Reader Peta Hendrick asks:
“Hi. I have a problem. I get picked on about being overweight. I was just wondering how I can stop this? It makes me feel really bad about myself and the way I look.”
Phil Owens – Leading Australian Hypnotherapist and NLP Practitioner
We all know that people can be cruel. Being rude to others and putting them down to feel good is often a sign of a bully in action. It can be painful and make you feel bad. Here are my suggestions for how you can turn this around:
1. Put Yourself First: The way you view and think about yourself will shine through. Confident, relaxed people give off positive vibes. Often people with low self-esteem give off the vibes of someone having low confidence and self belief. Bullies, therefore, find it easy to target people who give off such vibes. So, put yourself first. Believe in your own self worth and project a vibe of confidence and calmness, regardless of your weight, and people will begin to treat you differently.
2. Set the Boundaries: Be clear about how you want to be treated, and what you think is acceptable. When bullies get away with saying these nasty things, they find it easy to keep saying them. Set clear boundaries about what is acceptable and speak out when you feel these boundaries have been crossed. You can do this by simply asking the person, “Do you think that was an acceptable thing to say?” Follow this question up with a reinforcing statement, such as, “I don’t, and I would appreciate it if you would not say those things anymore.” I’m sure the bullies will be shocked and will have to re-think how they treat you.
3. Hang Out with the Right People: Having people around you who speak like this only drags you down. Find and hang out with supportive, empowering people and you will feel great. Great friends will support and empower you. It can be easy to feel ‘all alone’ at times. During tough times like this, it is therefore important to remember to reach out to those positive, supportive and empowering friends that you have made so that you can get back on track.
4. Take Control: Only you control how you feel. If you realise that what these people are saying to you comes from a place of smallness and weakness, then you gain an upper hand. Be clear in your understanding of their words, and that what they are saying says more about THEM than about YOU. Also remember that it is what you say to yourself that is the most important. Improve your self-talk and see what happens. Say positive affirmations and tell yourself constantly that you are a better person than they are.
5. Take it Further: Depending on the situation, where this behaviour is occurring and in what context, these comments may be viewed as offensive by persons of authority. Bullying is inappropriate behaviour in schoolyards and workplaces. You may wish to discuss these incidences further and have them addressed through appropriate channels.
Overall, the most important thing is that you believe in yourself. When self-belief is strong and positive, then no words from anyone seeking to demean you can have any impact. Be strong and take a stand.
Philip Owens is owner and director of Reflective Resolutionsand is a leading Australian hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner based in Melbourne, Australia. Using scientifically validated and pragmatic approaches, Philip is a passionate about creating lasting change in and for his clients.
Working in his clinic with individuals and also with corporate clients, Philip’s international experience, state of the art training and processes have led to successful and happy clients all over the world. Focusing on the issues of modern life, Philip routinely works with clients presenting with anxiety, fears and phobias, addictions, traumas, weight loss, insomnia and smoking cessation’.
Sally Asher – Author, Health Scientist and Online Weight Loss Coach
It is hurtful to be judged and picked on because of your body weight and it is never right. It’s important to remember that this unkind treatment is not your fault. You don’t deserve it and that there is something you can do about it.
Being picked on about your weight can damage your self-esteem, increase your risk of anxiety and depression and actually drive you further away from making healthy choices. The first thing to remember, when experiencing such negative behaviour, is that the mean words belong to the person who spoke them and not to you, so try to resist letting snide remarks penetrate and remain bulletproof to the negativity.
It’s easy to see weight bullying as an attack on your worth and your attractiveness and that’s precisely what the bully wants you to think. In reality though, what is really driving the bully is their own problems and struggles with worth and self-esteem, so they make themself feel better by attacking you. Making you suffer like they do makes them feel better.
The best way to stop this treatment is to not fight back. The attacker wants to get a reaction out of you. But, if you stay calm, ignore the comments and walk away, they will become bored and more likely to leave you alone in the future. Don’t give the bully the power of a reaction, as difficult as that can be for you in the moment. Smile at their comments and simply walk away. With enough repeated displays of confidence, the bully will tire of trying to make you feel bad.
