Anthropologist Mimi Nichter wrote a book called “Fat-Talk: What Girls and Their Parents Say About Dieting.”
The research team spent 3 years interviewing hundreds of adolescent and teen girls and their parents about how they think and talk about their bodies. They interviewed white, black and Latina girls from lower-middle to middle-class backgrounds.
The research found:
- Teen girls spend a LOT of time talking about dieting, and a lot less time actually dieting.
- Fat-Talk among girls was a way of being or creating solidarity
- “African-American girls were much more satisfied with their bodies than white girls, for them, beauty was a matter of projecting attitude and moving with confidence & style.”
They coined the term “fat-talk” to describe an “ongoing, ritualistic dialogue that served to build solidarity among them.”
Fat-talk is a common social ritual among women to speak negatively about their body and their appearance.
Fat-talk is NOT innocuous.
Fat-talk can easily slip into a very self-destructive zone. Negatively commenting about your body can lead to:
- Lowered self-esteem
- Development of a negative self-concept
- Reinforces the perfectionism ideal
- Reinforces idea that female body is ALWAYS in need of changing, monitoring, or sculpting.
- Diminishes importance of who you are and what you stand for
- Increases focus on beauty over brains!
How to fight against Fat-Talk?
It’s not enough to “just say no.” We have to start this conversation EARLY with our girls, and OFTEN.
- Fat-Talk needs to be banned in households and classrooms.
- Parents and guardians need to be educated about how to have & promote a healthy body image for themselves and their children.
- Recognize that the very companies that promote body dissatisfaction often simultaneously provide a product for consumption in order to “fix” your body.
- Children need to be exposed to the idea that there is a diversity of body size and healthy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re thin. And unhealthy doesn’t mean you’re fat.
- Teach our girls how to read media images (Television, magazines, blogs, etc.) with a more critical eye. (E.g. “Why are all these images only thin women?” or “Why are all the women in the magazine white?”.…..we need to develop CRITICAL THINKING at a young age, so that girls are questioning the images they see rather than being passive recipients).