The Skinny on “Fat Talk”

By Caroline – April 1, 2011

“Ugh. I hate my thighs.”
“What are you talking about, your thighs are tiny. And so not as big of a problem as my belly.”
“Your stomach is totally flat! And not dimpled with cellulite, like my thighs. You are so much skinnier than me.”

Sound familiar, ladies? Nearly 93% of college women engage in this kind of “fat talk”. While many women claim that this kind of griping makes them feel better about their bodies, a new study indicates otherwise.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and Northwestern University conducted a study of 186 undergraduate women and their “fat talk” habits. They found that nearly all women participate in some kind of “fat talk”, and about a third of them, regardless of their body mass index, did so frequently.

Women  explain the  banal back-and-forth of “fat talk” as reassuring – that “it helps to know that I’m not the only one who feels bad about my body.” But the study showed that women who complained most often were more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies. While it can be argued that it is women who feel badly about their bodies that are more likely to complain about it, the habit of griping does not do anything to improve self-esteem or overall attitude. The authors write:

“Although social support and empathy are usually viewed as psychologically healthy constructs, constant reminders that one’s normal-weight or underweight friends also feel fat may not be helpful in the long run. Such fat talk simply serves to reinforce the thin body ideal and the notion that disliking one’s body is normative for women. Women come to expect this type of talk from their peers and likely feel pressured to engage in it.”

In order to convert the whining into weight-loss,  make a plan. Turn that complaining companion into a gym buddy, or a diet partner. Having a friend who is in the same boat, and is willing to work alongside you, will support your weight loss endeavors by providing accountability and reassurance.


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