‘Fat talk.’ We’ve all either heard it or done it ourselves. It seems to be part of a common, understood language between many women. It is a conversation that starts with an insecurity, is carried by comparison and generally ends with everyone feeling just a little worse.
Well, new research shows that wallowing in fat talk may be comforting but not all that smart. In a study published in the new issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly, researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison found that nearly all college-aged women- 93 percent- engage in ‘Fat talk.’
Even thought most women do it, the researchers found that many of us do so even when the evidence doesn’t back us up. Looking at 186 undergraduate women at Northwestern University, and asked them to self-report their weight and heights. With the measurements they gave, the researchers calculated out their BMIs and then monitored their online conversations.
After collecting the data, researchers found that even those who were not overweight engaged frequently in ‘Fat talk’ and that the more they had those conversations, the more they continued to express dissatisfaction with their bodies. In the immediate though, women told researchers that ‘Fat Talk make them feel better.
So what’s the explanation for the seemingly two contradictory responses? Well, the researchers’ report says that it found women relate to each other even if the thought they are planting is one of self-doubt.
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.
Reading through the study, I wondered if the study would have gotten different results if the group examined was not from Northwestern but Spelman or Howard instead. It would be an interesting indicator to see if women of color provide an environment to foster self-doubt or sought to shun ‘Fat talk’ instead.
What do you think Clutchettes- do sisters do ‘Fat Talk’ too? Share your thoughts!