“Fat talk” is a bonding ritual that many of us learned at our Mother’s knee. Many of us have participated in fat talk over the years because we felt social pressure to do so. But according to a recent study, moaning about the size of our thighs or asking if our butt looks big, might not be the best move for our social lives.
We’ve long known that fat talk is bad for your self esteem (and the self esteem of those around you). We’ve talked about that in the blog a fair bit. But a recent study led by Alexandra Corning, research associate professor of psychology and director of Notre Dame’s Body Image and Eating Disorder Lab seems to indicate that fat talk may make you less likable to your peers. In the study, college students were shown pictures of noticeably thin and fat women. Each of these pictures depicted women engaged in body talk–either positive body talk or fat talk. Those participating in the study were then asked to rate the women in the photos in a number of dimensions including likability. When the results were tabulated, it seems that women who engaged in “fat talk” were considered less likeable than those who engaged in positive body talk. In fact, according to the study, the fat women who had positive things to say about their bodies were considered the most likeable. This result is very interesting to psychologists who have long thought of fat talk as a way that women “strengthen social bonds”. But the study seems to indicate that women who engage in this behavior may be perceived as less likeable than their peers.
But, and this is a big but*, it’s important to remember this test simply measures personal perception. It doesn’t indicate what is actually happening in a social setting where fat talk is happening or measure anything related to peer pressure. This may explain why many of us may still feel pressured to engage in fat talk even in an environment where we may privately be perceived as less likeable for doing so. And it is only one study.
That said, I am encouraged by the results of this study. I decided long ago to refrain from engaging in fat talk with my friends, family and colleagues. I’ve taken heat for not participating. I’ve been teased for it. But I for one, will choose to believe that I am also secretly liked and respected for my refusal to fat talk. Because believing the best about myself seems to be working pretty well for me so far.
The Fat Chick
*You see what I did there?
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