Telling a Loved One About Your Challenges

Body image disturbances can feel extremely isolating, all-encompassing and, sometimes, even shameful.

I remember when I was in recovery from my eating disorder and experiencing real distress around my body dysmorphia. I felt so ashamed of my struggles. I logically knew I should be focusing on what my body could do for me and that I held a lot of privilege being able bodied. On the other hand, I couldn’t stand my reflection and was hyper aware of my body; how clothes felt on my skin; the changing size of my clothes; the way my body compared to my peers etc…

There was so much going on in my mind that I assumed no one else would understand or be able to help.

How wrong I was…

What I came to realise was that body image distress thrives when you are isolated.

This is when it can grip its teeth in and keep you consumed by uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.

By communicating my experience and challenges to just one other person I was able to:


  • Get support & access different perspectives toward the challenges I faced.
  • Find shared understanding; body image difficulties are more common than you think, normalising the struggle can help you feel less alone and find out how other people manage these difficulties.
  • Feel understood; it can feel so validating to have someone who understands what you’re going through and knows how to support you within your own community.
  • Access comfort & safety through really distressing moments.


I understand that telling a loved one what you’re going through is not easy, and there are so many reasons why. Up until now you may have been expert at masking these struggles or engaging in what we call ‘safety behaviours’. You might be worried that if others find out, your safety behaviours will become ineffective or have to stop. Maybe you are worried about ignorant responses and having your struggle invalidated? Maybe it’s difficult finding the right words to articulate very personal challenges?

Considering the benefits, let’s hold space for your worries and come up with some practical ways to communicate challenges that can get you the support you need and deserve:

  1. Write it down. So often what we want to come out of our mouth doesn’t come out how we want it to. Writing what you want to say in bullet points or in a letter format can give you space to present your points clearly. Sending letters, texts or emails can also give the person reading time to properly digest what’s been said & this can prevent emotive outbursts occurring.

    Think about explaining how the problem has impacted you lately and if you can give an example (e.g last week when we were at grandmas, I felt so distressed about my body image I ended up weighing myself multiple times).                 
    Why have you chosen to confide in this person now? Have they done anything that has been helpful/unhelpful? How can they help support you in the future?

  2. Be specific about what you need (and don’t need…): Be as specific as you can about what you think would be helpful and what would be unhelpful. For example, do you need their help developing distractions or do you need their support at a specific social situation. You may just need a hug and to feel safe having a cry with someone. Maybe there are specific topics of conversation that you find hard. If you don’t know what you need, that’s ok too, communicate that to them, asking for their perspective or what they’d do if they were feeling the same way.                                
  3. Keep conversations reflective & respectful: This goes both ways. Often people close to us say the wrong thing or make ignorant comments. It’s important to remember that they don’t mean to hurt or trigger us. We can keep conversations supportive by avoiding the use of “you” e.g “you talk about your diet too much and it upset me” as these statements can come across aggressive. Instead come from a place of personal reflection using “I” statements e.g “I find it really difficult when you talk about your new diet because it makes me feel bad about my body and like I need to diet”.             
  4. Time of day: lastly think about what time is best to talk to this person, when will they have the most time to sit and talk, or read, through this problem.


Remember: your challenges are valid, and you deserve support to live a fulfilled and peaceful life. The more transparent we can be with others, the more we can feel safe and contained amongst the distress of healing from body image disturbances.


Joss Walden 

Assistant Psychologist and ED Ambassador


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