Body Talk

Gisele Mario Testino towel

I was intrigued to read an article in the New York Times this past week about summer camps that have a “no body talk” rule, which requires campers to “take a break from mentioning physical appearance, including clothing.”   The rule disallows “body talk,” no matter whether it is positive, negative, or neutral, about oneself or others.

I had never heard of such a rule, and it really struck me.  

At one camp in particular, Eden Village, signs are posted on the mirrors saying, “Don’t check your appearance, check your soul.”  And when campers there are gussied up for Sabbath services where they wear all white, they don’t comment on each other’s appearances, but rather say things like, “Your soul shines” or “I feel so happy to be around you” or “Your smile lights up the world.”

As someone who cares about both the inner and outer world, this concept really gave me pause. I often comment on both my children’s appearances (both my son and daughter) and frequently compliment them on some aspect of how they look or what they’re wearing.  Of course, I comment on the type of people they are, like how kind they are or whether they have done a good job sharing, but I assumed that positive focus on their appearance would also help lead to self esteem.

It was interesting to read that many families who send their children to these camps end up adopting the “no body talk” rule at home and that one camper felt that her friends at camp love her for who she is, presumably in part because of this rule.  There were a few people in the article who argued against such a rule, but the whole thing really made me stop and think.

I’m still working through my feelings about all of this, and I’d love to hear what you think.  What do you think of a “no body talk” rule?  Is it something you’d use in your own family?

Photo via We Heart It


  • Sandra Camp

    ali- this is so very interesting. thank you for posting this. i saw this post yesterday and have not stopped thinking about it. i had to really let this sink in and really stop to ask myself- how do i feel about it? i don’t know if i strongly hold one side or the other. but i do know this. having two girls- i am very conscious about body talk in our house. payton as of late asks me often why i work out so much. i tell her that working out is important for me because it is something i do for MYSELF, i love feeling strong and i love making myself healthy. this is true- i do enjoy the benefit of getting toned and being a certain size- but in the end i love the strength and knowing i am making myself healthy. but it always makes me stop and wonder what is she thinking- am i doing all i can to have her understand the difference between caring about physical appearance and living a healthy lifestyle. when you posted this i immidaately thought about payton. she isn’t as into athletics as she is creative. she loves art, crafts, and she loves fashion. she loves to look at beautiful things and she LOVES to pick out her outfits- while i agree with focusing on things other than outward appearance- my commenting on her outfit how cute she looks- i feel is rewarding to her- supporting something that makes her happy that she “created”. so i do not feel i am doing her a disservice by doing this- but i do try to balance it with talking about things like kindness. after 12/14 KINDNESS has been a big part of our everyday lives in this town. and we talk a lot about random acts of kindness, etc. i think this article really made me realize that it is so important to continue that and be even more aware…… (again, great post- and thank you for making me stop and think!)

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Sandra. It’s definitely a lot to think about. I agree that this is much more of an issue for girls because our society puts so much value on how girls look (as opposed to so many other qualities). And, unfortunately, it’s not always in the service of what’s healthy. It never occurred to me that commenting on appearance at all might be doing a disservice to our kids, and it’s something I want to think about more. Given how much angst growing kids (and especially girls) can have about their bodies, I certainly do not want to contribute to that in my own kids.