Choose your Word; Choose your Meaning





All those words have recently been used either by myself and/or in comments from readers to describe the same thing: my goal.  And for some of you – your goal.  What many of us are striving for in our relationship with food.

I am all about words.  Choosing the right one.  Saying what I mean.  Sometimes it makes a difference.  Sometimes not.  I am pretty sure that I get caught up in semantics way more than the average person.  (Yes, I have both a thesaurus and dictionary bookmarks at the top of my screen.)  Maybe this is just one more example of me sweating the small stuff.  Or maybe it’s more than that.  Maybe there is power in words.

Maybe the words we choose can affect change in us.  Maybe changing our words can result in changing our paradigms. Can it be that simple sometimes?

When I said I wanted a normal relationship with food I didn’t mean normal in the sense of “like anyone else.”  Fitting in.  Conforming to a standard.  The word normal made sense in my own mind and described my vision so succinctly to ME, but thanks to some comments, I wonder if that vision and word could benefit from an overhaul.  A remodeling.  An upgrade.  Redefinition of a word that might translate into redefinition of a lifestyle.

I am a control freak.  So it makes perfect sense that I would talk about my desire to control food.  But maybe that is exactly why I have yet to wrestle free of food’s control of ME.  Peace, on the other hand, is not a word that comes to mind for me when I am thinking about my own life.  But as I contemplate the word choice of others, I have to wonder if peace is more doable, and even more pleasant, than control.  Peace with food.  Control of food.  Do they sound different to you too?

The thing is that as I struggle to make sense of the words, just writing this post, I realize I don’t know what the perfect word would be.  (And maybe “perfect” is a bad word choice too!)  Or if it matters.  My goal is the same regardless of what I call it.  But I can’t get past the notion that I’d rather give power to words than give power to food!

Maybe the words don’t matter.  Maybe it is the concept, the paradigm, the context, the vision.  Maybe.

Do you think that the words we use on our journey (which in and of itself is a much debated word in the blog world) make a difference?  Or the words we use for anything?

Note:  If you want to go back and see the posts and comments that drove my thought process today, you can find them here and here.



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76 responses to “Choose your Word; Choose your Meaning

  1. Well, you wouldn’t know it from the way I write on my blog, but words are very, very important to me. If I can find the “perfect” word, then in a sense, I’ve created a shortcut to a mantra – something that I can connect to, refer to and rely upon.

    And as a reforming drama queen, I have to really work on not overstating the issue. If I can use the appropriate word, I can usually tone down the drama.

    • Karen

      That last part has me thinking, wondering if I am making my own eating drama somehow with the words. I don’t think of myself as a drama queen, but, hmmm. I do like to be very pragmatic. But then, opposite to that, I like the play of words. Funny how contradictory that suddenly seems to me.

    • Good point, Roxie… I can use this good drama de-toning suggestion in my life too. Thanks!

  2. I think words are important when explaining what you want, what you feel, what you hope for, to others. I think we all know what we (ourselves) want.

    I think you will be at peace, and feel in control, when what is optimal becomes normal. Optimal only becomes normal though, through change, and change takes strength and willpower. And you’re right, optimal does not mean perfect.

  3. anne h

    Do words change our paradigm, or just describe it – or maybe both?
    Affirmations? Reminders of the Truth we have forgotten?
    I think “Peace” our True Nature. And we have forgotten that.
    We just need to find our way back!

  4. I am beginning to realize just HOW important words are, and finding the right one to fit can be hair-pulling. Before I started my Hate-Loss Challenge back in January I didn’t give much thought to words. I’d simply accept the way I was feeling and that was that. Except if I was feeling down about myself then I’d carry those negative words with me all day long. I relate to what Roxie wrote. Now, I have to have words set into place and use them over and over again – they are important because they serve as a reminder of what I’m striving for. Even if I don’t mean one or two of them at the time I’m saying them, they are like wormholes; they make a permanent impression eventually but it takes diligence.
    You’ll find your words, Karen. I’m confident that you will.

    • Karen

      Interestingly to me, I don’t use words like that to define how I feel about myself. I think. Funny how I really only see their power outwardly, not inward. If that makes sense. So that is either a good thing because I am not defining myself with words,or a bad thing because I am missing an opportunity to redefine myself with words.

