4 Body Image Villains You Can Win Against

4 Body Image Villains You Can Win Against

Since most of us appreciate storytelling, we're approaching this topic with a Marvel-inspired perspective: those who are road-blocking the body confidence movement are considered the “supervillains.” You know, the grinning doctor in toxic publications, the appetite-suppressing lollipop influencers, and the haters on Instagram gaslighting the comments section. 

Unfortunately, some of this supervillain activity may be happening on our side of the screen (from the people closest to us). Although it’s not deliberate, trash-talking bodies and diet culture is so ingrained in our culture that it easily finds it’s way into conversation. For some, it's easy to ignore, but for others — it can be a trigger. 

So, who are these everyday body confidence destroyers? How does one survive them? And once we’ve done that… how do we help them? 

#1: The Self-Serving Brand Leaders

They're becoming quite easy to identify, but unfortunately many fall victim to their outrageous, sneaky strategies to capitalize on female struggles with confidence, body image and our relationships with food. These villains and their selfish motives relentlessly go after those who are vulnerable in attempt to hit their revenue goals... without a care in the world if their impact is negative or toxic.

When it comes to undergarments, one of the most intimate products, find trustworthy brands and communities that are genuinely aligned with your values and make you feel good from the inside out. 

How to Work With Them: DON'T. Be very skeptical before purchasing from or signing up for programs that may not be serving you or your body in the best way (short or long-term). Do your research. Make a list of your goals with a strong emphasis on how it will impact your mental health simultaneously. Think about it: what makes us feel good about our bodies is directly tied to our mental health and clarity. Practice mindfulness with every decision you make, and pause before jumping into a "new trend, technology, product or program." Ads can be very manipulative. 

#2 The Older Relative 

They may be a grandmother, mother, or family friend. Their view on body image is stuck in a time warp. They have an old-timers view on beauty standards and food: deeply restrictive and male-gaze-driven. There’s a good chance they’ll shame certain clothing choices. Even worse, they’re often much more comfortable making negative statements about others than the younger generations. 

How To Work With Them: Firstly, be honest if a statement hurts you… they probably don’t know how harsh their words are. If they try and deflect by saying they’re just trying to help you, whether with food or fashion, let them know you feel confident in your personal decisions. Emphasize your right to make your own choices. Once you feel confident, you can try and educate them on the science of health beyond the scale and dress size. Remember, a lot of the components of women’s health now - like building muscle and body image - weren’t nearly as talked about even a decade ago. The older generations deserve to be and feel healthy and beautiful too! 

#3 The Self-Deprecating Friend

This friend doesn’t care how many compliments you send her way: when you hang out, you can be sure she’ll be bullying herself, bringing you down with her. Shopping trips get an “oh my god, I look horrible!”; dinners together get an “I ate like a pig tonight!”. The occasional self-jab is ok, but this is a constant. The jokes may extend to other unhealthy habits too, like skipping meals. She seems to be comforted by you joining in, which sounds like a fine way to help… until you realize you feel bad about yourself after hanging out with her. Not sustainable, and not good for either of you. 

How To Work With Them: However tempting it is, DO NOT join in and make yourself sound worse. You don’t deserve to talk to yourself like that, and you don’t want your friend to think this is a topic you’re willing to participate in (negatively). It’s tricky. You want to make them feel empowered to make their own decisions, but at the same time by assuring her that her choices are okay is ineffective in stopping the behavior. Consider switching to a different topic. If things seem to be really affecting her or you, consider having a serious conversation about how you feel. 

Additionally, help her see through a clearer lens. Give her examples of lovely influencers who are unapologetically themselves, who enjoy food with a healthy balance, and who have established a positive relationship with their body and are transparent when they’re having a “bad day.” Because we are in fact… all human. Well, not those in Web3 but we leave that alone for now. 

Graphic Designed by 9-yr old Isla Smith (3rd Grade)

#4 The Chronic Dieter

What’s heart-rending about this person is that they genuinely want to be healthier. Sometimes it’s a body image thing, yes, but largely, this person wants to be making better food choices. However, instead of viewing it intuitively or as an addition to their food (ex. “I want to eat more vegetables!”), they view it restrictively. They always have a new food villain, and they come in trends: I can remember the transition from Weight Watchers to Atkins to low-fat to Keto as clear as day. These dieters are often very vocal and justify their behavior at big events. For example, at a birthday party as to why they can’t have a slice of cake because of carbs, or a piece of Thanksgiving potatoes because of “food rules.” In the worst cases, you can feel them judging your own choices. While I’ve personally seen this most in women, it’s been increasing its grip on men lately. 

How To Work With Them: Remember that different bodies need different foods at different times. You know your own body best; other people’s choices should never affect yours. Unless the diet is genuinely harmful (ex. a way-too-few calorie a day juice diet), it’s best to subtly send them inspiring resources, whether these are articles you came across on reliable, empowering sites, or influencers who you think would positively impact their mindset.

Keep an eye out for eating disorder symptoms, and try not to take it personally if they reject something you cooked. It’s incredibly important not to attack them or directly approach them with “I think you have an eating disorder” but rather provide them with resources that can help, alongside a caring statement such as: “because I care about you, I think you should read this!” There are many professionals and coaches who would be best to walk them through the proper process of ‘healing’ and navigating a healthier relationship with food. Two virtual recommendations from The Harli Effect would be: BetterHelp and Seeds of Hope. 


Written by Victoria Fluet & Meg Smith

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