If you are at school or work you may also want to file a complaint to an authority who is capable of reprimanding the bully. Reach out to people who can help you and don’t be afraid to speak up about this verbal abuse. Although the real problem lies with the bully, you can’t force them to change their ways. However, you may want to speak to a therapist and work on the emotional wounds that this weight bullying has inflicted on you.
This being said, the most important thing is to protect yourself from potential long-term emotional damage, so that you can be as healthy as you can possibly be.
Sally Asher is an author, health scientist and online weight loss coach who been featured in several radio shows, TV, blogs and magazines.
She wrote LOSING IT IN FRANCE: Les Secrets of the French Diet to share her story and help others discover the secret to living the good life while losing weight naturally.
Wendy Bentley – Body Pump and RPM Instructor, Public Speaker and Minset Specialist
There are many overweight people in the world, and yet, not all of them are ‘picked on’ for being that way. So why are some people teased about their weight and others are not?
Self-worth and the way we feel about ourselves have major roles to play in this. Ask yourself these questions, “So how do you feel about yourself? Are you happy with the way you look?” If the answer is no, then this is an area you need to address to change the response you receive from others.
When you have a thought you send messages to the hormonal centre of the brain which stimulates an associated feeling. This feeling is essentially a hormonal reaction. Hormones are like little mailmen, they take messages from the brain and deposit them into the cells of the body. This, in turn, causes you to behave according to those feelings. For example, an unhappy person will round their shoulders and hang their head. A happy person will stand tall and proud and smile.
Now, have you ever walked into a room after someone has had an argument and felt as though you could cut the air with a knife? Of course you have. You are ‘sensing’ the feelings of the individuals in the room. Others can sense your feelings about yourself also.
So, if you want others to respect you, then you need to have respect for yourself first. If you want others to think you are beautiful. Feel beautiful yourself first. The most attractive quality in the world is confidence.
Many overweight women are extremely beautiful because they exude confidence. The best way to stop all of these negative attacks towards you is to love yourself exactly the way you are. Stand proud, love the skin you are in and know you are good enough. Once you begin to send this message out to the world, then the world will begin to treat you the same way.
Wendy Bentley grew up in the fitness industry and did her first aerobics class with her mum at the age of seven. She has been a qualified personal trainer since 2005, and is a Body Pump and RPM instructor, an author, public speaker and a mindset specialist. Wendy is a qualified NLP practitioner and has completed the level 1-3 workshops with neuroscientist Dr Joe Dispenza. Her greatest passion is helping people to break out of their own thinking and create a new existence of health and wellbeing. In addition, as a result of a family tragedy Wendy created a revolutionary product called Think for Fitness and she is studying a Bachelor of Health Science – Nutritional Medicine.
Sally Symonds – Weight Loss Coach and Author
People can be cruel, there’s no doubt about it, and some people will find a way to pick on you regardless of your size or shape. Nevertheless, discrimination against people because of how much they weigh is certainly on the rise. For example, research shows that in the last ten years, discrimination based on weight has increased by almost 70%.
Worryingly, discrimination within the health and fitness industry against overweight people is rampant. According to implicit association tests conducted on health professionals many members of the industry actually have a higher anti-fat prejudice than the general population. Plus, it was stated that the longer a person worked in an obesity-reduction related field, the higher their levels of anti-fat bias became.
The more a person’s obesity was attributed to ‘controllable’ lifestyle reasons (such as diet and exercise, the cornerstones of a ‘good’ program preached by the majority of today’s health professionals) the more prevalent the bias. And, not surprisingly, the more an overweight person experiences this prejudice, the less likely they are to exercise.
As a nation, we might be getting fatter and fatter, but the sad fact is that misconceptions about overweight people continue to prevail, and they can impact all areas of your life. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that overweight individuals were often perceived as socially handicapped, emotionally impaired and perceived as possessing negative personality traits.
