Posted by on April 27, 2011 - 9:27am

Fat talk (women speaking negatively about the size and shape of their bodies) is a popular phenomenon among college women according to a study done by researchers at U of Wisconsin and Northwestern University.  Rachel Salk and Renee Engeln-Maddox interviewed 168 female students at a midwestern U.S. university.  Their work was published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly.

Fat talk goes like this:

Friend #1:  Yuck, I feel sooo fat!"  Friend #2:  "You look great!"  Friend #1:  "You're just saying that!"   Friend #2:  "How would you like to have my hips!"  etcetera...

The researchers found that most women participating in the study engaged in fat talk with their friends, and a third of them did it frequently, even though (according to their Body Mass Index or BMI) they did not meet the definition of overweight.     Those who complained the most, even if they were thin, had greater dissatisfaction with their bodies according to the study.   This group also bought into the media image of the thin, perfect body.      Many of the young women indicated that fat talk made them feel better because "it helps to know that I'm  not the only one who feels bad about my body".

According to the study, the most common response to fat talk was denial that the friend was fat, most typically leading to a back-and-forth conversation where each of the two healthy weight peers denies the other is fat while claiming to be fat themselves.    "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," say the authors.   They further conclude that "fat talk in not about being fat, but rather about feeling fat."

Readers, perhaps instead of fat talk, we should concentrate on wellness talk!   For example, call up a friend and ask her to take a walk or meet you at the gym because it might be fun and a way to meet some health minded guys!!