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Why the Words We Choose to Describe Our Bodies Matter

Why the Words We Choose to Describe Our Bodies Matter

I know many people who wake up every morning, and right before they look in the mirror to greet themselves for the day, they feel pure terror. Dread. Fear. We steel ourselves up to brace for the, "flaws," someone else has told us will be there, and we wonder how, "bad," they look that day, and the chorus starts:

"Ugh, gross."
"I can't wear that. Do I have any clean, flowy tops?"
"I'm giving a presentation today; will this hold across my chest?"
"I shouldn't have eaten ____ last night. I never get this right."

The language you’re using has a profound impact on your perspective. We shape the world we live in with every word we speak.

Many clients come to me unhappy with their bodies, desperately hoping the fitness program I write will hold all the secrets to body change, and, as a result, happiness. They're disappointed to find out that it doesn't always work that way, and, in fact, countless repeated incidents of this led me to examine my coaching philosophy, such that I no longer coach with a focus on intentional fat loss.

Liking our bodies (and ourselves) is an inside job, one that can't be completed in an hour a day at the gym and a salad every night for dinner. It's a practice, and it often feels unreachable: how many times have you asked yourself, "how do I go from hating everything about my body to loving it? LOVING it?"

It seems a million miles away for a lot of us. It did for me.

Fed up with that feeling, I started taking a look at why. Why did it feel like "loving your body" (or even feeling comfortable in it) (!) was reserved for other people? How do some people look in the mirror, or down at their stomach, and not feel regret? Or rage? or unworthiness?

I found that it's often because, quite simply, they've done a lot of internal work to realize which thoughts about bodies are theirs, and which have been planted there. What I mean is, we live in a society that tells us "fat" is bad, lazy, undesirable, closer to death. Is that true? No (and, even if it were, many of the negative outcomes we associate with, "fat" are more likely due to weight stigma. You can learn more about weight stigma here.) (Also, as a diclaimer here, thin privilege should be noted: it is much less difficult to have a positive body image if you can regularly find clothing in your size, for example, receive proper medical treatment, or don’t have assumptions made (and vocalized without solicitation) about your health or morality based on the appearance of your body.).

The person you're bashing in the mirror every morning? She's the version of you carrying your deepest fears and your harshest judgments. The subject of a painting you've observed with your most critical eye, a lens filtered by societal standards with which you may not agree.

You've created her from a fantasy, and it begins with the way you're speaking to yourself (and about other bodies).

We throw around words like, "lazy," "fat," "depressed," "anxious," "stressed," "failure," and "impossible" like they're neutral, like they're fact, like they're inextricably linked.

How are those seeds you're planting taking root?

That's not to say that depression can be cured with rainbows, sunshine, squats, and positive affirmations. There is certainly more to it than tha, but, when you're feeling down, or ineffective, or like an imposter, are you a friend or an enemy?

The words we choose matter. They reinforce ideas (that "fat" is the worst thing — or even a bad thing — we can be; that our worth is measured solely by our productivty, so "lazy" is a mortal sin; that "stressed' is a badge of honor; that "failure" is who you are, that's it, forever and ever, amen, and of course you got it wrong this time, because that's what you do).

They paint the “perfect” portrait against which we compare ourselves, and everyone else we see.

Every day, we measure our "ideal" selves against our actual selves — the womxn looking back in the mirror, twirling their hair around their fingers, asking if they can be loved *just like this* — and we deny today's iteration joy, peace, and magic if they don't reach the lofty ideal given us by storytellers and advertisers. We compare the inaccurate picture we've painted and with which we identify to the airbrushed advertisement version, and we hang our heads and sigh (at best).

Of course they don't measure up. They weren't designed to. There's an industry making billions of dollars redrawing their ideal portrait, banking on the fact that our Frankenstonian self-portraits will never measure up.

And they won't. Not because you're not powerful and gorgeous and free, but because your appearance alone can never capture the full reality of who you are.

Change the words you're using to describe yourself. See how your relationship with your body (and yourself) changes.

Want to dig deeper and paint a better picture?

I'm currently taking new one-on-one clients. I work with womxn using an individualized approach to get down to EXACTLY what you want out of your fitness routine, using strength training, body image coaching, or a combination of the two.

Want in for September? If you’re ready to try a different approach to your fitness routine, one free from calorie counting and exercise as penance for nutritional sins, apply here.

I can’t wait to meet you.

Oof.  Image credit:  Emily McDowell

Oof. Image credit: Emily McDowell

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