Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fat Talk

As you may already know, I am on a personal crusade to stop fat talking. I've written about this before, but in case you are unfamiliar with what fat talk is, it's basically the shaming of what we look like and what we eat.

Fat talk is extremely counterproductive. For example, people convince themselves that pointing out how "bad" the food is they are eating gives them the "permission" to eat it.  As if they are absolving the sin of chewing. The problem here is that they believe it is a sin in the first place. When we demonize food, when we focus on it constantly, it temps us; it controls us. It also puts us in a perpetual cycle of guilt. This is no way to live!  I'm telling you this as someone who has lived in this cycle for most of my life, and I want out of it.

For the most part, I've been pretty good about not fat talking lately. But, my major obstacle is that fat talk is EVERYWHERE. It happens at work; it happens in social settings; it happens constantly, it seems. The last time I was with a group of girl friends, we spent almost the entire time eating while simultaneously pointing out how "fat" we were being, how unfair it is that some people "can eat whatever they want", how "the diet starts tomorrow". But, did that stop us from eating? No. Did it make us feel bad about ourselves? Absolutely.

In my opinion, fat talk isn't just negatively talking about your body or food. To me, it's the constant obsession and focus on food and body in general -- your own and everyone else's. "Those jeans make you look so skinny" might seem like a compliment, but to me it only reinforces the idea that thinness is what makes you attractive.  Saying "You're being so good today" to someone who is eating a salad again perpetuates this idea that some foods are evil, and that your value and virtue is connected to how much lettuce you eat. Alternatively, I have been told multiple times that I'm "bad" for eating candy at work. SHUT THE FUCK UP, is what I want to scream most of the time, but I can't because I'm in a professional setting.


I do think there is a common misconception that fat talk is a women's issue. Articles and websites dedicated to body image discussions are generally geared toward women (e.g. the article above). And, don't get me wrong, girls' and women's perceptions of themselves are at an all-time low (81% of ten year olds are afraid of being fat). But this bullshit affects men, too.

I got the following message from one of my male friends the other day:
I remember a while back you were talking about being sick of hearing people talk about eating/food shaming/dieting at work.... I can tell you, I work with nearly all dudes and they talk SO MUCH about what they're eating, why they're eating it, the new exercise routine they're doing... it's the worst. In fact, my boss literally just walked by somebody and yelled,  "BETTER STAY OUT THEM GIRL SCOUT COOKIES BOY! SAW YOU SNEAKIN' EM." 
(I'm just going to gloss right over the grammar there.)

I've heard similar stories from a number of my other guy friends as well. One of them told me his coworkers always comment on what he's having for lunch. They even ask him how much he weighs! WTF, people?! Why do we think it's appropriate to talk like this to everyone, including our coworkers, or people we don't even know. Fat talk has become commonplace, and it's insulting and destructive.  I don't believe people are intentionally malicious; they are simply insecure. But we have all got to stop projecting our insecurities on other people. We've also got to stop equating food/weight/etc to self-worth. We're all in this together.

Barely relevant.


Here are some helpful tips to stop fat talk (adapted from www.operationbeautiful.com):

  • Consciously correct yourself if you fat talk. 
  • Don’t compare your body (or food) to others'.
  • Direct conversations away from food or appearance.
  • Disregard/ignore other people's fat talk.
  • Appreciate your body for what it can do
  • Turn a negative into a positive.  Instead of "I’m stocky," try "I’m strong!"
  • Never fat talk front of your kids or friends or coworkers (or anyone, really).
Let me know how it goes!

*Disclaimer: I love food  - looking at it, eating it, and talking about it, but this is only healthy when we do it in a positive, appreciative way.

8 comments:

  1. I have heard a lot of this type of talk directed at what I eat and how I work out. If I eat clean at lunch a co-worker says "ooh look at the fit guy, eating clean, beach season coming up?" or if I am out with friends and get a Reuben (best sandwich ever) and Fries someone will inevitably comment "well you work out all the time, so you can afford to eat poorly" and my favorite is when I eat chips or drink a soda at work I get "oh boy! if you're eating bad than I can too!" -- for the most part I think it is people being insecure and using what I eat or do as some form of an excuse for their habits or making it seem like what I do is unattainable. It also make me overly conscious about anything I eat because I will get a sarcastic comment from whatever I have.

    The thing is, eating a reuben or having a pepsi isn't eating poorly or "bad" - it is eating things I want. I used to deprive myself of the things I wanted and ate "right" but then I would just gorge on something and negate all the "good" I did. Eating should be a pleasurable experience, you should enjoy it, that is one of the things we are spoiled with as a first world society...eat well, eat tasty, eat happy and when you are satiated you stop. You'll feel better, in body and mind.

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    1. It becomes habitual as well, as the same goes for the "scale obsessed" people at the gym. I've been in good shape and in not so good shape in my life, and it's interesting that responses elicited are nearly identical, but presented in different terms (as you had mentioned above). That's the problem with "dieting" as it presents in a modern context is that some foods are inherently "bad". That's silly. It's food. That's how we get our energy to power us through the day.

      Being active and conscious of what you eat and how it makes you feel is what its all about. It's all personal and all relative. If you like to eat something, then go on - eat. And don't let the insecurity of those around you make you feel bad for enjoying it. Societal "norms" are mostly bunk. I love it when non-medical or non-dietitian people engage in the running commentary about health that they're copying and pasting from the latest issue of whatever garbage magazine they saw in the waiting room.

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  2. Loved what Alex Souza said (who IS that guy?!) You two should do your own "Eating Blog". The way both of you write is clean, crisp, to the point with a lot of substance as the basic core. (hey, I just realized that's what you two are saying about eating. Thanks for helping me keep a sound mind (and body) about this thing called eating. ps. LOVE your blog Katie Que. Is there a wayI can get emails when you write something?

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    1. Thank you! Alex and I should definitely combine writing forces like the days of yore at BHS.

      There must be a way to add you to an email list, but I'll have to figure that out. Email me at imyourkatieque@gmail.com and I'll try to set something up!

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  3. Zero fat talk around children, amen! Or anyone I guess! Love this!

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  4. Girl, you gotta befriend some chefs. Never in my life have I been around so many people constantly encouraging me to eat. Reasons to befriend chefs: they do not fat talk; they pretty much always want to talk about how wonderful food is; they feed you; they talk about how much they love feeding you; they don't wanna hear about paleo/keto/low fat/gluten free; they do want to hear about that time you put a fried egg on a slice of pizza; they will like any instagram photo that contains food.

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  5. GIRL, we have GOT to be friends IRL.

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  6. jessi (jumpingJE) pointed me in your direction and i'm glad she did! fat talking is ridiculous; it's all high school shizz that for some reason, continues into adulthood and it's dumb. there, i said it: when you constantly talk about food that way or your body that way, all you're doing is preventing yourself from gaining control over your own health.

    to me, food is fuel. it supplies my body with what i need to repair/rebuild muscle and give me energy. it's why i never demonize carbs or healthy fats like society does - don't you know that your body NEEDS these things to function properly? if you look at these things at the molecular level, one will find that our brain needs carbs for certain processes, our bodies need fat for the certain processes! we just need to stop acting like sheep when the marketing companies who only think of the bottom line (aka how to get more money from us) spew all kinds of garbage about this or that food being "bad" for you. NO, YOU DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND FIGURE OUT WHAT'S RIGHT FOR YOU.

    /endrant.

    i think i got off topic here and now i can't rememeber what the intent of this comment was. but great post LOL sorry about that; i tend to get all fitness jesus-y about stuff like this.

    -kathy
    Vodka and Soda

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