Even if you’re not familiar with the term “fat talk,” you’ve probably engaged in it. Have you ever said something like “Oh, I hate my thighs” or “I look disgusting in this dress” or “No way, I’m so much bigger than you are”?
Many of us have had these conversations both with others and with ourselves. Fat talk is bashing your body in front of others; it’s commiserating with your friends over your supposedly huge thighs; it’s the internal dialogue that circulates in your head – the critical tapes that can’t seem to stop playing.
So how can you stop?
Here are three straightforward steps to stop the fat talk.
1. Spot your fat talk. Many of us become so accustomed to bashing our bodies that we don’t even realize when we’re doing it. But the negative tapes that play in our heads and the negative conversations we have with friends and loved ones only worsen our body image.
Fortunately, once you can identify your fat talk, you can work toward stopping it. For one week, pay close attention to how often you engage in fat talk. If it helps, write down the types of things you say along with their frequency.
On Weightless, I shared 12 types of fat talk from Cynthia Bulik’s book The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like with Who You Are. (I know, I couldn’t believe there were that many types, either!) To help you better identify your fat talk, check out the lists here and here.
2. Spot your triggers. Knowing what causes your fat talk is another way to help you stop it. So look over the list you’ve compiled, and consider what people, places or things might’ve triggered each of your negative statements. Then brainstorm a few solutions for each one.
For instance, does browsing women’s magazines activate your body-bashing statements? Consider tossing your collection and investing in magazines that actually make you feel good or match your interests, such as how-to publications on sewing, crafting or writing.
Or is it a certain friend or relative who keeps talking about dieting, calories and losing weight that does it? If a loved one is a frequent fat-talker, talk to her about it. Ask her why she fat talks and be honest about how damaging it can be. Tell her that you’d rather chat about meaningful topics or maybe even work on improving your body image together.
3. Think about the many topics you could discuss instead. When you’re around some people, you might even feel pressured to engage in fat talk in order to fit in. (Unfortunately, fat talk can seem like a way to bond among women, even though it’s so unhealthy.)
Consider the topics you’d like to talk about instead of criticizing your body or others’ looks. What is interesting to you? What do you want to focus your energy on? Maybe you want to chat with your friends about your hobbies, dreams and goals. Maybe you want to start a book club with your friends where fat talk is prohibited. Remember that we become what we focus our efforts on. Focus on what’s fulfilling and fascinating, instead of the things that drain the joy, fun and meaning from your life.