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15 'Harmless' Comments People Heard Growing Up That Affect Their Body Image Now

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

When I was growing up, my mom would make comments comparing my sister’s body and mine. She would compliment my sister’s athletic frame, and then look at me sadly and say, “Oh honey, you got your mama’s body.”

Perhaps this wouldn’t have been that bad if I had seen my mom engage with her own body in a positive way, but most of my memories of her own body image involved seeing her look in the mirror and proceed to criticize her hips, butt, stretch marks, etc. So when she would remind me I inherited her body type, what I heard was: Your sister has a desirable body and you have a “bad” one worthy of criticism.

I’m not the only one who heard seemingly “harmless” comments about body image growing up. Sometimes there are just some comments that “stick” with you — even years later. Because of this, we asked our mental health community to share one “harmless” comment they heard about their appearance growing up and how it has affected their body image today.

It’s important to remember what may seem “harmless” to one person may actually be hurtful to another. No matter what anyone says, your feelings are valid, and you deserve support.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. “So much for your diet…”

“‘So much for the diet…’ I rarely left the house because of my confidence at the time, and was out with a friend. We were having ice cream. I wasn’t on a diet at the time, just watching what I ate more closely. Felt instant guilt when that comment was made.” — Michelle M.

2. “You can’t wear that, it’s not flattering.”

“‘You’re too fat for that dress.’ ‘You can’t wear that, it makes you look fat.’ All starting when I was a preteen. Don’t say these things to your children. It stays with them their entire life.” — Sarah H.

3. “Suck it in!”

“‘Suck in your gut!’ ‘Are you wearing that girdle I gave you? Nobody wants to see all that jiggling.’ [While] clothes shopping: ‘You’ve gotten too big for the girls department, let’s try the husky boys section.’ I wore boy clothes all through middle school and still ‘suck it in’ subconsciously… I feel ugly, disgusting all the time. I grew up hating my developing body instead of embracing and loving it. I basically hid by wearing the baggiest clothes I could find.” — Keisha R.

“My mom was taking a picture of me and told me to ‘suck it in.’ I was 10 or 11. Seems harmless, but I’ve never forgotten it and I always struggled with my weight. I was never really big but from that point on, I just felt fat. I used drugs to try to stay thin and I developed an eating disorder after the birth of my first child. Struggling on and off now with bulimia for 11 years now.” — Shauna L.

4. “Maybe you’d get a boyfriend if you lost weight.”

“My mom telling me that maybe you would get a better boyfriend if you lost weight and started exercising… Still cant look in a mirror or at scales. The only good thing is my boyfriend has stuck with me and is super positive about everything.” — Isabelle T.

“My grandmother used to always tell me, ‘Boys won’t like you if you’re fat.’ (I was about 12.) Of course I was/am fat, so I grew up thinking no one would ever really love me, and I self-sabotaged a lot. Still do. I’m 32 years old and that’s still the voice I hear.” — Natalie F.

5. “I didn’t get stretch marks until I was pregnant.”

“I started getting stretch marks on my stomach when I was around 13. My mom told me she didn’t start getting stretch marks until she was pregnant. That hit me hard. I was already having body image issues and my mom was a bigger person. When she was a teen, her weight fluctuated between skinnier and more heavyset. So to learn that I was big enough to be getting stretch marks and that wasn’t normal for my mom — that just really made me feel awful. I still think about that almost every day.” — Larissa P.

6.  “You’d be so pretty if you lost a little weight.”

“‘You’d be so pretty if you lost some weight.’ Messed me up for for life! Yeah, I know, beauty is not the end all and be all and shouldn’t be, but I’ve always avoided really looking in a mirror since then. I’m always afraid of what I’d see looking back at me. Would I see my mother? Would I see my own flaws? Still don’t know since I still don’t really look.” — Christy M.

“‘You would be prettier if you just lost a little bit of weight.’ Thanks, now I have body issues, depression and BPD.” — Valerie S.

7. “You’ve got a big butt!”

“‘Heather’s got a big butt!’ said in a sing-song voice. Over and over. This started in elementary school… I was a skinny kid until I hit puberty… The big butt thing led to me obsessing over my size and even though I’ve gained weight due to a few health issues, I still obsess over it and never feel pretty.” — Heather M.

8. “Wow, your boobs got big!”

“Someone in my family once said, ‘Wow, your boobs got really big.’ It made me super uncomfortable, still does and I started to wear more loose things, jackets and such, or cover my breasts with my arms so no one would comment on them.” — Michelle W.

9. “You could be a model.”

“Also when I was younger, I was naturally skinny. I was told over and over, ‘You could be a model.’ Once I hit puberty and gained weight, those comments immediately stopped. It really hurt. I felt I wasn’t pretty because I gained weight.” — Rebecca E.

10. “Don’t stand like that, it makes you look pregnant.”

“I went to a wedding, and bought a gorgeous dress. I had been dancing, and actually having fun, despite the fact that I was purposefully left out of every aspect. The father of the bride wanted one picture with me in it, and said, ‘Don’t stand like that, you look pregnant.’ I can’t get pregnant, and I have body dysmorphia. It sent me on a withholding fast, even though I was barely eating already.” — Vee E.

11. “You look well fed… maybe a little too well fed.”

“Not a parent but a close family member said, ‘At least you’re fed well — maybe a little too well.’ Now I’m constantly checking myself out in the mirror and picking apart my image.” — Alyson S.

12. “Do you really need to eat that?”

“My mom always asks me, ‘Do you really think you need that?’ as I pick up something to eat. I always put it down and end up feeling horrible about myself.” — Tara R.

13. “Hey there chicken legs!”

“‘Skinny mini,’ ‘chicken legs’ and my personal favorite, ‘Why don’t you eat, child?’ People seem to feel it is less offensive calling a person ‘small/skinny’ when in reality, it bothers us. As a adult, I am not as bothered by it and I have grown to appreciate my body type.” — Chantel B.

14. “You need to wear makeup when you go out.”

“I’ve always had really bad acne and my mom would always insist I wear makeup everywhere we went. I became attached and honestly couldn’t leave the house without all my makeup done perfectly. Eventually my acne wasn’t as bad and I slowly became more accepting of myself, but I still get self-conscious” — Julia F.

15. “Did you get in a fight with a mountain lion?”

“About my stretch marks on my legs: ‘Oh Boo (my nickname) it looks like you got in a fight with a mountain lion.’” — Laura C.

What are some comments that affected your body image, and how did you learn to combat them? Tell us in the comments below.

Getty Images photo via Juliia Tochilina

Originally published: April 5, 2018
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