Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Emotional Meanings of Words

It's pretty amazing how much power and influence that certain words and phrases can have in our lives. There is much 'talk' about how current media advertisements can affect our views and perceptions of what is considered 'normal', in terms of body weight, eating habits, exercise, and the definition of 'beauty' in general. Many other factors can influence how we perceive ourselves and how we may apply certain terms to ourselves.
I'm going to consider the overall population of people who suffer from some type of eating disorder when I pose the following questions, simply because I can identify with this group :)
What are the 'assumed' definitions associated with the following words or phrases? If applied to YOU, what do you automatically think of?
  • Body fat
  • Weight
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Diet
  • Healthy eating
  • "You look good!"

I know what I use to associate with these words or phrases. My immediate response was how this negatively applied to me. Some of the common adjectives that I would apply to myself when I thought of the above words or statements included:

  • Body fat...unclean, lazy, worthless, rejected, ugly, repulsive, alone, hopeless, immoral, bad
  • Weight...'not good enough', too big, 'shows my flaws', 'way to prove myself', perfect, worth
  • Weight gain...failure, unclean, lazy, out of control, ugly, hated, bad, weak, lonely, unaccepted, immoral, worse than others, gluttonous, 'unhealthy?', unworthy, complicated
  • Weight loss...successful, willpower, good, safe, virtuous, strong, 'better', loved, accepted, envied, 'healthy?', worthy, achievement, productive, pure, simple
  • Diet...less, willpower, strong, thin, pretty, limit, success, safe, clean, peace, accepted
  • Healthy eating...less, clean, safe, spiritual, pure, limited, simple, 'better', virtuous

"You look good!": This one is like a double-edged sword. When I first lost weight as a pre-teen, this was exactly what I wanted to hear, and it fueled my desire to continue to lose weight...which led to the development of anorexia. At that point, this phrase told me I was finally acceptable, thin, strong, pretty, loved, successful, 'good', and worthy. Throughout the years, after the eating disorder became more and more entrenched into my mind, my life and my entire soul, hearing this statement took on a completely different meaning. Hearing those words would cause me to feel intense fear. I heard 'fat' immediately, then failure, weak, ugly, hopeless, 'bad', dirty, unacceptable, gross, gluttonous, and disgusting.

One of the reasons I chose to write about this is because I can now see that when a person equates who they are to what they weigh, it can be a strong component in the development of an eating disorder. I realize more and more just how much the messages that we apply to ourselves can affect us, either for good or for harm. During recovery, I have learned to dismantle and challenge those old meanings and messages so that I am no longer affected by those irrational, emotional meanings of words.

Without apology.....

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