A few weeks ago, I decided to go dress shopping with a girlfriend. We were both in Nordstrom’s dressing room trying on the exact same dress. We’re both what people would probably consider ‘fat’. She’s short, and I’m tall and she’s a 14 and I’m a 12. Unfortunately my dress was a bit too tight in the butt area, and her’s was too tight in the hip area.
We both lamented about how the dress didn’t fit either of us. Then came the “fat talk”.
I hate my butt.
She hates her hips.
I wish I had her hips.
She wishes she had my butt.
Neither one of us wants the fat.
Fat talk between girlfriends is nothing new. Psychologists have labeled it a bonding ritual, but some are fearful that it could set the stage for eating disorders among younger girls. Some researchers have found that fat talk is so embedded in women that it often reflects not how the speaker actually feels about her body but how she is expected to feel about it.
From The Huffington Post:
Fat talk is a way to gain affirmation from our peers. The most common type of fat talk is the typical exchange where one person says, “I look so fat” and the second person responds with “You’re not fat! You’re beautiful. I’m the one who’s fat.” And so on.
Fat talk is a form of impression management. Women do it to fit in with the perceived social norm, and to let other women know that they are not vain or conceited. In effect, self-denigration through fat talk is our way of saying “I don’t think I’m better than anyone else.”
Fat talk is a way to assuage guilt. Another common type of fat talk is apologizing or making excuses for eating certain foods or failing to exercise. (“I’m sorry but I haven’t eaten all day and I’m going to inhale these fries,” or “I skipped the gym today because I’m such a fatass.”)
Fat talk is deceptive. In studies, most women report that hearing fat talk made them feel better or reassured. People find it helpful to be reminded that they are not the only ones struggling with body image or weight management. Unfortunately, fat talk is associated with greater body image dissatisfaction and thin-ideal internalization, or a stronger belief in the idea that thin is beautiful. While you may think it helps, it isn’t actually good for you to constantly hear that your normal or underweight friends consider themselves fat. Because if they’re fat, then what does that make you?
Fat talk is harmful to society at large because it reinforces and perpetuates the normalization of body image dissatisfaction, and it may actually silence those with positive body image.
Fat talk has also been recognized as a risk factor for eating disorders.People who have eating pathology are more likely to take fat talk seriously, and may use it as a way to legitimize their pathological beliefs about weight and body shape.
Jillian Michaels said,“Fat talk is transcending…. It affects your reality and damages you professionally, personally, and physically.”