Setting Boundaries to Stop Weight Bullying

Setting Boundaries to Stop Weight Bullying

First on the anti weight bullying playlist for the week is “We’re not gonna take it” by Twisted Sister, a real get you pumped up to set some powerful boundaries with bullies 80’s rock song. Video is hilarious too in case you want to transport yourself back to the 80’s.

How Do You Set Boundaries Against Weight  Bullying?

When it comes to setting boundaries, are you an avoidant or compliant or are you an aggressive or manipulative controller? I doubt you’re a controller if you are reading this blog, and most likely are an avoidant or compliant who doesn’t want to deal with conflict or hasn’t been taught the skill of setting a boundary. I get you. That’s where I’ve been most of my life, especially when it comes to setting boundaries for myself. 

You are worthy of setting boundaries. 

Sometimes teens don’t want to share if they are being bullied, let alone set a boundary and speak up. 

Boundary setting is self-love superpower.  Setting boundaries and following through creates self-trust that you have your own back.  

Did you know we were created to set boundaries? Setting boundaries is a part of living a healthy life and I’m not talking about food boundaries or being strict and rigid with boundaries. 

I love the book, “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend.  Check it out!

Dr. Karla Lester talks about setting boundaries against bullying

How to Decide When to Set Boundaries

How do you decide when and in what situations to set boundaries? What are the different kinds of boundaries you can set? I guarantee you are setting boundaries even when you don’t think you are. 

Sitting in class, Jill couldn’t help but feel someone staring at her. She turned her head and he was staring right at her, the kid with his hoodie on, sitting behind and diagonally to her, just watching her.  

So creepy.  

Jill could literally almost feel his breathing.  

Her Mom said, “Maybe he likes you.” 

“Um, no.  He’s trying to make a statement about me being fat.” 

“How do you know that?” 

“I just know.” 

“Did you talk to the teacher about it?”

“Yes, I tried anyway, but she said to ignore it and it will stop.  But, that hasn’t worked.  All I want to do is just sit in class in peace and it’s so hard to focus when someone keeps staring at me.”  

Jill (not her real name) was a patient of mine and I was so sad that she was being bullied sitting in class.  How creepy and distracting! Keep reading this blog and you’ll see how the IME Community teen members suggested coaching Jill to set boundaries.  

Our society and culture lack boundaries because of the entitled belief that it’s okay to openly comment on another person’s body. The reality is humans can be harsh and boundaryless at times and we all experience aggression toward us in our life as part of our common humanity.  

I know if you’re reading this, you’ll agree with me that it’s not okay to weight bully anyone.

Learn to Be Your Own Upstander and Overcome False Beliefs About Bullying

Bullies are cowards.  It’s true.  

What’s also true is, you don’t have to fix or solve the bully or change yourself in any way.  You don’t cause or control all the things in life. 

If you spend your time thinking that it shouldn’t be happening and hope the bully will wake up and be a decent human and stop bullying, you may be wasting your time. Also, if you’re spending time wishing it wasn’t happening when it is, that won’t help either. What you can control is how you show up to create self-trust that you will have your own back. 

Another truth is you are not powerless and you can create boundaries to stop the bullying for you.  

I know what you’re thinking because I was in your shoes as someone who was more passive and non-confrontational. I had never been taught to set boundaries for myself.  I thought I had to be nice all the time and then hope it would just go away.  Now, I look back on my life, at the times that I set a boundary with a bully, and there have been many, and it’s just absolutely glorious to look back on.  

The level of self-trust and self-worth that I created just perpetuates itself. It has given me so much self-confidence.  

Here are some more Boundary setting false beliefs that you may have:

It’s mean to set a boundary.

It will make things worse for me. 

I can’t set a boundary.

I will feel guilty if I set a boundary. 

Do you know what an Upstander is? 

Are you like me? You can stick up for someone else at the drop of a hat, but when it comes to yourself, that’s a different story.  Sticking up for a friend or peer who is being bullied is called being an Upstander. I will talk more about being an Upstander in an upcoming blog.  

Did you know you can be your own Upstander?

What did I do with Jill’s situation? I took it to the community and let the teen IME Community members coach on it and it was epic. We had been coaching on the different kinds of boundary setting and they were able to coach on setting a physical boundary, an emotional boundary, a verbal boundary, and how Jill could advocate for herself to create a plan so the bullying will stop.  

Create Physical and Verbal Boundaries Against Weight Bullying

Fence with PRIVATE sign - no public access

Create a Physical Boundary: 

Let’s take a boundary setting approach to stop weight bullying for ourselves too. Remember, you can always walk away and that is setting a physical boundary and is not giving up. Walking away is a powerful boundary and without words can send a powerful message. 

