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Why You Should Stop The "Fat Talk"

By +Carolyn Richardson on Jun 04, 2013 10:00 AM in Healthy Eating

Nobody really wants to hear you bash your (or anyone else’s) body. Whether it seems positive or negative, any speech that gives preference to a certain body size or appearance is a bad thing. Recent research sheds new light on what we already know: fat talk is detrimental to your health.

What is Fat Talk?

Fat talk is body-specific speech that focuses on the size, shape, weight, or appearance of someone’s body in relation to being fat or thin. In our quest to reach a healthy weight, all too often we have conversations that are not useful to our quest for a healthy lifestyle. Specifically, comparing, sizing up, or otherwise criticizing your or other’s bodies has nothing to do with being healthy and could actually reinforce negative body image.

Nobody Likes a Fat Talker

You know there are thin people who eat terribly and don’t workout, and on the other hand, there are those who are overweight who eat balanced diets and workout daily. Just the same, there are thin people who are fat-talkers and overweight people who have a healthy body image, but no matter what size you are, nobody likes a fat talker. Notre Dame’s Body Image and Eating Disorder Lab recently conducted research that tested college-age women who either had positive weight-related talk vs. those who engaged in “fat talk.” No matter their size, the fat talkers were rated less likeable than those who had positive body talk. So, whether you’re overweight or thin, don’t feel as though it’s ok to talk about body image in a disparaging way.

Fat Fears are Contagious

Aside from hurting your own or others’ self esteem, another reason not to engage in fat talk is because it may actually make it harder for you to accept the body you’ve got. Body Image recently published a report that outlined the power of literature in influencing body image. Even reading people’s negative thoughts about their bodies can affect your own self-esteem. How much more would face-to-face interaction about insecurities make you pick yourself apart. Don’t spread the poision. And remember, it doesn’t matter what size you are, fat talk is not good for you. A separate study found women who feared becoming fat had rated their image lower than women who simply wanted to be thin. This suggests that fat talk may actually make you feel more insecure about your weight. What’s more, consistent fat talk could inhibit you or others from taking the necessary steps to get healthy. 

How to Respond to Fat Talk

Many of us engage in fat talk out of routine, or we're just responding to others’ fat talk, but either way it’s trouble for anyone involved. The so-called “thin ideal” promotes the faulty assumption that people who are “skinny” are healthy, more beautiful, or more desirable than their larger counterparts. To turn the fat talk on its head and promote healthy talk about weight, flip the script. Instead of reacting to your or others’ negative comments about size, shape, or weight, focus on the intrinsic rewards of leading a healthy lifestyle. By applying how you as an individual feel better, are more confident, or have more energy than you once did, you're shining the light on the real reason why getting healthy is good for you.

Tips to Counter Fat Talk

Don’t compare your body or weight loss goals to others.

Accept compliments about your body and don’t counter them with mention of certain body parts or size or weight-related talk.

Talk about improvements in fitness and health related to healthy habits, i.e. eating healthier makes me more focused, I have more energy since I’ve started working out, etc.

Celebrate reaching goals of being healthy instead of numbers. 

Your thoughts... 

How have you overcome fat talk to focus on a healthy lifestyle?



Many "jolly" overweight people use self-depricating "fat-humor" as a foil, a defense, a disarming tool. I know. I did it. It is difficult not to measure yourself and others against the judgemental societal stereotypes that we are constantly exposed to. We celebrate "multicultural lifestyle inclusiveness" in almost all areas and instances EXCEPT when it comes to body weight, shape and size, especially if you are the (other) "F" word. It's hard to do but you just have to ignore it as much as possible. It's all a matter of being comfortable in your own skin.

I like this! :)

I didnt realize I was a fat talker. Not a lot, but when people say complimentary things, I just have to say- thank you- and smile. That's it! No more I have lots more to go, or when asked about how much more to go, just say we will see where my healthy lifestyle takes me.

I really don't care about 'body image', or whatever.  I want to lose a bit of weight because it's uncomfortable and unhealthy to be overweight.  So, if conversations about health come up, I might mention that, to reinforce my resolve to do so.  I think people are insanely obsessed with appearances.

Food for thought. Haha. Yes I like this and will try to put it into practice. Thanks

I've recently become intrigued with a movement called Body Positivity. My new mantra: You're not beautiful despite your body, you're beautiful because of your body. All of it.

I'm still trying to lose weight, because I want to increase my stamina and get back my agility & flexibility. But you know what? I'm going to wear sleeveless dresses and love my upper arms. I'm going to wear slinky dresses and love my belly. I'm going to take pictures of myself and love my chin. These bodies we have? They're amazing. Appreciate them. Love them.

(And if you're having trouble with this thought [and we all have bad days sometimes], take a look at this blog post written by a lovely lady in AZ: ell-fat-girls-so-i.html)

I'm a horrible fat-talker! Not towards others but myself. Growing up overweight,  I just assumed it would be easier for me to beat the other kids to the punch by fat-talking myself.  I've noticed that I will compare my body to any and every woman to see how I size up.  Thanks for this post! It gave me some new areas to focus on; stop fat-talk, accept my body for the way it is and not compare it, and most definitely learn to accept a compliment.  I've come a long way since middle/high school, but it's something that I really need to work on more. 

Great article! As a personal trainer, I have become very aware of what I say to people. Its interesting how we will say "did you lose weight" when that can be a fat talker statement! In my journey I have lost over 50 lbs, and I have also received those comments. It made me re-evaluate what I say to others.

I now say "Are you toning up?" or "You look great, what have you been doing?" instead of "Have you lost weight?"

I find that if people are working on their nutrition (not diet) and exercising, they are excited to share that. If they haven't done anything, they appreciate the compliment. 

gosh you all said so many things i feel too...i hate when people constantly ask me if i have lost more weight or bothers me just makes me aware that i havent althou i am maintaining but when i hear that question i start to doubt myself and feel horrible... I think too many people love to judge us for the number and not how we are feeling or looking now this post it was needed..thanks

Yes, my counselor calls me on it but I didn't understand until I read this article, how damaging it is. I'm now officially on the wagon from fat talk!

Had a good friend who decided to go on a diet to lose weight at the same time I decided to embark on a healthier lifestyle; so clearly we had different goals.  She would ask me almost every day about the amount of weight I had lost.  It went on for the longest time even after I told her that I do not weigh myself daily (like she does and reports to the whole world).  When she realised that I was losing more weight than her, she got discouraged and ate less instead of fitting in exercise into her routine.  She would make disparaging remarks about her body all the time and soon was a drag to be around with. 

This is the article I needed to read! I've been moping around at my nonexistent weight loss when instead I should be celebrating the fact that my increased activity is making me healthier.

Great article it made me stop and think. I have done it a lot but will be more aware in the future. Thanks you.

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