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Trimming the fat from “fat talk”

14th March 2007

Trimming the fat from “fat talk”

Years ago when I first set out to and successfully lost weight, I worked in an office dominated by middle-aged women with children. I was a sort of anomaly, 22 and childless, but we all soon became compatriots in the battle of the bulge.

At first the weight came off slowly. But after a few months, I’d be confronted by fat middle-aged women in the break room at the water machine, passing by in the hall, even in the bathroom. I was like Oz, the wizard of weight loss and they all desperately wanted to know my secrets.

A look behind the curtain, of course, would reveal a cycle of purging and eventually, fasting, but I kept these things to myself and dispensed the mantra of Dr. Atkins like some Machiavellian girl scout.

Inspired by my loss, it wasn’t long after that the Atkins craze hit my company with hurricane-gale force. We commiserated over the sad and tragic loss of bread from our newly instituted low-carb diets. We exchanged recipes on how to make low-carb pumpkin mousse that, if you close your eyes and imagine really hard, kinda-sorta-not-really tasted like pumpkin pie. Countless recipes were devised using pork rinds.

It wasn’t until some time after I left the company I realized, I never really liked my job. But I sure missed my old “friends.”

MSNBC reported today on a fact that all women have been aware of since at least middle school: that we bond over “fat talk.” A study conducted by researchers at Appalachian State University revealed that women feel pressured to expose negative things about their bodies in a group of females engaging in “fat talk.”

“Because women feel pressured to follow the fat talk norm, they are more likely to engage in fat talk with other females,” said study co-author Denise Martz. “Hence, women normalize their own body dissatisfaction with one another.”

This is news? I mean, it isn’t as if women’s magazines and television commercials don’t already overflow with articles on celebrity weight-loss tips, diet plans, and features on dressing thinner. Hallmark even prints weight-loss motivation cards.

Dieting, besides being a multi-million dollar industry, has become a female bonding rite-of-passage. Oprah’s viewers cheered when she “victoriously” slid into those size-10 Calvins.

Maybe it’s because Brandon, Lisa and my sister Megan are now my only real “close” friends and none of us really care about the size of our thighs. Or it could be because my coworkers and I are just too busy reporting the news to engage each other in chats about our chub. But I don’t really find myself drawn to “fat talk” like I was before.

There are so many better and more productive things to be concentrating on.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2007 at 2:29 pm and is filed under Body Image, Feminist Topics, Food News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 7 responses to “Trimming the fat from “fat talk””

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  1. 1 On January 25th, 2008, dEbO said:

    I agree that “fat talk” is a bonding opportunity for girls, especially in those jr. hi and high school clique-ish years. Being a fat girl and a tomboy besides, I never learned the whole girl-to-girl routine that other girls seemed to get instinctively. As a result, the times when I was with a group of girls–their actions and words made them often seem quite foreign to me.
    I worked at a fast-food place and there was a group of girls there who would pal around together and one time they (all thin, pretty girls) were complaining about how fat they were. They each in turn made a comment such as “Oh, I really need to lose 10 pounds” or “I cannot stand my thighs!”
    I was overweight and had been since the beginning of puberty. I think now that I felt the shift in expectations of me, now that I was getting older and my tomboy ways were beginning to get frowned upon! I never saw myself as being “fat” until I was older, after years of having my FATNESS pointed out and commented on by anyone and everyone!
    But I digress….this particular day when the girls were all criticizing their weight and their ugly thighs and etc, I piped up and said, “I’m not fat.”
    This sent all of them into gales of giggles. I could tell that the absurdity of that statement–to them–was hilarious because of course they all knew that they didn’t really need to lose weight but you were never supposed to SAY that and here I was–chubby little DEB saying that I WASN’T fat well what a JOKE!! They laughed and laughed and laughed. They laughed so hard and so long that I began to get a little bit PISSED OFF! Obviously, 30 years later and I still recall their laughter and my disgust at them. Bitches.

  2. 2 On May 19th, 2008, Sticking up for ourselves » The-F-Word.org said:

    [...] towards the weight-loss and calorie-counting and general body disparagement talk otherwise known as “fat talk.” (I mention the womens’ ethnicities only because I feel this shows how “fat talk” [...]

  3. 3 On May 20th, 2008, Stan said:

    Does your newspaper’s copy desk let you use words like “ethnicities”?

  4. 4 On May 20th, 2008, Rachel said:

    So, Stan, out of my entire post, the only thing you picked up on was the use of the word ethnicities? I bet you’re one of the grumpy readers who always writes complaining letters to the editor, too.

    I prefer to use ethnicities over race because there is no biological basis for race. Ethnicities refers to a specific culture or region or kinship system, whereas race is an imagined biological construct.

  5. 5 On July 24th, 2009, Chewing the fat (talk) » The-F-Word.org said:

    [...] Her Facebook status updates often reflect these insecurities which, of course, invites even more fat talk comments from her FB friends. Call me insensitive, but I’d rather not be a team player in [...]

  6. 6 On October 19th, 2009, Because friends don’t let friends ‘fat talk’ » The-F-Word.org said:

    [...] in such toxic self-loathing otherwise known as fat talk.  Studies have confirmed that women bond over fat talk and the more we partake in it, the more “normal” it becomes — but it [...]

  7. 7 On March 10th, 2010, Health for the Whole Self » Friends Don’t Let Friends Fat Talk said:

    [...] – we ladies actually bond over bashing our bodies. There’s even some science behind it: researchers at Appalachian State University conducted a study that revealed that women feel genuine pressure to say negative things about their bodies when [...]

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