Media Monday: Fat Talk

TEPF Volunteer

I’ve done it, my friends have done it, and maybe you’ve done it too. In fact, according to a study in the Women’s Psychology Quarterly, 93 percent of women in college said they have engaged in it.

It’s a familiar scenario.

You go to the store with your BFF and try on a pair of skinny jeans. Perhaps the jeans in a size you normally wear are too tight and you can barely button them up. You look at yourself in the mirror and grimace. Then you start to feel bad about yourself. You call to your friend in the fitting room next to yours, “These jeans make me look like a cow. I need to go on a diet.” Your friend replies back, “Yeah, me too, I’m so fat.”

A recent article in the New York Times blog, Well, discusses this phenomena. According to the blog, psychological researchers refer to it as “fat talk,” and define it as “the body-denigrating conversation between girls and women.” Apparently it is considered a “bonding ritual” that can “aggravate poor body image” and in some cases it can even set “the stage for eating disorders.”

But research has also found that this “fat talk” is not necessarily how one feels about her body, but it is how she is expected to feel about it.

So how do we ourselves break this habit, or help our daughters or granddaughters to break this?

  1. Don’t engage in it. Change the conversation — don’t give the conversation energy.
  2. When you feel yourself ready to make a negative comment, remind yourself “no negative self-talk
  3. Take the blame away from the self or the body — for example, find some humor: “these pants just don’t get us.”
  4. Stop reading magazines and fashion sites that use fat talk to market to women and girls. Find sites and magazines that affirm women of all shapes and sizes.