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Fat Talk

By Deborah Etienne-Ward

 

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Friend 1: “Ugh, I hate my thighs”?

Friend 2: “What’s wrong with your thighs?”

Friend 1: “They are so fat”

Friend 2: “Oh please, you have no fat”

Friend 1: “Yes I do, look!”

Friend 2: “OMG (Oh My God) there’s nothing there. If you think you are fat then I am huge!”

Does this sound familiar? This is an example of fat talk. Fat talk is the comments that you say to other people about your body. It usually involves negative criticisms of your body. However, it may also consist of discussions about changing your body shape by dieting or participating in exercise. Fat talk is extremely common amongst women. One study found that 93% of women admitted to engaging in fat talk. Moreover, 29% of women reported that they engage in fat talk frequently (Salk & Englen-Maddox, 2011).

Fat talk occurs due to society’s idealisation of a thin body shape. Thin bodies are often associated with self-control, health, and success. There is a false belief in western culture that the thin ideal is achievable through diet and exercise. This belief of course discounts that fact that body shape and size is largely pre-determined by genetics.

Fat talk often leads to re-assurance from friends about one’s body shape. Many women report this helps them to feel better about themselves in that moment. However, fat talk also has negative consequences. Research has shown that fat talk is related to perceived pressure to be thin, decreased body dissatisfaction, increase drive for thinness, and higher rates of depression (Arroyo & Harwood, 2012; Warren, Holland, Billings, Parker, 2012). Fat talk also increases body dissatisfaction among people who hear fat-talk (Gapinski, Brownell, and LaFrance, 2003). Research has suggested that reducing fat talk may decrease negative views of oneself (Warren, Holland, Billings, Parker, 2012).

How can we help to reduce fat talk?

  • Consider the pros and cons of engaging in fat talk. Any pros that you identify are the barriers that you will need to face in order to stop your engagement in fat talk. Any cons will be your motivators for change.
  • If people start to engage in fat talk conversations you could let them know you do not wish to engage in such conversations or try to change the topic.
  • Think about your body in terms of what it does for you, rather than how it looks.

If you feel that you have body image concerns and would like to discuss these with one of our psychologists please feel free to contact us.

 

References

Arroyo, A., & Harwood, J. (2012). Exploring the causes and consequences of engaging in fat talk. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40(2), 167-187. doi:10.1080/00909882.2012.654500

Gapinski, K.D., Brownell, K.D., & LaFrance, M. (2003). Body objectification and “fat talk”: Effects on emotion, motivation, and cognitive performance. Sex Roles, 48, 377-388. doi: 10.1023/A:1023516209973

Warren, C.S., Holland, S., Billings, H., & Parker, A. (2012). The relationship between fat talk, body dissatisfaction, and drive for thinness: Perceived stress as a moderator. Body Image. 9(3), 358-364. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2011.08.003

Salk, R.H., Englen-Maddox, R. (2011). If You’re Fat, then I’m Humongous!”: Frequency, Content, and Impact of Fat Talk Among College Women.  Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35(1), 18-28. Doi:10.1177/0361684310384107