01/25/2013 01:34 pm ET Updated Mar 27, 2013

Why Do We Women Denigrate Our Own Bodies?

My best friend's fiancé once called her "my little muffin top". For her, the endearment was cataclysmic. She didn't speak to him for a week. He didn't know why, but finally found out through mutual friends that he had hurt her feelings. A muffin top, he was told, is definitely not an endearment. It refers to the extra fat that pooches out over low-rise pants. He was horrified that he had inadvertently insulted her.

"I never would have used that term if I knew what it really meant! God, I just really like muffins and, to me, that's a good thing!"

We have such unlovely terms to describe our bodies. Expressions like 'cankles,' a nasty word that describes shapeless legs; the aforementioned 'muffin tops'; and 'apron,' a charming word used to describe the extra abdominal skin and flesh most women have after giving birth. Let's not forget the term bat-wings. A twenty-something woman in my Pilates class actually referred to her fairly well-toned upper arms as "my bat-wing things."

All, obviously, are derogatory terms. How good can you feel about yourself if you use those expressions to define parts of your own body? Not very. I think we're going too far with personal insults we aim at ourselves. I've heard the word "obeast" used by a woman when describing her body. The term is a combination of the word obese and beast. Why define yourself using that term?!

The aforementioned names are bad enough, but more insulting terms are now cropping up. I overheard a new expression in a dressing room at Bloomingdales, one that was totally surprising. The woman next to me was complaining about how an outfit looked on her and said to her friend,

"I guess it's time to call my plastic surgeon and get my belly boobs uplifted."

Belly boobs? She was referring to her breasts, which she thought were obviously starting to go south towards her navel. What a way of expressing it!

Women seem to self-deprecate their own bodies. We don't need anyone else to insult us; we've got our own insult comic living inside our heads. The question that needs to be addressed is this: Why do we do this to ourselves? Is it that we have such a low opinion of our own bodies? Is it a learned behavior from childhood? Or do we still feel the urgent need to be as impossibly airbrushed as the women we see in magazines?

I am not talking about morbidly obese women; I'm talking about women who are normal and healthy, but who somehow tend to describe their bodies in unbelievably unflattering terms. I don't get it. Men don't get it either, and sometimes, they are prone to make the occasional faux pas when talking to the women in their lives.

A male friend once told me that he had always loved his wife's figure. He told her that she had a nice, full figure. I winced. By giving her what he thought was a wonderful compliment, in reality, he had started her on the road to diet hell. Very few women want to be referred to as "full-figured" because it denotes being fat. Men seem to be unaware of what that term means to us. Obviously, they see something that's full as good. Why should we see it as bad? A full glass of wine to slowly enjoy, a full refrigerator so we have enough to eat, a full tank of gas with no fear of running out on a trip; those are all seen as good things. Yet, when it comes to our bodies, somehow, our perception is terribly skewed.

Our "humorous" comments about our bodies may hide deep-seated feelings of unworthiness or a sense that only the perfect, (read: thin), deserve happiness but it has to stop. We can't keep being our own worst enemy. Creating newer, negative terms for normal body parts is insanity. Cankles, muffin-tops, belly boobs -- those words are just too derogatory to use. Let's not make up any more nasty-isms to describe our bodies. We've got too many already.

© 2013 copyright Kristen Houghton

"And Then I'll Be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First" ranked in the top 100 books by Tower

Kristen Houghton is the author of the hilarious book, No Woman Diets Alone - There's Always a Man Behind Her Eating a Doughnut in the top 10 hot new releases at Amazon available now on Kindle, Nook, and all e-book venues.

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