It's not uncommon for women (or even men) to bond with each other over the travails of their appearance: their hair, their clothes, their weight, their fat. Sound familiar? If so, take note. The week of Oct. 16-22 is Fat Talk Free Week. It's a week in which people are encouraged to stop their "fat talk." What is fat talk? It's comments like" I feel so fat in these clothes," or "do I look fat?" It can also be saying to someone else, "You look great, did you lose weight?" This implies that lost weight is the metric of looking good.
Although some women say that such talk makes them feel better, research suggests that in fact the opposite is true. Do you engage in fat talk? If so, here's a challenge: Try not doing it -- for a day, then for a string of days, then for a week. And what better time then during Fat Talk Free week.
If you partake in fat talk, it's in part because our culture encourages it. Through various media (including TV, film, magazine ads and articles), we're all encouraged to think that our bodies should approximate a thin "ideal." And if we don't have that type of body (which the vast majority of us don't), then we shouldn't feel okay about our bodies. Unfortunately, most of us go along with this premise and we dislike our bodies. Fight back against this premise and the way it makes you feel. To help you in this endeavor, Oct. 19 is Love Your Body Day.
Do you love what you see when you look in the mirror? Hollywood and the fashion, cosmetics and diet industries work hard to make each of us believe that our bodies are unacceptable and need constant improvement. Print ads and television commercials reduce us to body parts -- lips, legs, breasts -- airbrushed and touched up to meet impossible standards. TV shows tell women and teenage girls that cosmetic surgery is good for self-esteem. Is it any wonder that 80 percent of U.S. women are dissatisfied with their appearance?
Women and girls spend billions of dollars every year on cosmetics, fashion, magazines and diet aids. These industries can't use negative images to sell their products without our assistance. Together, we can fight back.
While we're on the subject of fat, here's one more thought. Too often in our culture, fat is equated with bad, with being out of shape. But people who are average weight or less aren't necessarily in shape, and people who are heavier aren't necessarily out of shape. For the group Heath at Every Size, the goal is for each person to be healthy and fit, regardless of weight, and to accept their bodies. (Click here to see one overweight woman who is both fit and graceful.)
In fact, a recent study found that overweight adolescent girls who were content with their bodies were less likely to go on to develop binge eating disorder. They were also less likely to gain weight over the 11 years of the followup period. Take home message: Become cynical about the "ideal" body size and shape promoted in our culture and stop your fat talk.
Copyright Robin S. Rosenberg, 2011
Robin S. Rosenberg, Ph.D., ABPP is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Stanford, Calif. Rosenberg specializes in treating people with eating disorders, depression and anxiety. She often writes about the psychology of superheroes and has co-authored several psychology textbooks, including "Abnormal Psychology" and "Introducing Psychology: Brain, Person, Group." To find out more about Dr. Rosenberg and her work, read her Psychology Today blog and visit her on Red Room. For Dr. Rosenberg's brief, easy-to-read guide Improving Your Relationships with Your Body, click here.