What is fat talk? It’s any disparaging dialogue about your body or weight. These can either be negative comments (“I hate my stomach”) or positive ones (“Ugh, thank goodness I lost weight so now I can fit into my skinny jeans!”)[i]
Fat talk is a contagious type of conversation that most girls and women engage in. If we’re not directly disparaging our bodies, then we listen to other women do it. We participate in conversations that focus solely on our bodies, not our minds.
Fat talk is really about wanting to be someone other than who you are right now. Fat talk is the OPPOSITE of feeling empowered and having confidence.
Fat talk leads to negative internal dialogue such as: “I wish my nose was straighter . . . my hair curlier . . . I wish I was taller, skinnier, blonder, tanned . . . I wish, I wish, I wish. I wish I was different.” Because for some reason you think your life will be better if only you could obtain those things.
Right now, stop and think about how often you engage in these types of conversations on a daily basis. How often do you negatively comment on your appearance?
- The. Time
These conversations occur among women all the time. At parties, in the hallway, on the bus, in the grocery store, at the gym, in line at Starbucks or Tim Hortons, and definitely in the change room of The Gap or Forever 21. We use fat talk as a way to gain validation from our peers, in the hopes that they’ll say “Oh, no, you’re not fat.” We also use fat talk to fit in.
The more often you hear fat talk, the more likely you’ll engage in it, and the greater the chances you’ll really start believing this nonsense.
We are obsessed with our bodies and social media only fuels our insecurities. Our quest for the thin ideal[ii] has narrowed our range of topics of conversation to our bodies. But we are more than just our bodies. We are more than our skinny jeans, our fad diets and kale smoothies. We can be more than the latest celebrity cookbooks or patchouli-mint scented candles.
- Never, ever fat talk in front of your children. It’s damaging beyond belief.
- Stop comparing your body and your features to other people’s. (I know it’s easier said than done.)
- Turn fat talk into career talk. Start talking about other more important issues with your friends. We are capable of discussing issues beyond food, nutrition, diet, our bodies, and skinny jeans. Let’s talk about fulfilling our potential, working on our dreams and hanging out with women who inspire us, not just women we want to look like.
- Participate in the “friends don’t let friends fat talk” movement[iii] which aims to replace negative talk with more useful positive affirmations. When you hear fat talk among your friends, you MUST INTERRUPT the talk (or what we like to call the “script.”) Acknowledge the destructiveness of this type of dialogue and then change the topic to your career!
- Recognize that fat talk is harmful, it leads to body shaming, body dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviors.[iv] It’s a sad fact that 90% of girls want to change an aspect about themselves, only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful and 60% of women withdraw from life activities because they’re uncomfortable with their appearance [v]
- When you get a compliment, don’t deflect, don’t self-deprecate, just say “thank you.” And if you need comedic convincing, watch Amy Schumer’s video “Compliments”—a valuable use of three minutes of your day.
- Write down all the times you’ve unconsciously engaged in Fat Talk this week.
- Describe a time you interrupted the script and challenged Fat Talk by others.
- Eavesdrop on some conversations among women in coffee shops or retail stores, how often do you hear women engaging in Fat Talk?
[i] Mimi Nichter, Fat Talk: What Girls and Their Parents Say About Dieting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000).
[ii] Lauren Williams and John Germov, “Constructing the Female Body: Dieting, the Thin Ideal and Body Acceptance” in A Sociology of Food and Nutrition: The Social Appetite, 3rd edition (Victoria, Australia: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 329–62).
[iv] See 2012 articles by Renee Engeln in Psychology of Women’s Quarterly or Sex Roles.