  • Move to a different seat.
  • Talk to your teacher about sitting somewhere else if there is assigned seating. 
  • Change classes if you need to. (I know. I know. The bully should be the one to change classes.)
  • Take a different route to class if possible.
  • Change up the timing of your route to class. 

Word Boundaries Jill might try:

  • You’re making me feel uncomfortable.  
  • I’m uncomfortable with you staring at me. 
  • Stop staring at me. 
  • I’m uncomfortable.

Setting boundaries with words:  

From a Psychology Today article, memorize a simple statement is the #1 thing to do from “8 Things Kids Can Say and Do to Stop Bullying” by Signe Whitson, L.S.W. She calls them Bully Bans. 

Let’s practice some boundary setting words (Bully Bans): 

Stop saying that to me.

I heard you the first time. 

Stop bullying me.

You’re crossing the line.


My ears work just fine.  I heard you the first time you said it. 

Way to be original.

Emotional boundaries are powerful 

Bullies project their weaknesses and insecurities onto their victims.  Bullies are not coming from a powerful place when they bully.  They are coming from a weak place of insecurity.  The bully’s insecurities and weaknesses are not ours to fix or solve.  Let’s believe them when they say who they are.    

I’ve heard so many stories from teens about how they defended themselves and then ended up with the same consequence as the bully. Setting a boundary isn’t fighting back as much as it is diffusing the situation to stop the bullying for you.  In other words, don’t get in the mix with the bully.  Don’t degrade yourself to the level of the bully.  That doesn’t mean you don’t stand up for yourself and make powerful bully ban statements. 

By all means, please do.  You can even do a mental rehearsal.  It’s like a play you’re writing and you’re the hero who saves the day for yourself.  

Recognize you don’t cause or control what another human being says.  

What you do control is how you want to show up and where to put your attentional focus.  

That’s powerful. 

Remember, our thoughts create our feelings and our feelings drive our actions or inactions. If you are feeling stuck and powerless in a bullying situation, try to write down your thoughts and beliefs about the situation. If you keep believing that thought without challenging it or realizing your brain is attached to it because of fear (is a human response and makes sense), then you will stay stuck with that belief, the fear and the inaction. 

Why you shouldn’t ignore bullying:

The problem with letting bullying go is that the bullying has to go somewhere and guess where it’s going to go? To you.  If not challenged, you may start to internalize it.  Or, you may believe if you change something about yourself, like your body size, that your bully will stop.  That’s not always true. If you believe you are the one that’s broken and not the bully, you may restrict your eating or binge eat to cope with the stress to avoid the stress of bullying.  

By the way, I want you to know that I know it’s not always as easy as creating boundary statements or talking to a trusted adult to create a plan to stop the bullying.  I encourage you to talk with your doctor because bullying is a preventative health issue and also work with a therapist to heal from trauma.  

Remember, you are unbroken and a perfectly incredible magic being who is meant to live your fun life.  


Bullying comes from a place of complete weakness, powerlessness, and insecurity.  

Here are your action steps:

  • Visit
  • Write your Bully Bans
  • Write down some beliefs you have about setting boundaries.
  • What would it feel like to have your own back and set a boundary for yourself? Massive self-trust and massive self-worth?
  • Do a mental rehearsal.  Visualize and practice it using your Bully Bans. Role play and say your Bully Bans with casual confidence.

How do you want to show up for yourself? One powerful decision creates powerful clarity for your next step. Make sure you connect with a trusted adult to help create a plan so the bullying stops for you.

I’ve got your back. I only care about helping you and when I coach you in IME Community, we are going to stay in your lane and not in the business of the bully trying to convince or thinking they shouldn’t be bullying or waste our time figuring out why they are bullying. We believe them when they have shown us who they are. 

Let them be who they are and let them be wrong about you. 

Self-love superpower, 

Dr. Karla, ActivistMD


Teens and Bullying

Teens and Bullying


Whether you are a teen, parent, physician, healthcare provider, teacher or school administrator, listen up! I want you to know that I’m coaching you on a very sensitive topic in this first blog of my ongoing series. In my teens and weight bullying series, I’m talking about bullying and its harmful effects, how common it is, who’s at risk, the different types of bullying, the causes of bullying, but, most importantly, what you can do about it. 

Did you know that any type of bullying affects your health?  

Make sure you work with your pediatrician or family doctor and/or seek help from a licensed mental health provider to address your individual situation and potential mental health effects. 

Anti-Bullying Information and Resources

I would love for you to go to to check out their helpful resources. 

Also, I’m not going to get into bullying and intersectionality in this first blog.  Intersectional bullying happens based on race, gender, income, sexual orientation, etc. I’ll talk more about intersectional bullying in upcoming blogs in this series. 

