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Body commentary

Posted By Participants of Activate + Jo  

Thankyou to the attendees at Activate by Embrace 10th March 2023 in Melbourne.

This blog has been created from their brainstorming in one of the workshops.


So, what is it we mean by Body Commentary?
  • Comments people make about bodies, whether they are good or bad.
  • Comments we make about own bodies in our own heads and aloud.

Body commentary is any comments that someone makes about their body or someone else’s. Generally, there is positive intention behind the comment. As we know intention can be very different to impact.

What are some examples of Body Commentary?

              ‘The gym is paying off’

              ‘You look really fit!’

              ‘You look really healthy!’

              ‘You are so skinny’

               ‘I wish I had your…’

Why do people comment on bodies?

There are many reasons why people comment on theirs and other bodies. We can’t possibly know and list them all. Body comments may be well intentions. People may be giving a compliment on appearance, noticing a change toward a strongly held cultural ideal that they believe the person will appreciate. Then intention is often kindness.

It is human nature to compare our selves to others; we are hard wired to do it! The problem it that we don’t need to do this anymore – it is no longer a matter of survival at the innate, mammalian way this occurs in our brain. The overt focus on body, appearance and conforming to an ideal to feel safe or accepted may lead people to compare the parts of their bodies that they don’t like with people around them.

Comments may be a sign of the internal dialogue that is happening for an individual. A reflection of the way they are feeling about their own body at that time. If there is high body distress and insecurity they may feel compelled to talk about bodies more then others.

How does it make you feel when you hear comments about your bodies and others?

“Like I can’t stop going to the gym"

"What were you thinking before  my body changed?”

“Now I cant stop doing what I’m doing in case it cases back”

“I feel disrespected; like they are only interested in me because of the way I look”

“I feel watched”

Ï feel shame”

“I feel ick”


The intention to make a comment about someone’s body may be coming from a good place- but the impact is often that the receiver is left  feeling uncomfortable, upset, and distressed. There will be unique range of complex emotions for each person in this situation.

 It is ok that often our initial reaction may be positive. How can it not be when we all live in this cultural soup where we have been internalising messages since we were small? And when that passes there may be a wide range of emotions that are uncomfortable to sift through. That make us question what they really mean. It the ultimate back handed compliment!


So, what can we do when we witness body commentary?

The first thing to notes is that it is ok to do nothing. To ignore it and walk away. The first consideration is you. Check in with yourself, how is your energy today? Do you have the capacity to call in or challenge someone today? If the answer is no it is 100% ok to walk away. You do not and cannot speak up every time you see or hear something that irks us. It is ok to pick your battles. To consider the likelihood of this person hearing and considering what you have to say. Some people are not ready and that is ok.

So lets look after you. If you have seen and heard somebody commentary, what do you need? DO you need to debrief about it with a friend? Do you need some self-care? It is ok to do what you need.

If you do feel like you have the capacity to call someone in and providing them with some feedback about their comments, there are some actions below – you will note that as you progress down the list the options will require more vulnerability and energy on your behalf – so you choose in the moment what fits right for you.

Ignore – Its ok to walk away


Change the Subject


Create a positive diversion   ( and put some boundaries in)

 “Im feeling great in my body at the moment and that’s the most important thing.”

“I don’t think it is helpful to discuss bodies”

“All bodies change during life”

“All bodies are good bodies”


Educate them

“Though your intentions may be positive when you comment on the changes in my body it makes my worried about what you thought before”

“when you comment on others bodies it make me feel more aware about mine”

“when you notice and point out change in my body I get worried about what you will think if it changes again”

“commenting on my appearance and body makes me feel like you don’t respect and appreciate the important parts of me”


Express your concerns and how it makes you feel

“when you say …….. it makes me feel……. I would prefer that you don’t comment on my or others bodies.”

“I don’t think it is your intention but when you are commenting on their bodies it is making me feel angry a it is perpetuating the long held cultural ideal that how we look is the most important thing about us.”


Whatever you chose to do is the right decision in the moment - and - make sure you take the time to talk it though with someone and get the support you need.


Thanks so much to all the teenagers who attended the session and contributed to this blog.

There was some other great ideas too:


“we can make an effort to compliment people on nonappearance related things such as their laugh and their smile.”


And one a colleague taught me yesterday – when we do want to comment on someone’s out fit or choice or clothing we could phrase it “I love your choice of pant; the colour makes me feel happy”


“I love the choice you made getting dressed today – it really looks like you! “


Acknowledgement Body Confident Collective and Swimming New South Wales.