On Body Talk + Shifting the Conversation

February 26-March 4, 2017 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I am proudly healthy, and I also I believe that recovery is a lifelong journey. All week, I'll be sharing thoughts about the joys (and struggles) along the way.

Please know that some topics and language used may be triggering to those in a vulnerable state.

To learn more, get screened, help or get help, visit nedawareness.org.

I've been thinking a lot about what we say when we talk about our bodies—the conversations we have with others and the incessant stream of chatter that runs through the landscape of our own minds. 

rochelle-bilow_MOUNTAIN PATH

There are a few ways in which these conversations miss the opportunity to inspire, heal, and educate. First, let's take a look at how we speak to others. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?

  1. Excessive or grossly exaggerated compliments of another's physical body, (e.g.: "You're so skinny! I could snap you in half!") coupled with:
  2. Bashing of one's own physical body (e.g.: "I'd kill for your stomach; I'm a total whale next to you."
  3. Using reward/punishment language about food (e.g.: "Ugh, I've been so bad lately. SoOoooOooO many cookies," or "I've eaten well all week; I deserve this piece of pizza, right?")
  4. Making judgments about others based on their external appearance, for better or for worse

Of course, we tend to be even harsher when speaking to ourselves. The internal conversations often take shape around the following parameters:

  1. Rationalizing the consumption of food to the point of obsession (e.g.: "I went to spin this morning, so I can have that muffin," OR "Because I went to spin this morning, I should keep up the good work and not eat the muffin.")
  2. Berating or congratulating one's self about choices made, either regarding exercise done/not done or food consumed/not consumed
  3. False assumptions/storytelling about how others will react to one's physical body (e.g.: "Once he sees me naked, he'll stop liking me," "I'll be more confident in this presentation if I fast for a few days beforehand.")
  4. Misplaced importance on the importance of "cleanliness" or perfection in diet and/or body (e.g.: "Well I ate chocolate twice today so now everything's fucked.")

This all seems rather silly, written out like this, doesn't it? But—oof—it's almost laughable how much brain- and word-power we devote to this kind of talk.

My friends at Circles of Change feel the same way. They're on a mission to change the way we talk about our bodies, our selves, and our worth. Here's what they stand for:

"Let's change the conversation from bashing our bodies to celebrating them. From dieting and weight-loss to well-being. Let's move from relating to our bodies as objects, to understanding them as instruments. Instruments of passion, peace, love, acceptance, creativity, power, and purpose. Our bodies are instruments of all that we encompass, our true selves. "

Powerful words, right?


You don't have to identify as an eating disordered person or a recovery warrior to fall victim to this detrimental chatter. When it comes to treating ourselves and others with encouragement and kindness, we can all benefit from a change in tone. In our culture, women are stereotyped as the most susceptible to this faux-health-talk trap, but men are just as vulnerable.

I'm on a mission to take body talk off the table completely—it's just not where I want to use my words. For example, once I noticed how often I was using it as a conversational crutch, I couldn't not see it. Often, the first thing I said when greeting a co-worker or a friend was a comment about their appearance. Well-intentioned, sure. But why say, "You look cute today," when what you mean is, "I love having you in my life."? Here are some ways I'm working to change the conversation:

  1. "I deserve to refuel my body after a great workout. That scone is calling to me!"
  2. "The dedication you have to your health and fitness is inspiring. Would you like to go for a hike with me sometime?"
  3. "Damn, look at all of the amazing things my body is strong enough to do—yoga, running, literally just existing in this world."
  4. "Bread is amazing. I love bread. I think I'll eat some."

I think it's high time we find new ways to talk to each other and ourselves. We will reap the benefits in the form of more meaningful conversations, deeper connections, and relationships built on trust, encouragement, and love. #yesplease


How the root chakra is connected to your digestive health.

Real-world eating disorder recovery tips, right this way.

To read about the most unexpected change that occurred when I embraced recovery, click here.