Q: I ate so much junk food this week, I feel like I gained ten pounds! How can I get more willpower?
A: Hold it right there. That’s FAT TALK.
Q: Everyone says stuff like this. What’s the big deal?
A: True, this kind of language is pervasive. But it’s toxic. And you can do something to stop it.
We hear statements like these all the time:
- I shouldn’t be eating this.
- I’m going to order the burger/eat this chocolate, it’s my cheat day.
- That girl would be so pretty if she just lost some weight.
- I wish I could be as thin as Lady Gaga/choose your own celebrity.
- You look amazing! How much weight have you lost?
- You think you’re fat? Look at my love handles!
- I’m so fat. I’m disgusting.
- I’m too fat to wear a swimsuit.
- My thighs/butt/stomach/face are so big/round/chubby.
Even if you haven’t spoken these words, you’ve no doubt heard them among friends, family, classmates, and coworkers. I guarantee that once you start listening for fat talk, you’ll notice it everywhere.
In one brief, breezy statement, fat talk does a lot of damage. It perpetuates an unrealistic ideal of the perfect, thin body. The more we thoughtlessly talk about the “ideal” body, the more pressure we put on ourselves and others to strive for unattainable physical perfection. Fat talk creates an environment that normalizes body dissatisfaction. Body dissatisfaction has huge costs--financially, psychologically, culturally-- to individuals and society. In addition, body dissatisfaction sets the stage for extreme and harmful eating behaviors which may develop into full-blown eating disorders.
You want to fight fat talk? Start by simply choosing NOT to talk in this way. It will take some practice, but when you have these types of thoughts, try not to speak them out loud.
To become a black belt in body positivity, practice verbally confronting or countering fat talk. This will feel awkward at first. You can choose to:
"I wish I could be as skinny as you!"– "You’re wonderful just the way you are!"
Point out its costs:
"I’m trying to get rid of these fat rolls." – "I’m trying not to comment on people’s bodies. I think we already get too many messages about unrealistic body ideals that are more harmful than helpful."
Shut it down:
"You look amazing! How much weight have you lost?" – "Thank you…Did you watch the game last night?"
Check out this sticky note I saw on a magazine at the Target check-out line:
If you’re ready to be a body positive samurai, make your own sticky notes and put them wherever you want people to take notice. Or try NOT photoshopping your images on social media, forward only body positive articles and messages via email or social media, or commit to not engaging in fat talk for a certain period. Get creative!