Nevertheless, there is one sure way to stop people picking on you about your weight and that is TO LOSE WEIGHT!
Don’t listen to anyone who’s shallow enough to judge you because of your size. You’re not losing weight for them, you’re doing it for yourself. Getting fit and healthy can change your life in so many ways. It’s about much more than appearance. It’s about confidence, empowerment and self-belief.
Losing weight is the gift you give yourself that just keeps giving and giving. You’ll improve your self-esteem, take control of your health and surprise yourself with what you’re capable of achieving. Nothing beats the feeling of pride, satisfaction and restored confidence that comes from having reached your fitness goals, and that feeling translates into all areas of your life.
 You Can Learn Basic Employee Rights, Workplace Obesity, retrieved 21 August 2012, <http://www.you-can-learn-basic-employee-rights.com/workplace-obesity.html>.
 KS O’Brien, JA Hunter, and M Banks, ‘Implicit anti-fat bias in physical educators: physical attributes, ideology and socialization’, International Journal of Obesity, vol. 31, no. 2, 2006, pp. 308–14.
 BA Teachman, KD Gapinski, KD Brown, M Rawlins, and S Jerayam, ‘Demonstrations of implicit anti-fat bias: the impact of providing casual information and evoking empathy’, Health Psychology, vol. 22, no. 1, 2003, pp. 68–77.
 LR Vartanian and JG Shaprow, ‘Effects of weight stigma on exercise motivation and behaviour: a preliminary investigation among college-aged females’, Journal of Health Psychology, vol. 13, no. 1, 2008, pp. 131–138.
Sally Symonds holds a certificate III and IV in fitness, is a certified wellness coach, and a NLP practitioner. She holds a Masters and Bachelors degree in Arts, and an Associate and Licentiate in Speech and Drama.
Having lost over 50 percent of her body weight, Sally Symonds is the author of 50 steps to lose 50kg… And Keep It Off and 50+ Recipes to Lose 50+kg… And Keep It Off and more than 20 other ebooks. Sally offers phone and online weight loss coaching, as well as a variety of other healthy living services and products.
Mathew Skate – 2008 QLD Marathon Champion, Life Coach and Personal Trainer
Hi Peta, congratulations for speaking up and asking this question.
Being picked on or bullied is sadly common in today’s society. Bullying persists for many different reasons and it is often a reflection of the individual who is the instigator, rather than the recipient.
So, how do you stop this? You eliminate the reward that motivates bullies to reoffend. Bullies get their power from the belief that someone else now feels worse about themselves than they do about themselves.
You can break this cycle by controlling the way that you react and feel towards these comments. But, only you can choose the way you feel at any given time. I love Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
The way I see it, you have two options:
1. You can buy in to the bully’s beliefs and attitudes that they have towards your weight and choose to continue to feel bad about yourself.
2. Or, you can choose to believe that the comments made are simply a verbal representation of the individual’s beliefs and attitudes, and that they are not a reflection of what is real, right or true. These attitudes are generally developed as a result of their experiences and self-judgements. It is often the case that anyone who feels it is necessary to ‘bring down’ another person is feeling inadequate in some way about themselves. Bullying others is a way of projecting the negative feelings they have about themselves onto others so that they ease their discomfort. This brings me to another great saying, “People in pain do painful things.”
Peta, I am sure you can appreciate that option one will not allow you to feel better about yourself. So, please do not choose that option.
Option two, however, will allow you to begin to disregard the negative statements made by the bully so that you can take control by listening to your own empowering beliefs about yourself. Just because these comments are being made doesn’t make them true. You have a choice, either believe it or discard it.
Believing in the comments made by a bully is like deciding that someone else can choose your dreams and goals for you. Only you can decide to accept yourself for the amazing person that you are. No one else can decide that for you.
