Women who engage in “fat talk” — self-disparaging remarks made in relation to eating, exercise or their bodies — are less liked by their peers, according to a new study.
In the University of Notre Dame study, college-age women were presented with a series of photos of either noticeably thin or noticeably overweight women engaging in “fat talk” or positive body talk. They were then asked to rate the women on various dimensions, including how likable they were.
The women in the photos were rated significantly less likable when they made “fat talk” statements about their bodies, whether or not they were overweight, the researchers found.
The women rated most likable were the overweight women who made positive statements about their bodies.
“Though it has become a regular part of everyday conversation, ‘fat talk’ is far from innocuous,” said Dr. Alexandra Corning, research associate professor of psychology and director of Notre Dame’s Body Image and Eating Disorder Lab.
“It is strongly associated with, and can even cause, body dissatisfaction, which is a known risk factor for the development of eating disorders.”
While some psychologists believe fat talk is one way women attempt to initiate or strengthen social bonds, the new research finds that fat-talkers are liked less than women who make positive statements about their bodies.
“These findings are important because they raise awareness about how women actually are being perceived when they engage in this self-abasing kind of talk,” she said.
“This knowledge can be used to help national efforts to reduce ‘fat talking’ on college campuses.”
Source: University of Notre Dame