I lead a group for women who struggle with food and body image issues. We meet once a week for an hour and a half. The group members skillfully support each other in learning how their struggles are not about food but about other underlying issues and feelings. I love being a part of this group and witnessing as well as supporting them in healing and recovery. It is magical. I have received most of my growth and healing from groups and workshops so I really enjoy and appreciate the awesomeness of it.
During a recent group session, group members began sharing their frustrations and triggers at the relentless stream of comments from friends and family members on why they should or shouldn’t eat certain foods, how those foods will make them fat or are unhealthy and bad, how often they should exercise, and on and on. They also talked about what they feel when friends and family talk about their own bodies and eating behaviors.
At the end of the group session, I had a mission for the group members, should they choose to accept it. I give you the same mission. If you choose to accept it, it will support you in recognizing your feelings and sitting with them. It will also help you avoid colluding with your friends on an issue you want to change. Ready? Here is the assignment: When someone is talking negatively about food and/or their body or yours for that matter, say nothing. It is that simple. Just say nothing. Be quiet. Listen but do not respond. No matter what you do, say nothing at all.
Instead, try to listen to what they aren’t saying. Listen to the pain they are in that they are commenting so negatively on their body. Imagine the pain they experience beating themselves up for everything they eat and the pain of denying themselves all the wonderful food they really want.
You know that pain. You feel it too. When you stop yourself from commenting, you will feel your pain more. It will surface because you aren’t colluding with it, you are honoring it. Your friend just might feel it more too. As well, you give yourself and your friend a chance to have more compassion, something you do need amplified.
The group members took on this mission and experienced all these things. They also reported how difficult and uncomfortable it was to stay quiet. Yes. It is difficult. We often use words to cover up and hide our feelings, to protect ourselves. But it is in those quiet moments that magic happens. Try it. Find out what happens for you.