Body shaming is programmed deep into our minds. Often, we do it without even realizing it. In a world full of photoshopped images and weight loss products, we’re taught to analyze our “flaws” and compare ourselves to others. It’s easy to take confidence-crushing words and phrases for granted, whether we’re thinking or saying them.
Research shows that by limiting negative self-talk, we can actually improve our mood and the way we feel about ourselves.
Sounds good to us. Who needs body shame when you can have body love?
To jumpstart a new body-positive mindset, eliminate these words from your vocab right now:
1 & 2. Fat & Skinny (ok, that’s two). Focus less on how “fat” you are or how “thin” you want to be. Instead, start paying attention to health and happiness. The term “skinny” conjures images of malnourishment and starvation, and “fat” usually has a negative connotation. But healthy, beauty, and happiness come in many forms. Even if your doctor says you need to gain or lose weight for health, try not to define yourself using negative words. Remind yourself that getting and staying healthy and happy is an ongoing process and everyone has a different experience.
3. Diet. Advertisements promising to help us “lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks” definitely seem to advocate for food deprivation and excessive exercise. Too often, a “diet” is often a short-term solution to weight loss and can even make you gain more weight after it’s over! Instead of punishing and depriving ourselves, it’s much better to live a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle as a solution for the long-term. It’s more relaxing too. Diet talk can make you feel like you have limited time to rush toward an end goal (stressful!), while committing to a healthy lifestyle suggests you have your lifetime to be your best, strongest, healthiest self.
4. Thigh gap. The thigh gap, a gap appearing between some peoples’ thighs when they stand with their feet together, has become a detrimental media obsession. Thigh gaps occur naturally and beautifully among people who have a certain body shape. A common misconception is that eating less or exercising a ton will shrink that space in between your thighs. In the pursuit of thigh gaps, girls have been inspired to lose unhealthy amounts of “weight,” and in the process have lost valuable muscle and weakened their bodies and health in other ways.
Here’s the truth: Most people cannot achieve a thigh gap no matter how much weight they lose. Why? Because thigh gaps are not determined by weight but by the number of inches leg bones are set apart from one another.
If you don’t have a thigh gap (or other feature you’ve seen on Instagram or in mags) that’s fine. You probably have features other people would love to call their own. In your pursuits of beauty and confidence, drop the comparisons. Value your own unique features and celebrate strong, healthy features in others. Pursuing body ideals that aren’t right for your body will not make you happy (for one, you’ll be hungry).
5. Perfect. Nobody’s perfect! We need to stop striving for perfection and start praising happiness and mental health. What’s more is that a feature you find “perfect” on someone else could be their least favorite characteristic!
Body shaming can be a difficult habit to break. If you commit to changing, take your time. And when you feel yourself thinking or speaking in negative terms, remember that your body can hear you. What do you really want to say?