You've probably done it. Maybe even this past weekend. Hell, maybe even today. It always starts out innocently enough. One person says, "Oh my god, I feel so fat today. All I had yesterday was two million slices of pizza" or "I am going to roll down the steps of the UN because I am a perfect circle." This is then greeted by the typical rejoinders from another person. "I ate so much yesterday, too! I ate a whole house!"
It's sad, but true. Such talk, ("fat talk" as it's called in the research community), has becomes an almost ritualized part of being a woman. It permeates all aspects of your life. Case meets point: This author once took an exercise class, where the instructor yelled, "What do you want to eat for lunch?" and the class would have to chant back "A seed! A seed!" Talk about dangerous motivation.
But we live in the real world here, so as always, there's good news and bad news. The perennial hating on oneself for being "fat" and eating "too much" does tail off slightly as we get older. The bad news is it gets replaced by something else — "old talk." According to a recent study that appeared in the Journal Of Eating Disorders, "fat talk" occurs in 81 percent of women, but after you get to the age of 61, the frequency of such talk drops (yay!)...and is replaced by concerns about your age (boo). Example of such concerns:"Why do I have so many wrinkles?" or "When did I turn into such an old lady?".
And sure, many of us do it. But it's still self-hate. And it's harmful. According to the Psychology of Women Quarterly, women who tell each other how fat they are "face greater dissatisfaction with their bodies and are more likely to have internalized an ultra-thin body idea," despite the fact that "fat-talk" rarely has any correlation with the woman's BMI.
So, why do we do it? Are we trying to bond with each other over our insecurities (cue Mean Girls)? Are we trying to gain ablution from our friends for eating what we want? Are we fishing for compliments ("Shut up, you are not fat!")? It's probably some mix of all of the above. But, the issue is made further confusing as the same study also contends that a majority of women who hate on their bodies with their friends do it because they think it is helping them get over their insecurities and make them feel better. So, basically, the conversations we're having to improve our sense of well-being are actually doing us harm. Not great.
That doesn't mean all is lost, though, and that we all have to fall into a shame spiral of "fat talk" followed by "old talk," right up to the ends of our lives. Because, while engaging in these kinds of conversations can be actively damaging, being aware of their harmfulness can help. After all, we'll always have something to complain about or pick at, right? But whether or not we succumb to those darker thoughts us up to us. Because we all have more meaningful ideas and stories to bond over than our (gracefully) aging faces and the seed we'd like to eat for lunch. So, now you go. What would you replace that negative talk with, in a perfect world?
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures