What’s in a word? In the most basic sense, it’s written symbols or sound we use to communicate to each other. What truly brings our words to life is meaning. We may say we’re feeling “depressed” or “anxious”, what do those words that really mean to the speaker and the receiver?
My experience of feeling depressed or anxious will be different to yours. There will probably be be some commonality but the words we use to describe our experience differ in personal meaning from person to person. This means that understanding each other can become complicated.
Some argue that the words frequently used around food and weight may make it harder for us to achieve our desired changes. “Weight loss” contains the word ‘loss’, which tends to have a negative connotation and “diet” contains the word ‘die’, also considered to be a negative experience to be avoided at all costs!
But are we really affected by seemingly hidden words in our common lexicon? Surely we are smarter that that. We know what weight loss and diets are, so why would we necessarily associate them with death and loss? This is the realm of the unconscious, non-rational mind, so no-one can say for certain. It’s interesting to consider that a diet does involve trying to harness our mighty appetites, the most important survival drive required to stay alive, second only to breathing.
The longer I spend working in the field of disordered eating, the more convinced I am that the diet mentality in our culture is having a n insidious, negative impact on our relationship with food and our bodies. We have never had access to more nutritional information than we do today and we have never been so unhappy with our weight.
In a recent survey by Esquire magazine, 35% of British men would be willing to lose a year of their life if it meant being 20lbs lighter. A whole year of life! Time that could be spent with their families! All for a 20lb weight loss? These were not morbidly obese men with health risks but men who clearly felt they fell short of the ideal body size that has been so exalted in our society.
Another survey found that women had an average of thirteen negative thoughts about their bodies everyday. These would have just been the thoughts they noticed themselves thinking, the actual number may be even higher. What words were they thinking to judge their bodies? The personalised, felt meaning of those words corroding away self-esteem on a daily basis.
I’ve recently been delving into the body positive movement. In a nutshell, it promotes feeling positive with your body, however it looks and feels, RIGHT NOW! Not waiting until you’ve lost those 10, 15 or 50 pounds but today. Just because we accept ourselves today, it doesn’t mean we’ll never make changes. The paradox is that when you practice unapologetic self-acceptance, change is actually easier than trying to punish or hate our bodies into being smaller.