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We need to talk about talking about our bodies.

Up until a couple of years ago, I always had "saddlebags". For those not in the know, this delightful term doesn't indicate that I was some kind of human pack mule (that's parenthood) but that due to hormones and genetics and all that guff, I stored fat on a certain point on the outside of my thighs.

I'm going to call it trochantic adipose tissue. I'm not sure if anyone else does, but what's the point of an Anatomy degree if I can't use fancy anatomy words to make up names for body parts by describing them?

I always had this, at a size 10 or a size 16, it was just how my body was. But I knew I wasn't supposed to have it, because that's a bit that is consipiciously absent from most images of women in the media. And also it has a colloquial name. Not a particularly offensive one, but not a flattering one either. Not a term that one would associate with beautiful women with amazing bodies.

Anyhow. They are gone now. I'm a chunky size UK12 but my thigh is smaller than when I was a UK10, those particular areas of fat storage have gone. This happened when I was losing weight through a combination of good nutrition and strength training. Previously dieting had never touched them, I suspect this is something to do with exercise and not being "skinny-fat" (another delightful term some fitness people use to describe people who lose weight by calorie cutting alone and end up losing fat, but not retaining or gaining muscle). Or perhaps a result of a change in lifestyle regulating my hormone levels differently (fat storage on the hips and thighs is the result of relative levels of sex hormones).

But then I noticed that losing fat off my hip area also meant losing a little higher up, there's a little indent between my hip and my thigh. I  wasn't bothered, it's a sign that I had lost fat, which was part of the plan, and also exaggerated by the definition created by strengthening my hip rotators, particularly my piriformis which I often describe to people as "the muscle that makes the dimple in your butt".

No big deal, I was pretty impressed with myself. Until I saw a fitness vlog on YouTube. I learned from this video that this indentation - a natural result of being lean and having both an illium and a greater trochanter (both large bony protrusions which have a lot of muscles inserting to them, meaning they stick out) - is now called a "hip-dip" and apparently I'm supposed to be worried about having that now.

What gives people? How is anybody supposed to balance their diet and exercise, whilst countering things like hormone balance and anatomical proportions (the taller the difference between trochanter and illium, the more pronounced the indentation) to make sure they neither have "too much" fat, or "too little" curve?

[If you are hoping that perhaps spot hypertrophy to build muscle in the area is your saviour, the answer I fear is no - the helpful vlogger did give some ideas, but mostly I suspect they would serve to increase the muscle definition that emphasises the indentation - take a look at the silhouette of a female body builder, they definitely go in at butt level and out at the thigh, though it can be hard to tell because the hip out, bum out poses camouflage that.]

Regardless, if you are reading this blog to find out how to "fix your flaws", I am afraid you have come to the wrong place. Before you click away though I just need to tell you that your body is amazing, does great things and will do more great things if you treat it with care and compassion. Peace out.

Neither is the point of this post to tell you a story about my thighs, as entertaining as that may be, my point is to add my voice to those who are saying "what are we even doing with making up weird flaws for our bodies and giving them silly names, can we just stop?".

OK, now I'm just hungry....

There's also "love handles" and "muffin tops" and "cankles" and "bingo wings" and "thunder thighs" and "belly pooch".... I could go on but I'm feeling less comfortable in my skin already.

All these terms are part of our normal language, every day. People use them to describe other people, and they use them to describe themselves. It's something I'm very aware of because new personal training clients often use them to me when they are talking about their goals or their relationship with their body. I have become even more aware of them after spending time in communities, like Girls Gone Strong, where these terms aren't used and women are really positive about their bodies. I'm not sure that these women are always actively avoiding the terms either, I think the habit of using them falls out when they are at peace with their "imperfections".

But they are just words.

Yes they are, but words are the first step to tapping into the inner workings of your brain-meats. Just like when we use positive affirmations to improve our performance in life, work or training. Or when I yell "MAXIMUM EFFORT" before going for a big lift.

Using terms that are derogatory and humiliating about our bodies builds shame, and shame doesn't get us anywhere. If we can at least be matter-of-fact when we describe our bodies, then we are starting on the road to healthy acceptance.

I'm all for free speech and straight talking - which is why I object to these terms. A muffin top is fat. It's fat that sits in a particular way because some fashion designer who hasn't seen a woman with more than 18% body fat in 30 years decided that low cut, narrow fit waistlines that only stay up if they are restrictively tight were a good plan.

When we call that a "muffin top" we aren't "saying it how it is", we are dressing it up in cutesy language to try and hide the fact that we are saying "abdominal fat". Because it's rude to say things like "you need to wear a tunic top to hide your abdominal fat", which is a perfectly normal and healthy part of your body. But when you say "muffin top" that is exactly what you mean, you know it, everyone knows it. It's like starting a sentence with "no offence but..." if you don't want to be offensive, don't say the offensive thing!

Your body is normal and OK

Which leads me to the next thing. These are normal features of the body. They are not anomalies or imperfections. "Bingo wings" can be the loose skin that is left after major fat loss - good on you for losing that weight, that's a tough journey. Or it's a sign that your arms have been around for a long time - way to go for rocking your bad self for so long! I also meet a lot of women who claim to have "bingo wings" but actually, that's just your arm dude. Seriously. Even the strongest, leanest, most toned biceps will flap about if you relax them. It's all good.

A language of misogyny

You might also notice that I am talking a lot about women, and there is a reason for that. Almost all of these terms have been coined to describe women's bodies. They are almost exclusively still used for that purpose. I've spent a few days mulling this over, and I can only think of two body parts "nickname" that seems to have originated from men's bodies (that's "beer belly" and "moobs"if you were wondering).

[I will concede that I have heard people refer to men's "muffin tops", but always in the context of deriding their male body further by using "feminine" terminology - "moobs" also does this]

So the issue goes deeper. It's not just about unrealistic expectations for our bodies, it's not just about talking about bodies with respect, it's also about misogyny, and internalised misogyny, where women's bodies in particular are criticised and scorned.

When we devalue our bodies, or constantly apologise for the space we take up, we are failing to claim the respect we deserve as human beings.

The teaching moment

So here's my message for today.

If you use these terms to describe yourself, I would like you to consider changing it up and being straight with yourself. It's fat, or water retention. It's the shape of your legs right now, it might not be your favourite, but it is what it is. Try dropping these terms from your vocab for a couple of weeks and see how much better you feel.

If you use them to describe other people, ask yourself why. There's no competition here, no need to compare your body to anyone else's. If they have fat where you don't, you don't get a prize. Being accepting of other people's bodies also helps you accept your own.

Lastly, if you are a trainer, please, please don't use these terms to your clients, it's just nasty - even when light hearted. Let's not advertise our services as "blast that muffin top today", let's not talk to our clients about "getting rid of your bingo wings". Lets achieve healthy body composition, get stronger, improve muscle definition. We all learned anatomy when we qualified, so let's use it, and lets model straightforward, accepting language for the people we are trying to help.

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