The Language Around Body Image Is So Important—so We're Banning These Words

Updated 07/19/18
negative body image words: picture of a pink telephone

Words are important. Super important. Yes, we live in the age of the selfie. And yes, we may neglect a huge chunk of our lexicon in favour of an emoji. But if you ask us, this visual shift simply means that words carry more weight than ever before.

Thankfully, as our society—and, more specifically, the beauty industry—moves toward a more inclusive, diverse rhetoric, we're slowly seeing words and terms that were once acceptable fade out of our vocabulary. However, it would seem that when it comes to body image, the collective consciousness is still clinging on to some pretty circumspect phrases.

How is it that, in 2018, a newspaper can tout the term "muffin top" without anyone batting an eyelid? What does it even mean to be "beach body–ready," anyway? And how has an adjective like the word "curvy" become loaded with such passive-aggressive connotations? When it comes to bodies, so many corners of the internet are still dishing out some of the most archaic and offensive language out there. And it's not just sabotaging all our efforts to move toward a more body-positive culture—it's also just plain ridiculous.

Quite frankly, we've had enough of this lexical body shaming, and we plan to put a stop to it. We gathered a handful of influencers, readers and colleagues (all of whom empower us every single day) to help us create a list of negative body image–related words that should be banned immediately. Brydie UK promises to not only ban these words but to also encourage the rest of the industry to write them off. And we reckon that if you put a personal ban on them yourselves, you'll start to have a much more positive relationship with your body image, too.


"I hate it when people talk about us having flaws—cellulite/wrinkles/fat/scars/freckles … whatever it is. It's a part of you. It's perfectly normal and it is in no way a 'flaw.' If we change the language, then we can hope to start changing the narrative that 'flaws' are bad." — Natalie Lee, Style Me Sunday


"What even is that?! Nothing is 'normal.' No one should ever be made to feel that they are not 'normal' because of how they look or choose to look." — Gemma Hall, The British Beauty Line member

"Muffin Top"

"I get it—a belly sitting atop a waistband looks like a muffin top. But it's hardly the smartest comparison to have ever graced the English language (or the kindest, for that matter). It's a dig that you may eat too many muffins or the like. It's rude, insensitive, unfunny and unnecessary. Sure, I don't like my belly, but no one has the right to compare it to a baked good." — Amy Lawrenson, editorial director, Byrdie UK


"I can't stand the phrase 'plus-size.' It doesn’t make any sense to me. It's not 'plus-size'—it's just a shape. When it comes to your body, that is your body shape, not size. In fact, I'd happily change all clothing labels to use words like 'hot stuff,' 'mega babe,' 'divine' and 'stunner.'" — Jules Von Hep, celebrity tanner and co-founder of Isle of Paradise

"Beach Body"

"[The phrase] makes me so angry. If you have a bikini and you are on a beach, you are beach/bikini body–ready." — Isabel Boulder, The British Beauty Line member

"Pour Your Curves"

"Implying that women with curves have to literally find ways to reshape and squeeze themselves to be almost liquid in order to get into an outfit … I find the concept of 'pouring one's curves' (as beloved of so many trashy newspapers) to be offensive and really lazy journalism. You can have curves and just zip up, button up or tie up clothes like any other person. I know this for a fact!" — Hannah Almassi, editorial director, Who What Wear UK


"As in, 'Well, that looks flattering.' I hate this word. 'Flattering' is something which is a vision in someone's head of what they think looks good on your body, but it doesn't mean it's what you think looks good." — Felicity Hayward, model and founder of Self Love Brings Beauty

"Problem Area"

"I hate the term 'problem area.' I just can't prescribe to the idea that particular sections of our bodies require fixing, and so if I could, I’d put a global ban on the phrase forevermore. I'm certain that if we heard this term less, we'd all have fewer body hang-ups." — Shannon Peter, deputy editor, Byrdie UK


"I'd say the word I'd ban is 'wide.' For some reason, it just rubs me up the wrong way. I have an hourglass body, and oftentimes my hips are referred to as 'wide.' I just think, 'No! They're just part of my very normal, healthy body. I'm not a truck!'" — Emma Hoareau, photographer and founder of Lolita Says So


"I'd ban the word 'flaunted' because it's time we stopped shaming women for owning their bodies. If you want to show off your legs, do it. If you want to wear a low-cut top, go for it. It doesn't mean you're 'flaunting' it or showing it off—it just means we are in charge of our bodies. And we should be!" — Alyss Bowen, associate social media editor, Byrdie UK


"'Should' is such a mean little word! It's basically saying you ought to be doing/looking/being something that you're not. 'I should be better, I should be thinner, I should stop drinking cider.' Blah blah blah. There's a big difference between what you should be doing and what you want to be doing. Things that we want to do make us happy and things that we should be doing make us feel guilty. This is why we feel bad about eating chocolate fingers in front of Love Island instead of doing the washing up.

Even though midweek chocolate fingers are brilliant. 'Should' makes it hard to enjoy the moment because we feel like we should be doing something else. I mean, nobody ever celebrated looking back on all the things they 'should' have done. Finally, could anything be more annoying than someone telling you that you 'should' have something done differently?! No. 'Should' has got to go." — Sarah Powell, presenter and podcaster of Jules and Sarah: The Podcast


"I feel like it's often used in a derogatory way—using it to slyly put down celebs when they're not 'skinny' enough. In fact, can we get rid of 'skinny' too?" — Hannah Summersfield, The British Beauty Line member

"Right for Your Body Type"

"I mean, I can wear whatever I feel like wearing, and if I feel good in it, why should it bother me?" — Julia Greiner, The British Beauty Line member

Is there a body-conscious word or phrase that you absolutely hate? Come and tell us in our dedicated Facebook group, The British Beauty Line.

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