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Talking about our Bodies

Language is constantly changing, and we are learning more and more about the ways to express how we feel - especially about our bodies. Read this section for more information on how the way you talk about bodies affects your body image.

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Language is constantly changing, and we are learning more and more about the ways to express how we feel, especially about our bodies. This section focuses on taking a neutral perspective on your body. You don’t need to force yourself to love your body every day. Rather, focus on what your body does for you and how you think and feel about it.

Why is the way we talk about our bodies important?

A large part of body image is the mental picture you have of your body, and the way we talk about our bodies help build that image you have in your mind. When we talk about our bodies in a way that recognizes how it gets us through everyday life, it helps build body acceptance, self-esteem, and maintain mental health. This not only includes rethinking how we talk about our own bodies, but how we talk about other people’s bodies as well.

A lot of messaging on social media focuses on “body positivity”, which can be really intimidating especially if you’ve been struggling with the way you look for a long time. Talking about body positivity still means that you are talking about bodies and how they look, which doesn’t have to be your focus. Being positive about your body all the time can actually be difficult to keep up with and keeps you focused on physical appearances. It’s more empowering and important to be aware of how you treat your body and prioritize your health – at whatever weight, shape and size you are.

 

How can I change the way I talk?

It can be intimidating to think that you should change the language you use with your body right away. It’s not something you need to rush, and there are small steps you can do every day that make a big difference.

  • Keep in mind how you talk about yourself. When you notice yourself using language that isn’t accepting of your body (for example: “I feel so fat right now”, “This pimple just ruins my entire face”), be kind to yourself and think about other qualities that you do like. You’re not expected to feel great about your body 100% of the time, but show compassion for yourself by reminding yourself that’s okay if you’re having a low day. When negative thoughts come up, have a few phrases ready to tell yourself such as:
    • “Not feeling great about my body is a part of being human.”
    • “I’m going to focus on ways I can be kind to my body, like remembering how it helps me move and enjoy my day today.”
    • “There are a lot of things that are pressuring me to think about my body badly. I don’t have to listen to those pressures.”
  • Be aware of how the way you talk about your body affects others. When we talk negatively about our own body, it can contribute to someone else being more critical about their own body. For example, saying you “feel so fat” may make someone else compare their body to yours and add to negative feelings about their own body. Being aware of what you say about your body and working on having more compassion for yourself can also benefit those around you and how they see their body. Check out some language suggestions in the table below.
  • Surround yourself with people who appreciate you just as you are. When you’re consistently around people who accept you for who you are and celebrate you, it can help grow your own confidence.
  • Think about who and what you’re seeing on social media. The way you see people on social media isn’t always real. Most media images are highly edited and show unrealistic beauty standards. Recognize and challenge the body “ideals” and stereotypes you see online. If looking at images on social media make you feel bad about yourself (for example: “Their body is perfect, I’ll never look like them.”) try giving yourself a kind reminder (for example: “It’s okay to love myself as I continue to evolve.”). You can also consider unfollowing or muting notifications from someone if they are consistently posting images or messages that don’t make you feel good.
  • Reflect on the clothes you choose for yourself. Think about the words you choose when talking about the way your clothes fit. Focus on how the clothes make you feel (for example: “I feel great in this.”, “This outfit feels right.”) instead of how it makes you look (for example: “These jeans just make my belly look bigger.”).  Your outfits are there to make you feel good about yourself, not put you down!

Changing the way you talk about your body isn’t a change that happens overnight. It takes time to unlearn the words that you’re used to using when describing yourself. But small steps towards change is okay, and in fact, very effective. It’s important that during this time you remember to be kind to yourself, you can always follow a negative thought with one that helps you remember that you want to accept your body.

Language to keep in mind when talking about bodies

Below are some common phrases that can negatively impact how we, or others see our bodies. We’ve suggested some different wording to try instead. Changing how we talk about our bodies can positively impact what we think, feel and believe about ourselves.

Try using Instead of… Reason I’m working on feeling good. My goal is to have more energy. I’m trying to lose weight. I’m avoiding fat. Emphasizing health is more important than looks Sometimes foods, everyday food Cheat days, good food, bad food, dieting, “being good today” (when restricting food) Rather than focusing on what foods “that will make you fat”, focus on how food is fuel for your body so you can get through the day. It’s great to see you, you sound really happy today! You look so good! Have you lost weight? Instead of highlighting someone’s looks in a compliment, you can focus on other characteristics. Try complimenting someone on their confidence/feelings/abilities I choose to respect my body and treat it with kindness, even on days I don’t feel good I hate the way I look today, my outfit is terrible Everyone has days when they don’t like their body. Saying to yourself that you still treat your body with kindness helps build acceptance over time. I’m okay as I am right now, I’m getting stronger everyday I’ll never be able to do that, I’m so weak, I suck There are some days that aren’t that great and you might look at yourself negatively. Treating yourself with kindness is the most important thing to keep in mind on these days. I’m worthy and valuable as I am No one wants to see me right now, I don’t deserve being loved or cared for You are more than your looks. The way you are now is appreciated and loved. My body has changed, and that’s okay. Life continues to change and I am doing my best to adapt. What do I need right now? I’ve gained so much weight, I hate the way I look. I need to lose this fat around my hips. It’s normal to have moments where you’re not completely comfortable in your skin. In times like that, it’s important to show yourself kindness by acknowledging your body changes and how it’s served you so far. I really enjoyed yesterday’s meal, it was so yummy and the time with my friends was special! I ate so much yesterday, I need to go for a run to make up for it! Take the time to enjoy meal times rather than treating them as moments you want to “work off” or “make up for”. Food is not something you have to earn.

 

What Next?

Want to explore and learn more? Here are a couple options that will help you.