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“These jeans make me look fat!”
“I wish I had your thighs.”
“My diet starts tomorrow!”
Fat talking — the tendency to make negative comments about our bodies — is a tried-and-true staple of female culture. Today, researchers are just beginning to study why we do it, and how it affects the way we feel about our bodies and ourselves.
In the early 90s, anthropologist Mimi Nichter, Ph.D., unexpectedly stumbled onto fat talk while she was studying teen girls. During a series of focus groups, she noticed that they all reported a familiar ritual: One girl would say, “I feel so fat,” and the other would respond with, “You’re not fat!” The exchange was a normal part of daily life; the girls repeated it over and over throughout the day.
Once Nichter started listening for fat talk (a term she coined), she realized the ritual was commonplace, peppering many women’s conversations.
Chances are, you’re one of those women.
Meet the Fat Talkers
A 2011 study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly found that an “overwhelming majority of women” — 93 percent to be exact — reported engaging in fat talk. A third of them reported fat talking frequently.
“Fat talk is everywhere,” says Nichter. Mothers say it to daughters; daughters say it to mothers; girlfriends say it to boyfriends; friends say it to friends. We hear it on TV, read it in magazines and overhear it on the street. Once you notice it, it really is everywhere.
Surprisingly, most women who fat talk aren’t fat.
In fact, most of the women who report frequent fat talking are a normal, healthy weight. Heavier women do feel pressure to join in when their friends are fat talking, but actually participating may hit too close to home.
If you are interested in this you’ll Love the essay by Jenny Stahl on “Banning Bitchfests” the circles of debasement that women love to form, check it out!