  5. Yes, words are extremely important to me and you’ve used two (control and peace) that I also use frequently. One that I have totally eliminated from my vocabulary is “diet.” Two that I am currently trying to work into my lifestyle, with respect to my relationship to food, are “relax” and “calm.” I’ve experienced enough of the “calm” lately as I peel back layers to know that’s what I want all the time. About the time I start feeling a little confident, a “surprise” situations pop up and the mental frenzy starts all over. Yes, the words are important because behind every word is a very real feeling/emotion struggling to find resolution!

    • Karen

      Loved what you posted about this:) I don’t mind the word “diet” depending how it is used. I wrote about that word a long time ago. I think the problem is the context that society has given to that word. But I do try to be careful when I use it in my blog because I know that people often view it differently than I do.

  6. The biggest challenge a friend had was changing her mindset from thinking she was ‘big’ to ‘fat’. As soon as it clicked it made a massive difference to what she ate and how she thought. So yes, words really matter

  7. Hi Karen.. I do think for some words make a difference – a positive set of words vs. a negative set. MizFit is great at showing us how the words can change things – willpower vs. willingness.

    I need to get some sleep but will come back later.. I did a post on this WAY WAY back when. I will find it for you & come back with the link…

    • Karen

      I loved what Miz said about those words and had intended to write about it here, but then lots of other bloggers did it for me. She clearly struck a chord with that little word twist.

  8. I am a word person. ALL my fam can tell you that. However, when it comes to my weight and controlling it – well, it is not a word thing. It is a feel thing – how I feel, how I walk, how I breath, how I see myself as I lose weight. Amazingly, it is one area where words have no absolute effect.

    • Karen

      Ooh – interesting. Because it probably fits for me that “normal” as I have described it is really a feeling I am striving for and not about the word.

  9. There is great power in words, but within that statement lies a paradox. Words are powerful, but generally the content and force of our words (those of us who choose to blog and share our words) are also affected by the perceptions of those who hear/read them. You said that the idea of controlling food and having a “normal” relationshi with it creates a clear message to you seek and are striving for. Yet someone else might say, “what the hell is “normal?”

    The other thing that comes to mind is that as powerful and meaningful as I find spoken and written words, actions are more powerful. About a year ago I wrote a small series of posts about several different words…intention, commitment, determination and others I can’t recall right now. I talked about what they meant and how I was claiming them each as part of my journey to fitness. Yet I managed to not take the required “actions” and managed to regain 15 pounds I’d lost prior.

    GREAT post, Karen. As always.

    • Karen

      So true – the actions are much more important and telling than the words. And I can’t find my way to normal, or peace, or whatever else I would choose to call it, without action. Thank you for reminding me. Makes me wonder what I would be doing today if I did not have a blog. Would I even think about words?

  10. Word are very important. It is through words that we convey our essense. Also, semantics are powerful. There is a huge difference between “I can control my weight” and “I will control my weight”. Yes, the difference is a single word. But the difference is determination, finality, and perserverance that is indicated by just one word “will”.

    As far as controling food or making peace with food, I think you are barking up the wrong tree. Food is inamimate, it is simply fuel. Good tasting fuel, but fuel none the less. You need to make peace within yourself, so that you may have control over your need/want for the fuel.

    • Karen

      But therein lies the problem – I seemingly don’t view food as fuel. I get that. In theory. But there seems to be much more to food, in reality. So it is frustrating that I have given power over to something inanimate!

  11. words are important and the ones we use when speaking to ourself are the most important. great post

  12. Of course words are powerful. Ask anybody who’s been hurt by a careless remark. And words have meaning, but that meaning is SO individual. As one example, taking the word “diet” out of your vocabulary may free you or putting it into your vocabulary may help you gain control and perspective. But exchanging one word for another (as in fudge for, well, we all know what word they are NOT saying) is pretty meaningless if the intent is the same. I do think you can change your relationship with food, people, situation, whatever, if you change your attitude towards it. It will take changing the way you think and talk about it for sure.

    • Karen

      So this reminds me of a conversation I had with my teen about cursing. In a nutshell, I told him that if someone uses those words all the time, they lose their impact and power and meaning. My point was to save them for when you really want to say something big!

  13. Yes, words are very important and to me the MOST important words are the ones that I say to myself inside. Your Blog is very well written and enjoyable to read. I’m not as talented as you in that regard and I try not to stifle my feelings by “perfecting” my words because then I think I might find blogging too onerous. In any event, I love words and how they make me feel.

