degrading our bodies and those of others. As a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill Integrated Marketing Communications(IMC) program with an interest in positive body image, I have examined two brilliant articles that delve into the dangers of "fat talk" and "muscle talk" and have provided 3 strategies to combat these degrading practices.
According to a 2014 Huffington Post article, "How Fat Talk Became a Social Epidemic – And How you Can Stop It," the term "fat talk" was coined in 1994 to describe how young women talked about their bodies in a "self-abasing and apologetic" manner. The term was later redefined by Notre Dame psychology professor Alexandra F. Corning as "self-degrading talk about the body, food or eating." Fat talk is a critical element within the phenomenon of "normative discontent" - a term describing how people are socialized to feel and speak negatively about their bodies. If my friend complains about her enormous thighs, I feel compelled to negate her comment and chime in with a complaint about my own body as an expression of empathy. People feel as if they must conform to these practice to provide and receive reassurance, garner acceptance from peers, and interact with others. A study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University reported that around 93% of college women have engaged in fat talk.
Fat talk is as damaging as it is pervasive. Fat talk reinforces the idea that certain body types are inherently bad. This idea, perpetuated by our favorite TV shows, movies, magazines, and clothing companies, instigates a fear and preoccupation with avoiding "fatness" that can quickly escalate into self-loathing. "We're so afraid that our bodies might be perceived as fat," stated "Fat Activist" Lindsey Averill "Fat is literally one of the worst things you can be in our culture, and it comes with so many different prejudices and negative effects, that when we look in the mirror, we're so afraid of crossing over into that category and we internalize that fear into hate." Indeed, Northwestern researchers reported that those engaging in fat talk reported higher levels of body dissatisfaction and guilt than their body-positive counterparts. These heightened dissatisfaction levels are linked to higher rates of disordered eating and eating disorders.
Huffington Post - Rebecca Adams
New York Times - Jan Hoffman
Colleen Daly is a M.S. Candidate in Integrated Marketing Communications at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She is the Co-Founder of Embody Carolina, an organization that trains college students to serve as compassionate and effective allies for those struggling with eating disorders. She is a nationally certified fitness instructor and personal trainer, and body image advocate.