Sunday, October 16, 2011

Today is the first day of "Fat Talk Free" Week

This week was set up by the sorority Delta Delta Delta (the Tri-Delts) and is a way to get women (and men too) to stop ragging on ourselves about our bodies and our perceived imperfections and stop focusing so much on weight.

From their website:

Fat Talk describes all of the statements made in everyday conversation that reinforce the thin-ideal standard of female beauty and contribute to women's dissatisfaction with their bodies. Examples of fat talk may include: "I'm so fat," "Do I look fat in this?" "I need to lose 10 pounds" and "She's too fat to be wearing that swimsuit." Statements that are considered fat talk don't necessarily have to be negative; they can seem positive yet also reinforce the need to be thin - "You look great! Have you lost weight?"

The motto of "Fat Talk Free" Week is "friends don't let friends fat talk".

"I believe all women deserve to feel good about themselves. We need to prevent negative body images and get away from this obsession over the thin ideal. We should focus on our health instead of our size and weight," says Stacy Nadeau, a former model for Dove soap's Campaign for Real Beauty.

I had originally planned to make my life a "Fat Talk Free" zone for the entire month of October, but the first thing I did on October 1st was make a comment to a group of friends meeting for a bike ride about how the only reason I was on the bike ride was because I needed to burn the calories instead of staying home and getting fat.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I heard how ridiculous I sounded so I changed fat to 'fatter' in mid-stream and then stammered some more trying to explain myself. But, basically, I felt like an idiot and it was not a good start to what I had been planning on as a "No Fat Talk" month.

I am not sure why we talk to and about ourselves this way. I do think it's good to be realistic about our bodies. I do gain weight this time of year because I'm not working out as much. I need to be on top of this though so that 3-5 pounds doesn't turn into 10-15. But there is a difference between watching what you eat and talking smack about yourself. There's also a difference between being realistic and being obsessed with being a certain weight.

How does fat talk hurt?

When I was obese and some twig complained about her body, I wanted to smack her for not realizing what she had. I also would think "if she thinks she's disgustingly fat, she must think I'm so fat I should just go home and shoot myself."

Now I understand where the normal-weight person who is unhappy with some aspect of her body is coming from. Just because I'm not overweight, doesn't mean I don't sometimes get a little "fluffier" than I like. But I can't imagine referring to myself as a 'fat cow' because I'm softer in the middle than I want to be. That shows a certain lack of perspective in my opinion.

I know some people think this sort of talk is harmless, just a way of women (because it's mostly women who do this) bonding and getting other women to say nice things about them. (You aren't fat! I'm the one who is fat!) But I don't think it's harmless.

You can't call yourself names every day and beat yourself up every time you don't eat optimally or skip a workout and not have that negatively impact you. According to researchers Rachel H. Salk of the University of Wisconsin and Renee Engeln-Maddox of Northwestern University in their study “If You’re Fat, Then I’m Humongous!” Frequency, Content, and Impact of Fat Talk Among College Women:

Study results found that while frequency of fat talk was associated with increased dissatisfaction with women's own bodies, over half of the participants reported that they believe fat talk actually makes them feel better about their bodies. It's concerning that women might think fat talk is a helpful coping mechanism, when it's actually exacerbating body image disturbance.

On a more serious note, fat talk also contributes to eating disorders.

Twenty-five million Americans suffer from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders. According to Jeff Cannon at the National Eating Disorders Association, ninety percent of those sufferers are women. By the way, that's more women than are suffering from breast cancer!

It's also insidious and being pushed down to younger and younger ages:

According to statistics in Margo Maine’s book “Body Wars: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies,” 42 percent of first, second and third grade girls said they wanted to be thinner while nine percent of 9-year-old girls admitted to vomiting in an attempt to lose weight.

But this is the statistic that kills me:

In 2004 and 2005 a study done by Harvard University asked women how they perceived themselves. When asked if they considered themselves beautiful, only 2% said yes.

That is only 64 out of 3,200 women.

I believe we need to take back our body images from the media and start talking nice to ourselves. A good first step is to stop the fat talk. So please visit and sign the pledge!
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