Do you ever go out with friends or a girlfriend and they spend the time critically obsessing about their horrible workouts, their self-perceived body ugliness, or the carb-less misery of a diet they are trying to adhere to while giving you the stink-eye for ordering pizza?
Have you heard the phrase, “I’m so fat,” uttered more than once, and had to stymie an audible sigh?
Does it get bothersome, after a while, to hear about how much they hate their thighs and backside instead of talking about something more positive? Would you rather your girlfriend or gal pal express a little more confidence and degrade themselves less when splitting dessert? You are not alone.
Based on the results of a University of Notre Dame study, recently presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association’s annual conference, no one likes a fat-talker – more specifically a person who constantly, self-disparagingly remarks about their body.
Researchers led by Alexandra Corning – an associate professor of psychology and director of Notre Dame’s Body Image and Eating Disorder Lab – studied college-age women and their reactions to positive and negative body image.
Subjects, made up of 100 female undergrads, were presented with a series of noticeably thin and overweight women engaging in either fat-talk or positive talk about their bodies. They were then asked to rate the women on various dimensions, including likeability.
“The take-home message is that if women engage in fat talk in the hope of enhancing their social bonds, their attempts may have the effect of backfiring,” said Corning. But the habit to fat talk, regardless of their size and shape is pervasive, as nine out of 10 women have been guilty of doing that very thing at least once. Despite the association between fat talk and body dissatisfaction, many women believe fat talk makes them feel better about their bodies.
Self-abasing talk was not found to be a socially endearing quality. It was determined women who incessantly engaged in unflattering fat talk were least liked by their peers regardless of their size. But women rated most likeable were those considered noticeably overweight who made positive statements about themselves.
Corning commented on the results, saying, “Though it has become a regular part of everyday conversation, fat talk is far from innocuous. It is strongly associated with, and can even cause, body dissatisfaction, which is a known risk factor for the development of eating disorders.”
Sure, be concerned about your health if that’s your focus. But to have an unhealthy fixation about not being a size four just because you have this assumption being skinnier will make your life more fulfilling or happier solely based on inches can be exasperating and at times concerning to listeners.
Fat talk can articulate an objectified and largely helpless vision of oneself as part of a stigmatized group – making themselves out to be victims, rating a low self-worth when they think their stomachs are not flat enough.
If you have considered drastic measures to deal with a perceived negative body issue – such as experimenting with anorexia or bulimia, or some other type of eating disorder, you should consider seeking professional medical guidance.
[Image via Shutterstock]