I believe language is an important tool for communication and influencing the way we and others think and act.
This is why I pay particular attention to using appropriate language with my clients when it comes to nutrition issues surrounding food and body. Ultimately, if the appropriate language is used then dieting would not be the norm in our society. So I believe dieting behaviours are fueled by the language we use.
Let’s look at the problematic words and phrases, and what you can say instead to minimise dieting behaviour:
Problematic language – This food is good/bad/naughty.
Ideal/helpful language – This food is food. This food is delicious. This food is crunchy/soft/spicy and so on.
Food is food. Take the morality away from food. If you must differentiate between the nutrition value of a food use the terms “every day” and “sometimes foods”.
Problematic language – I can’t do this until I lose X amount of weight. Once I sort out my diet, I will be able to XYZ.
Ideal/helpful language – My body is amazing, I am doing this right now. I have made some positive changes to my dietary intake. My awareness is helping me to learn from my experiences around eating and how I associate with my body.
You will never be happy with your current mindset.
Problematic language – I am good nor bad for having this food.
Ideal/helpful language – I am good enough. I am worthy right now regardless of the decisions I make.
Your worth is not tied up with what you decide to do or eat.
Problematic language – I just want to do this perfectly.
Ideal/helpful language – Instead I am doing my best at listening to my body and respond in the best way I can at the time. I will not judge myself for the actions I take, rather I will bring my awareness to what is going on for me and around me, so I can make better decisions next time.
Problematic language – I worry I will fail at XYZ. The doubt creeping in that it could not be this easy to keep this up non-dieting successfully because I have failed at dieting due to not be able to stick to other eating plans or diets for any length of time.
Ideal/helpful language – Recognise that you can’t fail at non-dieting because this is not a diet. It’s a way to (over time) connect with your internal body cues and trust yourself to care for yourself so you can support yourself in eating and living well. P.S. In my opinion, failing is an essential part of personal growth.
I had a client say to me that she is deleting the word fail from her vocabulary as it was holding her back so much. I love this! So innovative!
Problematic language – I want to lose weight but in a healthy and fit manner.
Ideal/helpful language – I know there is no healthy way to lose weight and maintain it in the long term. What I can do is focus on being as healthy in the body that I have right now. I can do this by listening to my body when it comes to eating and caring for myself. Even though I acknowledge this, I still want to lose weight. This feeling is unfortunately too common in our society. I can work on taking weight off the agenda for now.
Problematic language – I have a weakness of eating sugar.
Ideal/helpful language – I feel that I have a weakness with sugar. I feel this way because I have not given myself full permission to eat all foods, therefore I binge/overeat.
Problematic language – Diets disguised as “healthy eating”, “mindful eating”, “lifestyle change”, “clean eating”…….. especially when they promise long-term weight loss.
Ideal/helpful language – Nourishing my body by listening to what it wants and when it wants.
I would love to know what words/phrases you would like to add to the list? Please leave a comment. Thank you.