    • Karen

      Thank you. And sometimes it is onerous for me! I am a reforming perfectionist. Combine that with a word-a-holic and it can make blogging extra challenging. But sometimes in a good way. I will share with you that when I started this I never thought about the creative process at all and have found that to sometimes be a nice added bonus. Sometimes. Other times… added stress. Ah, to be more laid back in my writing and all things:)

  14. sunnydaze

    I believe that words and positive thinking are very important. We’ve all heard of the Power of Positive Thinking. I’ve also heard in a few self-help books that you can almost “speak something to life” by saying or thinking it because our thoughts direct our actions and so forth…

    • Karen

      Oh I forgot that! The whole “law of attraction” thing and “the secret” or whatever it is called. I have seen many bloggers talk about boards they put together to visualize where they want to go with life. I think it is the same concept.

  15. I like figuring out words that are important to me, then I can use them as my mantra when I feel I am slipping. Key words and phrases stick at the forefront of my brain, too. And yes, my language has changed.

    Polar’s Mom

  16. Karen, I think words are everything. They’re how we tell our stories, express our feelings, and talk to ourselves. Seeking the most accurate, descriptive words can be excruciating at times. It can be a useful exercise. It’s only problematic if we get too far caught up in the search — you know, a form over substance thing.

    Our words are very very powerful, both how we speak to others and to ourselves. Words deserve respect.

    • Karen

      Way back in another lifetime I used to work in Human Resources and was involved in teaching people how to give feedback. And part of that process at one point included how strengths can be overdone and become weaknesses. It was eyeopening for me. I think the same could apply with my use of words. They can be powerful or a burden.

  17. Hi Karen —

    Words are really important — my words over the past few years were: variety, accomplishment, laughter.

    My new words are: peace, love, clarity (and always laughter)

    Huge shift — changed my life.


  18. Hi, yes words are very important. Its how we best share.
    they can be used to raise up or bring someone down ;(
    they should be used with respect

  19. I think that words are important, and the most important ones are the ones that we say to ourselves in our heads, what we really think and believe and how we talk to ourselves and what we believe about ourselves. But most important of all is not really what we say, but what we do. I have been known to talk, talk, talk but not do a thing about it all while secretly telling myself negative things in my head!

    • Karen

      I think the leap you make is a great one. I need to stop worrying about my words and start thinking more about my actions. No, wait. I need to not THINK about my actions – I need to ACT!

  20. We’ve all heard “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” But words are powerful. They can hurt. Their meaning can have an impact, good or bad. Actually, saying that little chant is a powerful thing because of the words that negate being able to be hurt by other words. Although it’s not true, saying that chant did help us as children, didn’t it? I’ve noticed that making a decision, and putting it in words or writing, has a great effect on whether I will follow through on that decision. I’ve observed that we believe the words that are said about us, whether by us or others. And I’ve noticed that if I say something positive about myself to others, even if I’m not quite sure it’s true at the time, it comes to be completely true after that. As for me, I definitely favor “peace with food” over “control over food.” The latter sounds like a struggle to keep something trapped under food…like cravings, etc. Peace…I like that!

  21. Whoops, I meant “trapped under foot.”

  22. I’m a control freak too. Sadly, the one thing I can’t control is me – the way my mind works. So perhaps – at least for me – it’s about defining words more losely and not having to control every aspect of everything.

  23. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Is that enough esclamation points?

    Our words reflect our attitude. Our attitude directs our efforts. Our effort dictates our results. Our results adjudicate our attitude. And around and around we go…. words matter!

  24. Karen, words are so very important! I also think that the word’s I use and need change all of the time. Some days I need more motivating words , some days “calm down” words… It is a constant game I play in my head.
    Karen! Shirts with holes in them! NOOOOOOOO!
    Have a pretty day!

    • Karen

      Words are much like “pretty” now that I think about it. I can choose how the context of my words and I can choose how I prettify, or not, myself and my life. If I say it, it will happen. If I bring pretty back…

  25. Yes, I think words are much more powerful than sticks and stones. 🙂 For example, saying I “need” can evoke a feeling of neediness/”lack of” whereas saying I “choose” brings the power all back to oneself. I learned that from my mentor, a wise life coach. Looking forward to reading more of your words soon!

