Kinder, Gentler Language

Somebody sent me an entry from a blog by Isabel Foxen Duke, who is a coach who “helps women stop feeling crazy around food.” You can find it at

Here it is —

“I have never “binged,” but only eaten a lot of food… (and why this is an important technical distinction).

I used to call myself a “binge-eater.”  I would diet, diet, diet and then when I would “fall of the wagon” – bam, I “binged.”  Binge, binge, binge.  Just the use of this word, I truly believe kept me in a mental cycle of  “success” and “failure” or “good” and “bad.”

The linguistic distinction of calling any act with food a “binge,” keeps us in a state of mind where we are judging ourselves.  Every time we say we “binged,” we are essentially saying, “we failed,” we are “wrong,” or generally suck.

In order to live in a world of food and body freedom, we have to let go of all language that is judgmental, hateful, or disapproving of ourselves.  I contend that just the use of the word “binge” falls into this category, and should thus be stricken from our lips.

New Linguistic Model:  Last night I went out to dinner with my family and ate a lot of food.  I got really full.  And today is Tuesday, and the sky is blue.

I did not “binge,” I did not MURDER ANYONE.  I just ate a lot of food.  Big fucking deal.

(Isabel blogs at )

I think she is right on about language. When we use negative language, we keep ourselves in a negative frame of mind and locked into negative behavior patterns.

Using Isabel’s New Linguistic Model, it would make good sense to make the language we use gentler. We can replace negative words with positive or neutral ones. Now, I don’t mean replacing “I am ugly” with “I am the most beautiful person in the world.” That’s a down right lie and you will just feel foolish saying it. Nor am I suggesting replacing “pain” with “slight discomfort” because euphemisms are a form of deception, too. I am suggesting replacing a denigrating or frightening word with one that is accurate but does not have a negative charge attached to it.

Take the word “trigger.” It has always given me the willies. I see a gun in my mind’s eye, and I react to the word itself with fear because it brings up thoughts and memories of violence or death. Why would I want to do this to myself?

Well, I don’t. I already have enough of those thoughts swirling around in my brain. I’d much rather use “reminder.” The smell of beer reminds me of somebody, reeking of beer, hurting me. I have to deal with that memory, but I don’t have all the extra feelings, thoughts, and memories that the word “trigger” stirs up.

I have similar negative feelings toward the word “programming.” It suggests that I am a machine and that I must obey any instructions that have been entered into my mind. Now I use “taught,” which implies that I do not have to do what I was taught to do and that I can learn other things. I was taught to ride a bicycle, to make my bed every morning, to speak French. Do I do any of those things now? No. Nor do I do what my abusers taught me to do.  I don’t deny that I was taught those things, or that I was forced to do them.  But I don’t do them any more.

Cleaning up my language makes life easier. It strips the negative words of their magic power and gives me one less thing to struggle with. It helps me see things for what they really are, not what I was supposed to believe they were. What a gift!