Perhaps the next time you hear a comment that is intended to hurt or offend you, rather than feeling sorry for yourself, you could choose to feel curious about the sad life that causes the bully to act out in such a negative way. Then, consider how sad it must be for them to live that life. And, always remember that the bully’s behaviour is a reflection of them and is not about you.
Matt Skate is a life coach and personal trainer. He served in the Australian Army for 19 years as a physical training instructor and then started Weight to Life in 2011.
Matt assists people to lose weight and create a healthier lifestyle by helping them break through their negative beliefs, behaviours, and expectations. He loves to train in all forms and at all levels of fitness and was crowned the QLD Marathon champion in 2008.
Nick Jack – CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer
Firstly, ignore the comments you get from other people. Focus on what is important to you and who you really are. The way to find out who you really are is by not comparing yourself with others, but by looking to see whether you are fulfilling your own potential in the best way you know how.
Ask yourself, “If I am overweight, have I done something to address this? Do I want to lose weight?”
If you don’t want to lose weight that is fine as long as you are happy within yourself. However, remember that if you neglect your health, and being overweight is a signal that you are, you will not be able to enjoy life to its fullest potential.
The first thing you need to do to overcome the bullying is write down clear definable goals and have clear vision as to what you want to achieve in life. Someone who is happy and has a vision that is clear to them will not worry about being picked on because they are living the life they always wanted. So nothing will stop this person achieving their goals.
Someone who does not know what they want, because they have no goals or vision, will also have no plan. This then makes them feel insecure and they will then feel the need to compare themselves with others. Of course, this will inevitably lead to ‘feeling bad about myself and the way I look’.
Remember without a vision or a dream you cannot have a goal. Once you have your vision and your goals mapped out, then write out your plan.
If you don’t know how to get to where you want to be, then ask someone who has done it before or get some help from someone who knows how to achieve your goal. There is always someone out there who has already done what you want, there is always someone stronger than you, smarter than you, more talented etc. But, also remember that the flip side of this is there is always someone who is less than you too, these people can sometimes be the bully.
My point is, that you are not alone and why try to reinvent the wheel when it has already been done. Find the person or people you need to speak to, people who can help you achieve your goal.
Once you have your goals and plan in place, then all you need to do is execute it. This requires discipline and most people will fail when it comes to this part. One easy way to hold yourself accountable is to tell as many people about your goal and your vision as possible.
Using Facebook to communicate this is very easy today. This can be a very powerful tool. I use this with many of my clients to ensure they stay on track. For example, if Johnny tells me he wants to run the marathon next year, but he has been known to not show up or follow through with his goals. So to overcome this problem, he then tells all his friends and family, and he publishes regular Facebook posts about his progress. Do you think he will follow through with his goal this time? Absolutely, this is because everyone will ask him how the training is going and the laws of attraction will pull things towards him and what he needs to succeed.
So Peta, you need to do the following:
1. Find your Dream.
2. Write down your specific goals.
3. Set out a plan.
4. Then execute your plan and hold yourself accountable by telling as many people as you can.
5. Remember that the only way to find out who you really are is by not by comparing yourself to others, but by looking to see whether you are fulfilling your own potential in the best way you know how.
I hope this helps you and you begin to find your potential and live the life of your dreams.
Nick Jack is a qualified CHEK Exercise Coach, Level II Holistic Lifestyle Coach and personal trainer. He runs a personal training business called NO Regrets Personal Training.
Nick likes to lift weights, cycle, run and triathlon. He has played almost every sport at one time in his life. Now, he enjoys spending time walking his dog and relaxing with his wife and friends.
Dr Joann Lukin – Sport and Performance Psychologist
Hi Peta. I am saddened to hear you are picked on about your weight. People often underestimate the impact of their words and the cruelty of their message can be long lasting.
Unfortunately we can’t control what others say to us, only our reaction to it. I have often been approached by people asking me how to deal with people who are difficult, either through the actions, words or their attitude.
