07/15/2013 05:54 pm ET

A Word Pyramid?

As I stated in January, I wanted to dedicate this year to an "emotional diet plan." The goal was to start a path for reflecting and losing "emotional weight." Just for the sake of it, let's review my definition of emotional weight: "A spirit's relative mass or the quantity of matter, the weight of words, contained by it, giving rise to a downward or upward force; the heaviness of a person or thing."

There are slim and fit people who seem terribly "heavy" due to their day-to-day energy and spirit. And that "heavy" demeanor is what emotional weight is. When emotional weight spins out of control, it can be just as detrimental to your health as excessive physical weight.

To be healthy, fit, and confident in our lives, we must accept and appreciate the weight of words. That's right, there are "heavy words," and there are "light words" -- words that can help you gain or lose emotional weight. One word can lead to a mindset; one word can lead to a life-changing action; one word can change the trajectory of your day. Words can and do have a nutritional value. We think about the foods we digest into our body, it's time we think about the words we digest into our spirit. Let's try this:

What is one food that makes you feel "heavy" after eating it?

All right, now what's one word that makes you feel "heavy" after hearing it?

My answers were "pizza" and "annoying." That's Step 1: identifying these "greasy pizza" words that make you feel heavy. Step 2: Limit the presence of those words in your life.

Steps 1 and 2 involve labeling the "light" and "heavy" words in your life. Step 3 takes it a bit further: identifying the functions of these words in your verbal diet. Do you remember the famous food pyramid from your childhood? It has been revamped a little over time, but essentially the theory is the same: You need a balanced diet consisting of grains, fruits, veggies, proteins, dairy, and oils. When the pyramid is applied to words, it can prove to be a fun and simple way to look at our lives. And for both food and words, portion control is important! Let's break it down:

Breads and Grains

What they do: Grain words are hearty. They fill you up, provide energy, but they also keep you in check. Think of grain words as those things you say or think in a moment of self-reflection. Your self-awareness and honesty comes from these words.

Suggested Use: Present in many of life's recipes, grain words are best used in small portions. You need what they provide, but too much of these words can weigh you down. Essentially, grain words keep you going (just like the energy from good carbohydrates), so you should use them when you need them.

Example: Often manifesting in phrases, grain words come in lots of varieties: "I didn't get enough sleep, and it's making me cranky towards my co-workers." "I have two hours left to complete this project and I want to succeed on this. It's time to kick it into high gear!" These little phrases don't make up the bulk of your healthy word diet, but they certainly can give it a boost and help you make positive changes.

Fruits and Veggies

What they do: These words make you feel good when you hear them and make you feel good when you say them.

Suggested Use: There's no doubt about a fruit or veggie word being good for your mind and body. Use these words as frequently as you can! There's no downside!

Example: An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? "Thank you" is an apple word. Say that every day, and you're sure to stay well.


What they do: Like milk, cheese, and yogurt, dairy words come in "high-fat" and "low-fat" varieties. Both have benefits, but the latter are definitely more suitable for everyday use. Dairy words are descriptors, pleasantries, and niceties, filling you (and your conversations) up, but you don't want to let them thicken your life too much.

Serving Size: Sometimes "less is more" for dairy words. Think of it this way: Adding loads of heavy cream to your coffee and cooking? Not great. But a glass of low-fat chocolate milk after a tough workout? Awesome. Now this: wasting big chunks of time getting distracted by gossip and chatter? Not great. Making fun small talk with the cashier at the grocery store? Great! Maybe he'll even give you an extra coupon!

Example: Dairy words are useful tools. How many polite "Hellos," "Excuse mes," "What's ups!" or "Sorry, running lates" do you dish out in a day? You don't want to spend all your time and energy on these small (albeit often fun) exchanges, but a well-placed dairy word can certainly brighten your or your friend's day.


What they do: Oils come in many shapes and sizes. Limiting the amount of oils in your verbal diet is important, even the good ones. When found in sugar-coated, rich packaging, oil words can spike your mood... and your ego.

Serving Size: Every now and then, oil words are fine! Don't deprive yourself of something that makes you feel good. But do use them sparingly, as too much of a good thing can have a negative effect.

Example: Oil words are often compliments run wild. "Perfect" "Hot" "Rich"... anything with the subtext "that makes me so jealous!" should make you wary of how you respond and how you're making others feel.


What they do: Protein words keep you strong and satisfied.

Suggested Use: Early and often! Protein words are necessary in all corners of our lives -- business meetings, working out, resolving a disagreement, etc. Combine with a grain word or two to enhance the results, especially when working with others.

Example: These words vary from person to person -- whatever gives you strength, courage, and moves you forward in a positive way is your protein word! For some it may be "drive," "confident," or "compromise." For others, it could simply be "yes" or "no."

And last but not least, the complement to any healthy, balanced diet is exercise. For our word-food pyramid, it's mental exercise. Try 20 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of a crossword puzzle, or even five minutes of deep, even breathing. Exercising your mind allows you to stay in control, make strong decisions, and choose words that have a high nutritional value.

Remember, it's all about variety to keep from getting bored. We must have balance with our words and thoughts; words have weight and we want to build and maintain a healthy weight. Balancing the "Word-Food Pyramid" described above can help you become your healthiest, fittest, and most confident self.

For more by Rupa Mehta, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.