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Mental Health

Reframing Language About Body Image Healed my Relationship with Food

Disordered eating has been something I have struggled with since I was in high school. Whether it be restricting, calorie-counting, binge-eating, my relationship with food had become extremely flawed, and it took me quite some time to realize that it had lasted for years. I don’t intentionally engage in these behaviors anymore, but I’ve definitely found myself forgetting to eat or caring too much about “healthy” food instead of letting myself eat what I’m craving. Once quarantine started, I saw myself start to slip into my bad behaviors again, so I reached out to my therapist about what I was going through. She had me create a list of intentions I had to create a better relationship with food and with my body. Some of the things I included on the list were letting myself eat when I’m hungry, remembering to eat breakfast as soon as I wake up, trying to write a journal about how I’m feeling, and most importantly reframing my language towards myself, especially my body. There were three ways that I achieved this.

Being less critical of my perceived flaws

Being critical of myself is something I am very guilty of. I constantly pick myself apart, always focusing on the things that I don’t like about myself and how I plan on changing it whether it be as soon as possible or sometime in the future. Because of my experience with disordered eating, I’ve developed body dysmorphia, so I have trouble genuinely knowing what my body looks like. Some days I like how it looks and other days I hate looking in the mirror despite the fact that my body hasn’t changed drastically in many years. I have tried to catch myself whenever I find myself about to say something negative about my body, and either stop saying whatever I’m saying or reframe what I’m saying in a more positive light. This helps me continue to learn how to have a better relationship with myself. 

Avoid using certain words that hold a negative connotation

I know that there is a push to take away the negative connotation of fat and the positive connotation of skinny to make them more neutral adjectives, but because of the way society has framed these terms, I have stopped using them to describe not only my body but also others' bodies as well. The reasoning behind this is because whenever I am struggling with my disordered eating habits, I strive to be as skinny as I can, this is especially prevalent when I feel as though I am gaining too much weight and getting too fat. By taking away those words from my vocabulary temporarily as I become more comfortable with myself, once I start to add them back to my vocabulary, I can begin the process of using them in a neutral way.

Focusing on the things I like about myself

Finally, learning to find the characteristics of myself that I like has been the hardest part of reframing my language. This is because for so long, I have been conditioned to believe that there is always something about myself that needs to be fixed. By following more Body Positive and Health at Every Size accounts on social media, especially of people who have similar body types to me, I have learned how to find what I like about myself and how to speak in a kinder way towards my body.

By reframing my language, I have slowly begun to heal my relationship with my body. I have started to feel better while looking in the mirror, I’ve worn clothing that I like no matter how unflattering it may feel on me, and I’ve overall just been a much happier person. All of the ways I have reframed how I speak to my body have also helped me learn not to think about it as much anymore. I can live my life without my insecurities constantly lurking in the back of my mind keeping me from enjoying whatever I’m doing at that moment. I feel liberated.

Emma Piccinini

West Chester '21

Emma Piccinini Major: English Writings Track Minor: Business & Technical Writing West Chester University '21 Senior Chair Editor for HC at West Chester
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