there's a difference between saying "My arms look fat and I'm not comfortable with how they look" and spending a whole post detailing each and every part of the arms that you hate.

So. Here's the question: How does this help you? And if it doesn't what would help?

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jana said...

Hi Carrie. I have to agree with you. I don't think it helps anything and it can definitely have a negative impact on people reading. But, when someone is so upset about something, I understand that they need to get it out. I personally think they should either 1. write in a personal journal and/or 2. talk to their therapist about it. Both sounds good. Putting it out there on the blogs probably isn't a very positive thing.

carrie said...


I don't know that I think so much that it doesn't belong on a blog- after all, who am I to judge- but moreso to ask yourself if always saying negative things about yourself is helpful.

I'm not always feeling the body love, nor would I expect anyone else to feel all lovey-dovey towards their bodies all the times, either. Especially given the subjects of the blogs, it's not realistic. Dealing with crappy body image is a fact in all of our recoveries.

I guess it's not that I think a journal would be more appropriate, it's that I'm thinking that this constant kind of talk really isn't helpful. There's always a time and a place to get it out, and a blog may very well be it. But to constantly disparage yourself, whether in a blog or a journal, I don't think helps things.

I'm trying to work on the fact that while my dislike of my body is certainly very real, the particulars I dislike about it might not be. And that dwelling on those dislikes is kind of counter-productive to recovery.

Does all of this make sense? I guess I just want to re-emphasize that there's a difference (to me) between getting negative feelings out and wallowing in the said feelings.


jana said...

Ah, sorry. I didn't realize I was so far off.

I certainly don't love my body but I don't find a point to using my blog to detail the cellulite in my ass cheeks. ;) No matter what, I'm gonna hate my butt. What I do question though, is why I want no butt at all. So I try to focus more on that side.

Laura Collins said...

Miss Manners says the proper response to racist jokes or innuendo - even self-inflicted - is silence and a steady blank look.

But on the Internet silence seems like a lack of caring, and a blank looks is just a hit.

So just SAYING things on a blog is almost like a dare: "will you respond?" Saying something isn't passive, and not responding is almost active.

Anyway, this is a good topic. It is different on the Internet, but I don't think we really know exactly how, yet.

mary said...

Making a statement about how I feel is a good way to affirm it. So IF that's what I or someone wants to do...affirm all the negatives...then stating it is a good way to make sure it sticks.
On the other hand I am totally FOR a good howl. "Go ahead and howl", I say. ; )
Venting about the wrongs we want made right is another way where we may want to be mindful of how it's going to affect our own health. If we are passionate about something then I think it helps to go at it from the positive.
One woman I knew of did a vent that I found very offensive. AFTER her daughter failed to recover swiftly she vented big time complaining that she didn't have someone give her harsher support, more of a tough love. Well, being someone who WAS there for her it was difficult not to hear her vent as an insult. It was all whiny poor me talk. Her intent was to BLAME and complain and she did. It was pathetic yet somehow sad for her. She still doesn't "get it".
Yes, blogs can be destructive even if they are only spoken in a moment of frustration.

Either just say "WAH WAH WAH" so we can all laugh or tell your bully voice to shut up.( not quite a 'FIGHT CLUB' shut up ) Find something you like about yourself and build! Whoa, look at those funky ears! It doesn't matter where you begin but just saying "I love me", to any little part of yourself, helps AFFIRM the message that heals. Why does it heal? It's a mystery but it helps.
That's the one argument I have for looking for what's right opposed to what's wrong. Finding what's wrong is easy, lazy, and it nourishes the ed thoughts. Don't feed them!
Oh, and it would be great if you had a round robin game where everyday you each pass 'one' kind compliment to ANOTHER person about something that you see as a positive.(physical or skill wise) This builds your sense of the world outside yourself. Life can be hard for all of us.
Carrie you are a good friend to anyone lucky enough to have you in their corner. ED doesn't stand a chance now that you know what a jerk he is.
Go ahead and howl!/*********

Sarah said...

I think it's not helpful, to me at least. I think it's another way I punish myself.

Excellent post. . . it's a lot to think about. I'm really really really glad you wrote this.


Faith said...

I have noticed an awful lot of negative body talk. On one hand I agree that it's not helpful but on the other, it is there and showing it to the light is important, especially for me. I have spent years internally berating myself while never letting on to a soul. I think the first time I was able to say out loud that my body disappoints, betrays me was very important. On the other hand, I think it is important for this negative self talk to be challenged - often and vociferously.

I guess what I'm saying is that I agree with you that getting the negative self-talk out is important. Spending too much time in it is destructive.


carrie said...

Thanks for all your feedback.

And it's not that I believe that getting all of that ickiness out is bad or harmful- because it's not. There is a time and place for that. My roommates and I in college had a once-weekly grip session, where we all got 15 min to let it rip about what we were pissed off about. And it was so incredibly therapeutic.

Yet I also know that when I'm depressed, I keep spewing the negativity. Each person will have their own balance as to what is helpful and what isn't. Ditto for how much.

There's also a difference between bringing negative body thoughts to light, letting yourself and others know that these feelings are very real, and constantly putting yourself down.

I'm thankful for all of your thoughtful responses.


ms. em said...


thanks for opening the dialogue for a really thoughtful discussion. i read your post last night, but was too tired to respond thoughtfully.

i agree with you. i wish anyone going through an eating disorder peace. if anyone wants to discuss on their blogs, the negative body talk that seems fairly integral to the ed diagnosis, and it helps them to open up and be honest about their behaviors and thoughts, then i say, 'more power to them!'

i guess, in the end, it's really about knowing yourself and what feels good and healthy and positive to you. i take a similar approach to reading the blogs.

one of the things i learned years ago from the best ed doctor i've ever had was that i shouldn't give those 'negative/tear yourself apart' thoughts, the time of day. to do so, only means that i'm giving into my eating disorder. for me, this is true.

i know everyone's recovery is different so i can't judge what would be right or wrong for another person. i know what this doctor told me helped me a great deal in my 7+ years (if i'm doing the math right!) recovery.

Cheshire said...

Things for me look crazier on paper, writing out every detail takes away those thoughts power over me, because I am insane, they are insane and when I know that I can deal with them.

Jeanne said...

Hello Carrie,

Great challenge.

Negative body talk never helps me. Ever.

I try to counter it every chance I get - with at least neutral statements (like questioning why I'm hurting myself, what I am really feeling, etc.)

So, I guess when I hear myself berating my body, I use it as a chance to refocus my attention on what is really happening in my head - usually I'm stressed about something or other and have not allowed myself the time I need to process it.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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