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.
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.