Every Monday features a tip, activity, inspiring quote or some other tidbit that helps boost your body image, whether directly or indirectly — and hopefully kick-starts your week on a positive note!
Today I’m celebrating the first day of Fat Talk Free Week by reposting an old piece on 10 ways to stop fat talk for good. (Which I’ve edited and updated a bit.) Fat Talk Free Week was created by Tri Delta sorority. You can learn more about their work here.
How we talk about ourselves to others speaks volumes. It’s wearing self-loathing on your sleeves. It’s showing others that you don’t deserve to take up space. That your “flaws” deserve a spotlight, but your positive qualities don’t.
That your physical appearance is the most important trait about you. That you’re a few parts – your hips, your belly, your legs – and not truly whole.
Whether it’s a comment here and there about your thighs, weight or overall physical appearance or a constant conversation you keep having, fat talk can be damaging to your self-confidence, to your body image.
It becomes a cycle. The more we fat talk, the more negative our body image becomes. The more negative our body image becomes, the more we fat talk.
Basically, no good can come from fat talk, but so much can from stopping it. So, today, I wanted to share a few tips for stopping fat talk.
(By the way, if you didn’t get a chance to, check out my interview with clinical psychologist and researcher Denise Martz, Ph.D, who shared her insight about fat talk.)
- Become aware of your fat talk. Sometimes, we don’t even realize how often we talk negatively about our bodies to others. I used to make negative remarks about myself all the time in grad school, and it really bothered my close friends. The comments were as routine as brushing my teeth, and, well, breathing. So I rarely paid attention to their frequency. Once I did, though, I was surprised and saddened. Figure out how often you bash your body. Be scientific about it, and just observe yourself for a week. Don’t judge. Just observe, and write down the results.
- Pick other topics to talk about. There are so many other topics you can talk about with your friends – fulfilling topics that get at the important stuff. I think that many times we talk about our thighs because we don’t want to talk about our lives. If you’d rather not talk about the deeper topics, go with lighthearted ones. Talk about TV shows, books, hobbies, what makes you happy. I doubt it’s fat talk.
- Consider how fat talk makes you feel. Consider how talking negatively about yourself impacts you. Again, remember that words have power over us, whether you notice it or not. My line when I made any negative remark about myself was that I’m simply stating facts. I’m just tellin it like it is. Maybe. But what I was mostly doing was slowly and deeply chipping away at my self-confidence, and only making myself feel worse and worse.
- Dig deeper. Just like your body image may reveal deeper wounds, so can your fat talk. Figure out what’s behind your fat talk. For instance, my self-deprecating comments revealed an ingrained belief that I wasn’t good enough. They should’ve been my clue to start working on these deeper issues. Let your fat talk be your clue, too.
- Identify your triggers. What precipitates the fat talk? Is it a friend’s comment about herself? Your own negative beliefs? Looking at women’s magazine? Criticism from a family member? Once you can identify your triggers, you can work through them. If a friend initiates the fat talk, ask her where it’s coming from. Talk about why it’s important to stop. If it’s your own inner critic, start working on quieting her. If it’s a family member, tell them how you feel. If it’s a woman’s magazine, become a smarter consumer and learn about airbrushing and the truly unhealthy habits these magazines suggest; and don’t buy them.
- Transform body-bashing into a positive game. If you make a negative comment about your body or your friends do about theirs, decide that everyone will list three attributes they love about themselves right on the spot. This automatically turns the conversation into something positive. It’s so rare that we truly celebrate our qualities.
- Stop the cycle before it starts. It’s natural for a comment or two to slip out occasionally — especially if you’re having a crappy day. That’s OK. Just use that comment as a warning sign, and consciously tell yourself to stop — before you’re swimming in a sea of negativity. If it helps, create a mantra to say during these moments. For instance, you might say, “I’m a good person, and I don’t deserve this kind of bashing,” or “I’m just having a bad day. Instead of bashing myself, what I really need is rest, or to talk to my partner, or ____.”
- Discuss fat talk with friends. Ask your friends why they fat talk. How does it make them feel? Why do they feel the need to engage in it? What do they really mean? What would they rather talk about that’s meaningful and healthy? Have an honest conversation about where their fat talk comes from and how all of you can stop it.
- Spread the word, especially to kids, teens and college students. If you’ve got a younger sister, a niece or nephew, or you have kids, spread the positivity to them — and really wherever you can. Try not to engage in fat talk in front of them, and if you do, explain the negative implications.
- Cultivate a healthy body image. Fat talk is often an extension of a negative body image. So improving your body image overall will trickle down to your fat talk, reducing or even stopping it. Here are some body image boosters to help.
Check out these other posts on fat talk:
Last reviewed: 22 Oct 2012
Tartakovsky, M. (2012). Body Image Booster: How To Stop Bashing Your Body. Psych Central.
Retrieved on April 2, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2012/10/body-image-booster-how-to-stop-bashing-your-body/