Does a Little Chat Make You Feel Fat?

Women often engage in conversations about their body weight. For most women, this type of discussion is common. Women can think that complimenting a friend while making disparaging remarks about their own physique is beneficial to the other and has no negative consequence for themselves. But experts are finding that this is not so. A recent study involving college women shows that this “fat talk” may actually increase a woman’s dissatisfaction with her own body image. They say that these same women believe that this type of dialogue makes them see themselves in a more positive light when in truth it increases their own negative self images.

Researchers Rachel H. Salk of the University of Wisconsin and Renee Engeln-Maddox of Northwestern University say “The most common response to fat talk was denial that the friend was fat, most typically leading to a back-and-forth conversation where each of two healthy weight peers denies the other is fat while claiming to be fat themselves.”

Another interesting factor revealed in the research showed that although this type of banter had negative implications on a woman’s view of her body image, frequency of “fat talk” had no direct relation to a woman’s body mass index. “In other words, there was no association between a woman’s actual body size and how often she complained about her body size with peers,” Salk and Engeln-Maddox wrote. “These results serve as a reminder,” wrote Salk and Engeln-Maddox, “that for most women, fat talk is not about being fat, but rather about feeling fat.” Overcoming a negative self image is difficult for some women, but these new results show that by simply avoiding this type of conversation a woman may begin to see herself in a better light.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Robyn

    Robyn

    April 1st, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    These types of conversations with other women are next to impossible to avoid. And the more we engage in this type of self detriment then the worse we all end up feeling baout ourselves. The we really pig out! hahaha But seriously I know that when my friends and I get together at least one conversation that night will end up revolving around who is on what diet or doing what exercise and what is working and so on. Sometimes it feels like when will it ever end, aren’t we more than our dress size?!?

  • ANDREW

    ANDREW

    April 1st, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    There have been many instances wherein I’m sitting in a restaurant with my girlfriend and out of nowhere she says “Look at that girl,she s just so perfect. I seem to be putting on weight all the time.” Now it would be fine if you find someone better than you but the fact is that my girlfriend is not fat or anything, she is as slim as a doll and yet she says this! I wonder why women are more prone to negative body issues.

  • GREG

    GREG

    April 2nd, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    i hate it when my girlfriend comes home from many girls nights, she feels bad about herself so now i know what they have all been sitting around talking about

  • Jacqueline

    Jacqueline

    April 3rd, 2011 at 10:06 PM

    Most folks, whatever issues they have or perceive they have get through life just fine until another brings it up. If you think you need to lose a few pounds, then go for a walk instead of complaining. Talking about it is a waste of time. I think some do it just to hear others say they aren’t fat.

  • alicia

    alicia

    April 7th, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    @GREG: Your girlfriend needs a new group of friends. Friends are supposed to lift you up and support you, not drag you down. Girls nights out should be positive, fun and good for your spirit!

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