The Skinny on Fat-Talk

“Ugh. I look so fat in this”

“Look at this roll”

“I have a spare tire in these jeans!”

“I think I gained 10 pounds over Christmas!”

“I look like a stuffed sausage in this dress!!”

“Look at my thunder thighs, I can’t leave the house in this skirt!”

Sound familiar? If not, you’re probably in the minority. Research shows that most women at one time or another have engaged in this type of self-deprecating banter, which has been coined “fat-talk” by Dr. Mimi Nichter, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and author of ‘Fat Talk:What Girls and Their Parents Say About Dieting’ . Why do we do it? According to Nichter, it is most likely to gain a sense of solidarity with our peers. She also says that it can be a way of expressing frustration about a bad event or bad day. “Saying, ‘I’m so fat,’ is not just about your weight, it’s really a statement about your sense of self at that moment.” It has been well documented that s woman’s emotional state of mind can greatly impact her self image, and that this can change even within a single day.

A study in the March 2011 issue of Psychology Women’s Quarterly showed that 93% of college women engaged in fat-talk with their peers with most believing it made them feel better about themselves. The results of the study showed the opposite. Rachel Falk, the study’s lead author said that “several participants remarked that they want their friends to tell them they’re not fat, but they don’t really believe it when they hear it”. Say something out loud enough times and you’ll start to believe it. This behavior is almost exclusive to women of normal weight or below, most likely because women who are overweight do not necessarily want to call attention to it. So why would “fat-talk” have negative consequences on thin women? Because according to Falk it “results in more body monitoring, which women are already spending too much time doing.”

A more recent study published March 2012 by study researcher Analisa Arroyo of the University of Arizona showed that “the ritualistic conversations about one’s own body or others’ bodies “predicts lower satisfaction with ones’ body and higher levels of depression”. So while the intention may be to seek approval from ones’ group of girlfriends to feel validated, constantly dwelling on perceived or even fictitious flaws may have the opposite effect of convincing oneself of their existence. As a matter of fact, we would all be better off to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Research shows that faking a smile makes you feel happier. Maybe forcing ourselves to reflect on our assets and give ourselves positive affirmation instead of criticism will finally allow us women to feel comfortable in our own skin and believe in our own brand of beauty, even if different from what we’re taught to aspire to. We have better things to talk about with our friends, like who Ryan Gosling is dating now 🙂

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2 Responses to “The Skinny on Fat-Talk”

  1. Suzanne Davis Says:

    Hey there. I just want you to know I love this blog. It’s obviously quite simple but your writing is powerful and moving. And your courage to talk openly about your experience with an eating disorder is truly inspiring. I started a website for empowering women, and today one of our writers wrote a post on her coming to peace with body image. It received more views than any we have ever had. This is a topic that resonates because women need a safe place to talk about it. Would you consider writing a post for Striving Onward on your passion and experience with loving your body? Just think about it? You can email me at and take a look at Lacey’s own powerful account to get an idea of content:

    Also we’re going to organize a Twitter chat for women and body image June 19th 9-10pm ET and would love you to join us!

    Suzanne Davis

    • hungryandmad Says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words! It’s always great to know that people can relate to your thoughts and emotions surrounding these important issues.
      I have actually started a new blog with a broader scope ( but the issues women face surrounding body image and societal and media pressure to conform to manipulated ideals remain very important to me. I would absolutely love to write a post for you and have several ideas. I will look at your site this week and contact you.
      Thanks again,

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