Most of us have done it. I know I have. “I’m so fat,” you might say. Or your friend might complain to you that “my ass looks good in these jeans.” Then we reassure each other that “no, you’re not fat” and “really, you look great.” Fat talk. The recurring dialogue between women talking about how overweight and bad about our bodies we feel.
I read a study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly recently about the hows and whys of womens’ fat talk. They interviewed college women about how they feel about their bodies and their feelings and thoughts about fat talk. The findings and conclusions the study came to were really interesting:
Do overweight women fat talk more than thinner women?
No. The study found no connection between womens’ body size and how often they complained. In fact, thinner women complain more. The study theorized that heavy women are less likely to complain because they don’t want to draw attention to their weight.
Who is fat talking the most?
The women who are the most unhappy with their bodies.
What reason did the women interviewed give for their fat talking?
The women studied said that fat talking relieved stress related to their bad body image. They also do it to be part of a group. Everyone’s talking about it, so they feel obligated to chime in. The study also suggested that women might be feeling bad about a variety of things and zone in on fat talk as a focal point for venting their overall bad feelings. Women might also fat talk before or after eating to provide an “excuse” or “apology” for their guilt about eating.
What did the women say they hoped to gain from their fat talk?
The majority of women wanted to be reassured that they weren’t fat and have their friend(s) compliment them (tell them how good they looked). A much smaller number hoped for emotional support such as advice on how to get thinner/feel better, or an offer to work together (like dieting or working out together). About 25% of the time, women do start working out or dieting together, but it hasn’t been studied whether they keep it up.
Why does fat talk make us feel worse about our bodies?
The study suggested that maybe it’s because the more unhappy we are with our bodies, the more we talk about it. Another possibility is that talking about it makes us feel worse because we are dwelling on it. Even if you don’t bring up the topic, having someone else raise can remind you of your insecurities and make you dwell on the subject, thinking “If she’s fat, then what am I?” Continue reading