25 Words and Phrases You Should Never Say for the Sake of Your Body
It's time to kick that negative body image to the curb.
If you’ve ever felt bad about your body, you’re far from alone. According to one study, 94 percent of female teens say they’ve been body-shamed, and 66 percent of teenage boys say the same. But it’s not just other people who contribute to negative body image and low self-esteem. It can come from ourselves, as well. In fact, much of the hurtful language we hear and use about our bodies is so deeply-ingrained in our lexicon that we don’t even realize how harmful it can be.
“It is very important that we listen to how we talk to ourselves. What we say to ourselves is very powerful and can impact our confidence and sense of self-worth,” says Dr. Jaime Kulaga, Ph.D, LMHC. And those who use body-shaming language often do so “many times a day,” she says. “If you spend a bulk of [your] time saying body shaming phrases, you can rewire your brain into thinking these things are true about yourself.”
So, before that happens to you, it’s time you realize the language you should avoid when it comes to your looks. Because your negative body image might all stem from the words coming out of your mouth.
“I hate my body.”
It’s normal to be dissatisfied with things about your body from time to time, whether you’re sick, hurt, or feel like you could look better. However, “I hate my body” is all-too-often used as a way of dismissing the amazing things your body is capable of, just because you’re not as thin or as toned as you’d like.
Thinking more critically about this statement, most people would likely realize it’s not entirely true. You probably don’t suddenly loathe your feet or your hair or your smile just because your stomach isn’t as flat or as muscular as you want it to be.
The idea that there’s a universal standard for what “flatters” someone is harmful. When you deem something “flattering” or “unflattering,” you’re making it clear that you consider your opinion to be the gold standard when it comes to judging attractiveness.
In addition, often times, “flattering” is used as a veiled synonym for “slimming,” not as a particularly nuanced commentary on the look in question.
There’s no rule saying that only people with under a certain percentage of body fat or a certain amount of muscle tone can wear a bikini. If you have a bikini and you put yourself in it, you’re bikini-ready.
“I could never pull that off.”
Sure, there are items of clothing, hairstyles, or makeup looks that not everyone feels comfortable in. That said, there’s no reason to assume you simply couldn’t go out in public wearing something because of your weight, body type, or age. It just takes one person to buck the trend and start changing minds, after all.
“I feel fat.”
As countless mental health professionals will tell you, fat is not a feeling. You might not love everything about your body, it might not look the way you want it to, or you might have more fat on your frame than you want. But the only thing you’ll achieve by saying you “feel fat” is giving yourself a negative body image and making yourself miserable.
“I can’t believe I ate that—I’m so bad.”
While many people indulge the impulse to deem their food choices moral or immoral, it’s time to unburden yourself from that mental baggage. Eating cake doesn’t make you bad, and eating vegetables doesn’t make you virtuous. If you feel like your food choices haven’t been as healthy as you want them to be, you’ve got plenty of chances to rectify that.
There are plenty of signs that a society is fundamentally broken—and the urge to judge someone (or oneself) negatively because of the thickness of their ankles is definitely one of them. When you really think about what you’re saying here, is it even remotely possible that you actually care how defined anyone’s ankle bones are?
Sure, your hair might not have always been platinum blonde, your teeth might not be that white without those whitening strips, and your contour game might be so sharp that you could cut someone with those cheekbones. But that doesn’t mean you look “fake” when you add those enhancements—nor does that make it true of anyone else.
“I look so old.”
Aging certainly presents some difficulties, from aching bones to increased risk of illnesses. But you shouldn’t equate getting older with a loss of attractiveness. It’s actually a privilege. Those fine lines and gray hairs? They’re just a reminder of a life well-lived.
“Do I look fat?”
If you have to ask someone this, odds are you already have an answer in mind. And by forcing someone to tell you that you don’t look fat, you’re not only fishing for compliments, you’re also reinforcing the notion that looking fat means looking bad. That’s a dangerous message for anyone to hear, but it’s an especially hurtful one for those with larger bodies.
If eating lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables makes you feel good, then by all means, do it! But by insisting that a certain food is either “clean” or, by contrast, “unclean,” you’re putting a lot of unnecessary moral weight on the nourishment of your body. You’re also not taking into account the pleasure you derive from sometimes eating food that’s not necessarily nutritionist-approved.
“Not until I lose weight”
Why should your weight hold you back from doing the things you want to do? There’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy the beach, ask someone out, or love yourself just because you’re carrying around more pounds than you’d like.
While some garments may make you look thinner than others, describing something as “slimming” just perpetuates the notion that thin is always good, and not-thin is always bad.
Instead of suggesting that your body or someone else’s is “perfect,” compliment the specific things that can make someone look great, whether that’s a kind smile, muscle tone developing from those hard workouts, or a great hair day.
Speaking negatively about thin bodies can be just as hurtful as doing the same about larger ones. And calling someone “skeletal” just because they carry less weight on their frame—whether they intended to look that way or not—can instantly make that person feel unattractive and judged for their size.
A kid’s finger paint artwork is sloppy. The way a dog eats kibble is sloppy. You choosing to wear sweatpants to brunch because you aren’t in the mood to put on your skinny jeans after a long week does not make you look “sloppy.”
Referring to your legs (or someone else’s) as “thunder thighs” infers that people with larger—sometimes stronger—lower halves are somehow inferior.
You may not have as much muscle tone as you’d like, but describing your body as “flabby” casts those less-than-firm parts in a not-so-positive light. Remember: Even professional athletes have some body fat on them.
“Real women have curves.”
The idea that there’s such a thing as a “real” woman is bad for men, for women, and for everyone who doesn’t quite fit into either category. The idea that thin women, or those without prominent busts or backsides, aren’t “real,” is just another awful—and totally unnecessary—way of pitting women against one another.
You’ll see it in virtually any magazine: a celebrity is flaunting their baby bump, their six pack, or their bikini body. But continuing to use the word “flaunting” only makes it seem as though people are constantly putting their bodies out there for criticism, not just living in them and going about their daily lives.
Anorexia is a serious condition that has the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder. With that in mind, it’s time to retire the phrase “anorexic-looking” from your vocabulary. Using that phrase makes light of a deadly disorder, and it equates what is often a natural body type with a serious mental and physical health issue.
“You’re not fat—you look great.”
Who says that looking fat and looking great are diametrically opposed? If you use these kinds of assurances to make your friends feel better, that’s exactly what you’re putting out there. You might see it as a compliment, but saying something like this can contribute to someone’s negative body image.
Your body is not a cup of soup. You’re not an overflowing coffee cup. Those pants might be uncomfortably tight or that shirt might be low-cut, but saying you or anyone else is “spilling out” of something inherently equates the body in question with something messy that needs to be cleaned up.
Just because someone is wearing revealing clothing, has a lot of makeup on, or has a certain body type doesn’t mean they’re promiscuous. Using this phrase continues to incorrectly put the onus for harassment and assault on the person being hurt.
While not everyone in the world will have supermodel good looks, that doesn’t mean those without them are ugly. There’s someone who finds virtually every look out there beautiful, even if you don’t. And if you want to feel better about yourself, try these 50 Easy Ways to Be Nicer to Yourself.
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