While photographing women at a local water park in Temixco, Morelos, Mexico, photographer Alicia Vera was struck by the honesty with which they discussed their bodies — although, she tells Refinery29, this doesn't mean they all spoke lovingly.
"Most of the women I spoke to were critical when talking about their own bodies," Vera says. "A lot of them felt self-conscious and said they should eat better or go to the gym." However, she adds, there were a few outliers who, when asked what others have said about their bodies, insisted that the only opinion that matters is their own. Vera says she found that refreshing — and an important reminder that ending a culture of judgment and criticism starts within.
The women Vera spoke with also showed that the body talk we hear from others can still affect our body image. Many described their bodies as others, particularly men, saw them — and a great many of them still hear "fat" as a damning word. "Being critical of another person is human," she admits, but it's time for us to change how we talk about each other's bodies and appearances. "It's a self-perpetuating cycle that we need to break."
Ahead, meet the women that Vera spoke with and read more about the body talk in Mexico.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.