Empower Yourself, Health and Body Love, How Strong Mothers Lead

How Girls Talk About Their Bodies

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:

  1. Teen girls spend a LOT of time talking about dieting, and a lot less time actually dieting.
  2. Fat-Talk among girls was a way of being or creating solidarity
  3. “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).