Weight-Loss Language

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Weight-Loss Language

The importance of choosing words wisely

Weight loss — the journey to a healthier version of ourselves — can feel overwhelming at the best of times. Add diabetes and its specific nutritional requirements to the mix, and the task becomes even more daunting. Perhaps one of the biggest battles, however, is choosing our words wisely. Yes, our language can have a huge impact on whether our weight-loss efforts are a success or not.

When you think about “dieting,” for instance, what are the first thoughts that come to mind? 

Restricting your calories?

Bad foods?

Avoiding social gatherings?


How about the cheat meal or snack you treat yourself to on the weekends?

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These are just some examples of how the words we use create an association between dieting, weight loss, and “doing without.” Using such words means we are entering a positive journey (better health) with a negative attitude (the idea that better health requires suffering and hardship). This can set us up to fail.

A simple and effective solution to combat these self-defeating words — many of which come automatically — is positive reinforcement.

You can implement positive reinforcement today to make your weight-management journey easier. The key to making this work is replacing negative associations with positive ones.

Replacing negative language

Here are some examples of how to replace negative words with positive phrasing to get you started:

  • “Bad” foods and “avoiding” them at all costs: Practice moderation instead. Any food can be included in a weight-management regimen. Some may need to be consumed in moderation, but nothing is off limits.
  • “Fat” or “overweight”: Instead, think of your body as a work in progress. Don’t look to be “thin” or “skinny” — seek health.
  • “Cheat” food: Rather than associate a meal or snack that doesn’t adhere to your current diet with cheating, think of it as a reward for your efforts. Remember, no food is off limits — so you can’t cheat. This word needs to go!
  • “Guilty” pleasure: Associating food with guilt can lead to a downward spiral and even eating disorders. All food should be a pleasure.

Even the word “diet” has come to mean restriction and weight loss. This isn’t the case. Regardless of our weight, we all have a diet — and its true meaning is a much kinder one. Our diet is our habitual nourishment — it is something we all need and deserve.

The path to health

By incorporating positive reinforcement into your weight-management regimen, you can make your habitual nourishment an enjoyable experience — and one that boosts rather than degrades your self-esteem. After all, weight management isn’t just about losing weight — it’s a journey to a healthier you.

Want to learn more about weight management? Read “Tried and True Weight-Loss Techniques,” “Losing Weight Without Feeling Hungry: Eight Tips,” and “Seven Ways to Lose Weight.”

Nicola Davies, PhD

Davies is a Health Psychologist and Medical Writer at Health Psychology Consultancy Ltd. Her expertise is in the psychology of health and well-being, which she writes prolifically on across the globe. She has three books: I Can Beat Obesity! Finding the Motivation, Confidence and Skills to Lose Weight and Avoid Relapse, I Can Beat Anorexia! Finding the Motivation, Confidence and Skills to Recover and Avoid Relapse, and Eating Disorder Recovery Handbook: A Practical Guide to Long-Term Recovery.

Davies’ work in the field of pain is largely focused on lifestyle, behavior change, coping, and developing the skills and confidence to self-manage.

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