Body Composition and the power of our words

Chopin, doing his thangI believe that the words we use when we talk about ourselves are very important. I’ve personally found that a good first step towards a positive shift in self-perception is to pay close attention to the words we choose, and experimenting with kinder ones.

Here’s a great example. Now that the Up & Running community is approaching two years old (eep!) it’s developed a language of its own, with catchphrases and jokes and exuberant use of emoticons. One term that I love seeing on our Forum is body composition.

This is the term that Coach Julia uses when talking about what I’d previously refer to as weight loss or, with tongue in cheek, lard busting.

Julia doesn’t talk “weight loss” with her athletes. She looks at bodies in terms of biomechanics and athletic performance. Instead she’ll talk about working on your body composition. The amount of fat vs muscle we carry around can have an impact on our performance (and joints!) when we run and in some cases it can be helpful to work on this.

The term has caught on and I’ve seen some of our runners refer to working on their body composition, often accompanied by a wink or tongue-poke emoticon. I think it can make such a difference to how we view things. Instead of thinking Oh shit I need to get this lard off me… I’m working on my body composition; kindly and mindfully changing things up to help me get stronger and faster and ease the load on my poor knee.

If you think about some of the terms commonly used to describe weight loss, they’re mean, rather violent and/or suggest an almighty struggle…

burn the blubber

torch the pounds

battle of the bulge

war on the waistline

slim down

strip the fat

fight the flab

They’re not the kind of words that fill me with motivation for very long. Body composition by contrast feels energetic and positive. It makes me more appreciative of a process. I am a composer, darnit! I’m composing, creating and transforming. I’m shifting a little lard to make room for more awesome.

  1. Pamela
    This is so insightful! Things like "fighting the flab" are kind of self-hating, aren't they? I've struggled to find the kind of self-talk that actually helps me improve my body composition ;-) and one thing I know is that anything that involves shame or self-hatred is definitely NOT helpful.
  2. Jen
    I like it -- "Working on body composition" is a matter-of-fact but also non-judgmental way to talk about the process of change. I think I hate the wanky euphemisms even more than the self-punishing talk, "this journey," "releasing the weight," etc. Both the euphemisms and the nasty talk suggest there is something to be ashamed of, but using honest but neutral language describes what's really going on -- a project of improvement but not a desperate struggle for self-worthiness.
  3. Quix
    I feel the same way! Losing weight is something to be done at all costs. Changing my body comp is something to be done mindfully, fueling training is priority, not getting by on the least amount of food I can without passing out.
  4. Samone
    YES! So good! By doing good things with exercising and fuelling your body, you are composing a SYMPHONY. (Good to think about when doing strides or creating a spectacle with skips uphill! Shall start using it now.) I agree that 'journey' is naff, too, there is no destination just a continuation.