Most of us have someone in our lives whose behaviours we don’t appreciate. People who perhaps act or speak in a way that doesn’t make us feel valued or appreciated. So how best to handle these situations?
Unfortunately to manage this kind of scenario we have to turn the mirror back on to ourselves and ask ourselves an important question: What is it that I am doing, that is allowing this to happen? Because the truth is, that we teach people how to treat us. If someone is continually doing something to us and we let them, don’t be surprised when the behaviour continues.
So, if someone feels they have free reign and can make comments about the way you look I would be interested to know how you are responding in that situation. I know that it is challenging, but being assertive in this situation is the best way to communicate your needs and minimise the likelihood of repeat occurrences.
To be assertive you are exercising your rights, without impacting on the rights of others. Being assertive is very different to being submissive and aggressive, which are both manipulative forms of communication. Such phrases as, “It hurts my feelings when you speak about me like that. Please don’t do it anymore”, take courage to say, but their impact can be substantial. When you communicate assertively, try to
1. Use ‘I’ statements: this is about you and how you’re feeling and how you communicate that message – “I feel hurt …”
2. Describe the behaviour: “…when you say I am lazy …”
3. Specify the change you wish for: “I would like you to stop commenting on my weight and behaviour.”
Be mindful of your body language when being assertive. Use open gestures and warmth that is appropriate.
Being assertive doesn’t guarantee that the person’s behaviour will stop. However, it will put you in to a position of knowing that you have done all you can. Assertiveness takes courage and practise, however you will feel better within yourself the more you use it.
Dr Lukins is a psychologist who has specialised in sport and performance psychology for over 20 years. During that time, Dr Lukins has consulted individuals, teams, coaches, and organisations across the country. She is committed to the field of positive psychology — a scientific framework that studies human potential and happiness. The primary focus of her work is to assist clients to find strategies to achieve their goals and reach their potential. Joann’s work helps clients to understand what makes them be healthy, fulfilled and focussed on their personal well-being.
Deborah Farrell – Coaching Psychologist
Hi Peta, unfortunately, the bad news is you can’t stop people picking on you. In fact, no-one can make anyone do anything unless they want to. The good news is we can change is how we respond.
So remember the following points next time you get bullied:
1. No-one deserves to be bullied. Bullies are cowards. Hurting and humiliating other people makes them feel more powerful. When you get upset or hide, they win. It feeds their sense of superiority and so they will continue picking on you.
2. There is more to you than what you weigh. It’s important to recognise that a person isn’t just their body. Personality, strengths, talents and values are all part of who you are. If you can’t see that, neither will anyone else. After enough thoughtless comments we can begin to lose sight of this and start to feel uncomfortable in our own skin. Spend time doing things that remind you of your strengths and with people who value you. You might be overweight but you’re not a bully and would never hurt or embarrass others on purpose. In my mind that makes you the far better person.
3. We teach people how to treat us. You allow the bully to behave the way they do. Here are a number of different strategies that can be effective to stop the bullying behaviour. Ideally it’s best to clearly communicate that the behaviour is unacceptable, because if you don’t you’re effectively saying it’s okay. Speak with the bully privately, if you feel safe, they’ll probably be more receptive without an audience. If it’s happening at work you could seek advice from your Supervisor or HR Department. Sometimes saying nothing can actually be the most powerful response. Look them directly in the eyes and focus on keeping your face as blank and emotionless as possible. Leave it to them to work out what you’re thinking. Keep in mind that they are trying to feel superior, and if that fails, then there will be no value in picking on you, so they’ll most likely find a different target.
If you, personally, are concerned about your weight, taking action will also help you feel better. Seek some professional support to break through any blocks you may have, build self-esteem and improve assertiveness skills to help you cope better on your journey.
Deborah Farrell is a Coaching Psychologist that works with clients who are feeling stuck, whether it be in regard to work, relationships or personal issues such as weight loss.
Deborah helps her clients focus on their goals, identify and clear the blocks and sabotage patterns, and develop an achievable plan to move forward into the life they dream of.