  26. Jan

    Provocative post, in good way – makes me ponder…
    Words don’t matter. It’s the meaning, the thoughts that they stir up in you that count. Thoughts do impact behavior and behavior does work on thoughts. So say (or think) whatever to you is meaningful, to you that works toward your goals. If you know what normal is, who cares what the rest of us think? (OK, we’re women, we care.)

    My convoluted point is that the meaning that you attach to the words and thus the thoughts is what counts. Clarify that, grasshopper, and the path will be clear, though not necessarily easy. (Just joking about the grasshopper, ya know…)

    For example, “control” is a negative word to me. I was too controlled by a rigid father then internalized that in many negative ways. Harmony in body/mind/spirit is what I seek, but other folks would never understand what that means to me. I know what it means – I know how it looks and feels and how I want to act in my daily life to achieve it. It ain’t easy.

    • Karen

      Interesting, because you choose words that are gentler and more zen, if that makes sense. Control is not that kind of word and I am not that kind of person, harmonious and zen and at peace. Makes me think.

  27. Shoot yeah, words are important. Our entire lives are a result of our words. Think about it sometime. I can tell you stories…. (smile). One guy put it this way, words fuel our subconscious mind which leads us the way we speak because subconsciously, that is what we believe. “I can’t seem to lose weight” “I always get sick this time of year” “I always burn myself cooking” – self-fulfilling prohecies! LOVED this post. And yes, peace with food sounds better than control of food. I need peace, too.

    • Karen

      Oh self-fulfilling prophecies is a big huge topic of its own! I have actually had that on my list of things to write about and started before, but… drum roll… could not find the right words!

  28. Mon

    Yep, I sure think that our choice of words has an effect on our feelings and emotions. Peace with food does make you feel better than ‘control with food’ and I think that is what we all should aim for – a positive and uplifting mode of thinking, consciously cultivated.
    Using the right words is a big part of that, I think!
    Interesting post, Karen!

  29. Yes, words matter. I’ve slowly been changing the words to describe how I’ve changed my eating habits. I try not to call it a diet.

  30. What’s the debate about “journey” in the blog world. I love to use the “journey” word. Am I cool or uncool? I have to know.
    I do think words are important and can affect us deeply. Words are powerful.

  31. Okay, so I am trying to recreate the response I wrote earlier and lost!

    Yes! Words matter…the impact they have on us matters and what matters to you may not matter to me and vice versa. In fact, I’ve been writing a post that seems to be going no where and it’s called “semantics.” I’m not sure if it will ever get to the point of being publishable! But I pretty much say what you’re saying here.

    There’s something about words that make us, in our bodies, say either “YES” or “NO”. Words that make me say “NO” are “control” and “discipline.” I can relate to what Jan says about the word “control.” It makes me recoil. And so if choosing the right words makes the difference on this journey, then I say be careful what words you choose!

    • Karen

      Thanks for taking the time to comment again:) I hope you get that post written because I am curious to read it. I love semantics. Or maybe I hate them! I can get very frustrated with the word usage of others and that’s not a good thing. When I toyed with starting a second blog to say stuff that had nothing to do with my topic here, it was all about semantics and words. But superficially – not really looking at how they impact our lives and how changing them might change us. I think I may spend some time examining the words in my head.

  32. I have been examining this very same thing, Karen. Recently I made a visit for Mind Mechanic for a little tune up and we have been exploring this. I love words, but I also have flare for the dramatic. I’ve been thinking about how my words, descriptions of myself and others, effect my attitudes and actions. I think it can be very powerful.

    A crass example: I used to often refer to myself as being bitchy or a bitch, but she stopped me dead in my tracks and told me I was no longer “allowed” to use that term in reference to myself. It kind of annoyed me at first, but then I really thought about it. First, it’s unkind and very derogatory, but bigger than that, I think it sets a sense of negativity into play that makes things even worse.

    • Karen

      Thanks for sharing that, Melissa. One thing this makes me wonder is how many bloggers are out there that don’t, maybe unbeknownst to them, find power in words. If not, why blog?

  33. I do think the words make a difference to us each individually. The words that work for me, may not have the same meaning and feeling for you.

