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Take a second and Google a gym — any major gym franchise, health program, or even a women's magazine. Odds are, in the next five minutes you'll see some variation of the following phrase: "summer slim-down."
No matter what the message, the method is universal: shame. "Summer slim-down," "beach-ready" — all these phrases are saying is that you are not currently fit to be seen. If you went to the beach like this it would be a DISASTER, SO WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT? You know what I'm gonna do about it? Watch my mouth.
Just because this shame-based language is spoon-fed to us every day doesn't mean we have to swallow it. Take stock of every time you talk about a food as a "guilty pleasure" or hear someone say "skinny bitch." Casual though they may be, words matter. Every time we repeat them, we give them that much more power. Along with all this summer slim-down BS, here are five phrases I don't want to empower anymore. They aren't helping any of us lead happier, healthier lives. Let's lose them and find something better to say.
God help the evil genius who came up with this garbage. It's the alliterative bogeyman that has the power to send us scrambling around, trying to acquire a body that fits the legal requirements necessary to wear a bikini. We've said it before and we'll say it again — two zillion times if necessary: All you need for a bikini body is a body. And, well, a bikini. That's it. You've done it. Congratulations.
Any lifelong dieter knows that a cheat day is the greatest day of your entire, miserable life. You wake up excited for all the things you're banned from six days of the week. You enjoy your pizza or your ice cream and maybe have seconds — or fourths! Who cares?! Tomorrow, it's back to carb-counting prison so you better make this one count! Cheat days should be banned as a practice as well as a term simply because it turns pizza into your mistress and makes you a big, bad, crazy "cheater."
A word like this knows nothing about real life. Whether you apply it to eating issues, career changes, or relationships, it seems to say that life is supposed to go in one direction. But, most of our lives don't look like a straight path up a hill. Frankly, that would be a pretty boring ride. What we call backsliding might be more like an unexpected turn or a chance to revisit a lesson we might need to learn again. Not all experiences feel good, but that doesn't mean they're not valuable. Just because it doesn't feel like success doesn't make it a failure.
As in, guilt-free cheesecake. All that other cheesecake? That is a capital crime, friend, and you have been found guilty. Listen: There is no ingredient that can make your cheesecake "guilty" unless you've baked it with blood diamonds. If non-dairy, fat-free cheesecake is your jam, then jam on! If you're digging into a slice of cream-cheesy, cherry-topped classic, great! No matter what you're eating, eat it with full permission. What's the point of dessert if it tastes like a compromise or a crime? As long as you're not eating it at the site of a double homicide, you're in the clear.
"Real women" is up there with "bikini body" in that it leaves you bereft of something you already have. It's a phrase born of backlash and it sometimes gets used as a body-positive buzzword, when in fact, it's the opposite of inclusive. Real women aren't one thing. Real women are curvy and thin. They are mothers and wives and single people. They are feminists, conservatives, astronauts, freegans, Beyoncé, and myriad other things. There is nothing that makes a woman any more real than another. If you try to define a real woman, you're going to fail.
The Anti-Diet Project is an ongoing series about intuitive eating, rational fitness, and body positivity. You can follow my journey on Twitter and Instagram at @mskelseymiller and #antidietproject (hashtag your own Anti-Diet moments too!). Got a question — or your own Anti-Diet story to tell? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.