Basically, a bully is someone who is willing to weaponize what they perceive as a weakness, with their only goal to make themselves feel powerful. 

Bullies seek to control the narrative.  

Maybe they were bullied?  It’s often the case.  When I coach teens who have been bullied and parents of children and teens who have been weight bullied, I try to stay out of getting in the lane of the “bully/victim”.  In other words, stay out of trying to figure out the bully’s motivation for bullying. They have shown you who they are.  Let’s focus on what you can do.  

We can’t control or fix or solve the bully’s actions, but we can certainly create a plan that includes boundaries so it stops for you if you’re being bullied.  

One of the main reasons to set boundaries is to make sure you don’t internalize the bully’s messaging. I don’t want you to feel powerless and believe what the bully says about you or feel like if you change yourself, the bullying will stop or you will finally “fit in”.  

Another harmful consequence of weight bullying in teens is restricting yourself by dieting, which causes harm on top of harm. The bullying is harmful, let’s not create more harm for ourselves with the punishing restriction of calories. 

By the way, if you cope with the stress of bullying by overeating or binging, give yourself a massive break.  It’s okay.  You’re not alone. 

Check out my IME 5 Steps to say I aM mE, which are my 5 easy steps to full love and acceptance and the first step to self-love superpower.  

Recognize, that self-acceptance is available to you all the time.  If you’re bullied, pull out your nice warm invisible self-acceptance blanket and say, 

“I fully love and accept myself.”  

Try some other mantras like, 

“Bullying is unacceptable. I accept myself no matter what.” 

Put your hand over your heart and give yourself a nurturing hug.  

  • “I’m not powerless.  I am not stuck.” 
  • “This is so hard.  I won’t be hard on myself.” 
  • “I can set healthy boundaries for myself.” 
  • “What they said has nothing to do with me.”  
  • “I will set boundaries and let them be them and live my amazing life.”    

Causes of Bullying

Have you been bullied because of your weight? 

Or, for any reason? 

Studies show that it’s more common than we like to think. There are multiple causes of bullying.

Unfortunately, some people still believe enduring bullying is a rite of passage into adulthood. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Bullying is a preventative health issue. 

It’s important to recognize and address bullying or it can cause long-term harm. 

According to a 2012 Weight-Based Victimization (WBV) Study, published in Pediatrics, “WBV is prevalent in treatment-seeking youth, who report victimization from peers (92%), friends (70%), parents (37%), and teachers (27%).” 

If you’re a physician, let’s start by listening and validating the stories of our patients’ experience with weight-based victimization. 

Life in America is a bullying obstacle course for youth with weight struggles. 

Bullying Stories

“I’m ostracized everywhere I go because of my weight. Sitting in class. Everywhere.”-Jessica, age 18 

When I heard Jessica, one of my patients say this, it broke my heart.  It’s just not one of those bullying stories that anyone should have to endure.

Jessica (not her name) is absolutely wonderful and is living a very successful life.  She’s so strong and has been through and overcome so much in her life. The last thing she needs to deal with is weight-based bullying. 

My initial thought was give me the names of whoever is bullying you and I’ll make some calls.  I felt so protective of Jessica. If only it were that simple.  A trusted adult makes a call and it stops. 

It may not be that simple, but know that you are not alone. 

You are not alone. 

You Are Neither Alone Nor Powerless

Bunny and puppy hugging

There are trusted adults who want to help you and will create a plan to stop the bullying. It may be as simple as making a phone call, but usually you need to put a bit more planning in place. Learning how to set healthy boundaries for yourself is a skill that you are not taught in school.  More often than not, families and society can be pretty intrusive and boundaryless.  

Even if you are a victim of bullying, you are not powerless.

Set Boundaries and Work With Your Support System

I coach a lot on boundaries and relationships in IME Community.

I coach on setting some boundaries for yourself so you are able to show up with clarity for yourself. 

First, bullying is not acceptable and must be recognized and called out as unacceptable. 

Next, let’s step up as trusted adults and work with the school (teacher and/or counselor) if that’s where the bullying is happening, and create a plan to stop the bullying so school is a safe place. 

Here’s what’s needed from parents, physicians and educators to help stop bullying: 

  • Support
  • Build Skills
  • Connect to resources
  • School Involvement
  • Referral to mental health provider
  • Follow-up to check in 

How to support the “bully/victim” is important too. A harsh approach does not work. 

Make sure you check out and make sure you Join IME Community to get even more coaching to create healthy boundaries! 

IME Community is a safe space, a Body Positive Community for Teens in a Body Negative World! 

Self-love superpower, 

Dr. Karla, ActivistMD