  34. I sense a dichotomy for you that you are so concerned about your control over food (or getting there), that the very concern is showing that maybe it’s too much concern, and that too much concern is showing that you don’t have the control. It’s kind of a catch 22. For example, some of us worry too much about worrying. Does that make sense? I dunno. It’s 12:30 am and I’m struck with extremely rare for me insomnia, so I might not be making sense. 😉

    • Karen

      Interesting thinking but maybe you are reading something into this since I wrote about it. If I didn’t have a blog I probably would not put nearly as much thought into words and control. Maybe.

  35. So very late with this (internet issues), but I wanted to chime in with YES! For me, changing my words changed my life. I shed the weight and have (mostly) kept it off. Part of that involved changing the words, but another part–maybe the greater part?–was changing the importance or influence of some words. ‘Normal’ isn’t as important to me. Ditto: ‘Thin’. My focus is on ‘Healthier’ and ‘ThinNER’ now and I seem to respond to those better.

    And yep, I changed ‘journey’ to ‘adventure’ a long time ago. 🙂

  36. I think words can have impact. When I went from the mindset of “diet” to “lifestyle change” I definitely did a lot better when I thought about how to eat for life vs. the next few weeks 🙂

  37. Given what I do for a living, you’d best believe I think words are important. And they have different connotations for all of us: what you perceive as normal is different for someone else. But what matters ultimately is that YOU find out what works for YOU; you define what these words mean to you.

  38. A question that borders on the rhetorical. Yes, I do is my answer. Simply said.

    I love the deliciousness of language and the fact that just a slight word change can change everything.

    But, I get what you mean by “normal,” too.

    • Karen

      “Deliciousness” – love that. never would have used that word myself. Love “ruminating” too, which you brought to the front of my mind by choosing it for your blog.

  39. One day since you wrote this post, Karen, and already you have 63 comments! I haven’t read them yet, because I don’t want to be influenced by them until after I write this. But I will read them, because I think you’re raised an important point. I absolutely DO think the words we use on any LCJ (life changing journey) are important, very important to the resulting changes and the process of change as well. Yes, “peace” (or in my case, harmony and balance) is a word that feels more user-friendly than “control.” It’s a fabulous thing that you are looking at these words right now. You have most of us joining you on the word evaluation trip!

    • Ooops…

      you’ve raised…
      you’re raised…

      I should always remember to proof read before pushing send, but I was so eager to get back to reading the other comments…

      • Karen

        I never proof read before I submit! And, I usually read the words in such a way that I don’t even notice little typos:)

        I could have guessed you would find meaning in words. It is what you are all about, in your blog. You make great use of them in describing things and exploring your feelings. And in creating beauty.

  40. Late as usual — oh, can’t wait till Clint finally retires and my life can return to…..normal? Hey, that’s what your post is about! I blogged about “normal” back on September 1, 2010. Here’s what I wrote at that time:

    I’m just trying to be the normal gal. Now, I know that everyone will say, “what is normal?” In my head, normal is someone who doesn’t deify food, isn’t afraid of it, doesn’t use it as a crutch or a friend, or as something with which to punish one’s self. Normal is not apologizing when you’re eating, not fussing over your food, or giving a waitress apoplexia by nitpicking about how each mouthful of your food needs to be prepared. Normal is using food for fuel and health. I’m trying to be the person who can sit down to a meal and be more interested in the conversation than I am about calories or fats or carbs or guilt. Becoming normal is like any other behavior modification…I have to continually work at it so that it becomes a new, good habit.

    So, that’s what I said then, and all of that is still true except that I believe I am now further along in incorporating those good behaviors I described above into my life — they have become habits, and I realized that I no longer LONG to be “normal” — I now am my own kind of normal. There is no one word I can use to describe how I feel now — it’s like an itch has been scratched and I don’t have to think about it anymore.

    Very interesting and provocative post, Karen. I love it when you stimulate so much thinking and conversation.

    • Karen

      For me, even when I eat well, I am not “normal.” I am just in control in that moment. But I my thinking and focus is still out of whack, if that makes sense. Ironically, or maybe not, the more I work on eating better, the further from “normal” I seem to be.

  41. Lisa T

    Just came across this today and it made me think of your posts about normal eating/relationship with food. Thought you might be interesed. Ellyn Satter is a nutritionist:

    “What is Normal Eating?

    Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it -not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

    In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.”

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