6 Phrases That Hurt Your Body Image (and what to say instead)

Body image, at its core, is your perception. The way you view your body, normally in terms of good or bad. This perception is shaped based on comparing your body to others you see and an idea of what bodies should look like.

Everything comes together to create a positive, neutral, or negative body image.

Most common advice to improve body image starts with either changing the way you look or convincing yourself you like the way you look. In my experience, neither are effective because they ignore the underlying belief that bodies are meant to be judged by the way they look.

The underlying belief is that your body cannot be good unless it is viewed as beautiful. But I’m happy to say, that’s not true.

You can build a better body image by deconstructing that belief system, and it’s not as difficult as it sounds. In fact, it’s much easier than forcing yourself to love your cellulite or dropping your BMI by 6 points.

How do you start? Take an audit of the language you use when speaking about your body. This indicates which beliefs are taking your body image captive, and turning against you. Here are 6 common phrases that hurt your body image.

If you want to see more, download The Body Language Edit.

It’s okay, I earned it.

Justifying food with exercise is a classic sign of low body image. This shows the belief that certain foods are only bad if you haven’t exercised that day. The truth is food doesn’t have morality. There’s no such thing as good food and bad food. Food offers options to satisfy hunger, fulfill cravings, and even help you connect with people around you.

Edit: “It’s okay, this is what my body wants to eat right now.”

That’s dangerous…

Okay, hold up. What’s dangerous? Cheetos? Brownies? No. Fire is dangerous, lions are dangerous, driving 55mph in the fast lane is dangerous. Telling yourself food that tastes good is dangerous feeds the body image belief that gaining weight is a threat to your social status. That staying thin is safe, which is ridiculous.

Edit: “That’s delicious…”

If I had her legs, I’d be confident too

Making a comparison between something you find desirable that you don’t have destroys your confidence. It’s possible to appreciate something desirable without relating it to yourself.

Different legs will not give you confidence, but shifting the beliefs around what legs are will give you understanding and patience with your body.

Edit: “She has such nice legs.”

I’m so lazy, I need to hit the gym

This implies exercise is the only way for your body to not be lazy. When in reality, your body is contributing to most things you’re doing throughout the day. Cleaning the apartment, going shopping, working, cooking, etc. All involve your body and if you don’t fit regular “gym time” into your schedule it doesn’t mean you’re lazy or your body isn’t being used.

Edit: I’m feeling stagnant, I want to physically challenge myself.

I wish I had the confidence to wear that

This one crushes my soul. Riding the elevator down to the gym (don’t judge me) a woman noticed my hot pink Nike’s and said, “omg I love your shoes…”

“thank you,” I said, stepping one foot to the side so she could see more.

“…I wish I had the confidence to wear a bright color like that.” she said with certainty. I looked up in surprise and my heart sank.

“wear the bright colors, the confidence comes later.” I said with a smile.

What are you telling yourself you can’t wear until you have the confidence? Because that’s the exact thing that’s gonna help you build it.

Edit: I’m going to wear what I like without worrying what people think.

At least you’re skinny

Comforting friends with a line like this actually hurts your body image (and hers). It reinforces the belief that when all else fails, thinness is going to save you. As a thin person, I can honestly say investing more self worth into something that changes only intensifies the insecurity. What really helps is remembering your worth does not come from how attracted people are to your body.

Edit: At least you’re a good person. At least you’re trying. At least (literally anything else can go here)


February 9, 2020


Rebekah Buege is a body confidence coach helping strong women process critical thoughts and heal insecurities.

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