Body-Talk, Part 2: Talking to Ourselves About Our Bodies

What a weekend! Three family birthdays, three times the food my body really needs. All the food and festivities were just so delicious! Deep-dish pizza, spinach-pecan salad, chocolate-zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting, and homemade ice-cream–our favorites as we celebrated these milestone birthdays. In my family, sharing food is a way we connect & celebrate our relationships. Physically and emotionally, I’m full.
Then, there’s another feeling that creeps in since I finished my second piece of cake. Two cups of guilt mixed with a half-pound of anxiety and a dash of self-reproach. My body feels full, a little heavy and lethargic, and my mind interprets these body-signals and has a few things to say about them! “Oh great, my pants are going to fit tight. Will I be able to keep up with my yoga class tomorrow? Will others notice all the food-fun I’ve had this weekend?” This is another kind of body-talk: how we talk to ourselves about our bodies.

Each one of us has our own particular body shape and metabolism. And, we have particular thoughts and feelings about our bodies. Research has demonstrated that our thoughts have a significant impact on our overall functioning and well-being. The way we think, or talk to ourselves, influences the way we feel and the choices we make. When we listen to our bodies, they don’t speak a language that includes worth or value, they just say what they experience: “hungry,” “full,” “strong,” “tired,” “energized.” The way our minds interpret these body-signals, however, can have a huge impact on how we value ourselves and respond with the choices we make.

There are some buzzwords flying around these days that likely influence how we talk to ourselves about our bodies. Have you heard the phrase “muffin-top?” I used to think that a muffin-top was the best part of a quick, tasty, and often healthy snack that went great with coffee. I have recently learned, however, that “muffin-top” also refers to the apparent by-product of tight low-rise jeans and women with hips who wear them! When I heard about this phenomenon (the mentality–not the jeans) I had to ask myself, how does this phrase, these words, help us girls and women feel more healthy and alive in our bodies? What if we came up with body-talk that actually describes the girls and women we strive to embody? What if we use body-talk that emphasizes the wonderful, wise aspects of our bodies?

We are able to do amazing, fun, and active things in our bodies even when we are not our “ideal” size. In fact, we may find that as we devote more energy to reaching our potential and becoming the girls and women we strive to be, we may be more effective in achieving the fitness that suits our particular bodies and lifestyles! So, my mind may briefly concern itself with the potential jean-fitting results of my celebratory weekend. Well, I can also confidently speak words from my mind of truth and purpose, Body-Talk that can help me move closer to the woman I strive to be: “It is important to me to feel healthy and fit, to be able to produce good physical and mental work in my daily life, AND to share delicious experiences with my loved ones, like chocolate-zucchini cake.”

Exercise for parents and daughters: Come up with your own positive Body-Talk, based on your values and goals and what you appreciate about your wonderful body. Here are more examples:
• “I love how my body feels after a long hot shower!”
• “I love how light hearted my body feels when I’ve laughed hard with friends.”
• “My body stays pretty healthy. I dig that about my body!”
• “I value being able to talk walks, breathe in the scents of spring, and see beautiful flowers budding.”
• “It is important to eat, breathe, and move in ways that help me think clearly so I can do well in school.”
• “I love sharing evening mealtime with my family–and talking about our busy and interesting days! (and NOT fighting about food or other things).”
• “I like to stretch and feel limber so I can express myself creatively.”
• “I feel beautiful when I wear the color red!”
• “I like to build good stamina so I can go on long hikes in nature’s beauty.”
• “I like to keep my body fit so I can carry my instrument and march with band.”
• “My head feels clear and focused after I’ve done some breathing exercises.”
• “I love the ritual of cooking together, especially for family celebrations.”
• “I enjoy being healthy and fit so I can make a difference and help others.”

Please note: Nothing in what you find here should be construed as medical advice pertinent to any individual. As is true with all written materials, and especially information found on the internet, you must be the judge of what appears valid and useful for yourself. Please take up any questions you might have regarding the content of this website with your psychotherapist or physician.

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