Friend 1: “Ugh, I feel so fat.”
Friend 2: “OMG. Are you serious? You are NOT fat.”
Friend 1 :“Yes I am, look at my thighs.”
Friend 2: “Look at MY thighs.”
Friend 1: “Oh, come on. You’re a stick.”
Friend 2: “So are you.”
Does that conversation sound familiar to you? If you’re a woman, particularly a young one, it probably does.
I lifted this back-and-forth from a new study published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly that delves into the phenomenon now known as “fat talk.” Which is exactly what it sounds like: Sitting around talking about how fat we are. Men probably do it once in a while. We women do it all the time.
This study examined 186 female college students’ experiences with and attitudes toward fat talk. Almost all the women were of normal weight. It concluded that 93 percent of them engaged in fat talk, about a third of them saying they did so frequently. It wasn’t clear whether the women engaged in fat talk because they felt dissatisfied with their bodies or they felt dissatisfied with their bodies because they engaged in fat talk.
From the study: Participants’ most common response to a friend who engaged in fat talk was the participant attempting to convince the friend that she was not fat. Additionally, the majority of participants indicated that they would want their friends to respond to their own fat talk by denying that they were fat or complimenting their appearance. (Although, interestingly, several women in our sample remarked in open- ended comments that they do not believe their friends when the friends tell them that they are not fat.)
Oh, women, why do we allow ourselves to play such silly games? As the mother of a teenage daughter, I’ve become increasingly aware of how often I tend to fall into fat talk with my friends. I’ve been trying hard to quit: It’s a waste of time, for one thing, and sets a terrible, perhaps harmful, example for my daughter. I’m not the only one trying to stop, either. I’m Facebook friends with a group called “FatTalkFree.”
Receiving their messages on Facebook is a good reminder that I have better things to discuss with my friends than the size of my thighs. You should friend them, too.