by Brooke on November 15, 2011

Post image for FAT TALK

Fat talk…you have probably said it, heard it, and read it!

– “I’m so fat.”

– “Gosh, look at my hips compared to yours.”

– “No, you are not fat.  I am!”

The phrase “fat talk” was coined by Nichter and Vukovic.  They described “fat talk” as the self-disparaging body talk that occurs in peer
groups and appears to contain an element of social influence.  Research has shown that women and men participate in fat talk for numerous reasons including:  to feel accepted in a group, reinforce friendship ties through self-disclosure, and/or approval to indulge in a large meal or dessert. I think one of the most interesting ways fat talk is used is to use weight as a reference point for one’s feelings.  For example, Gapinski, K., Brownell, K., and LaFrance, M. explained that the statement “I’m fat” can be like saying “I feel depressed” or “I feel out of control.”

I was at one of my clinics the other day and the nurses were talking to me about developing a weight loss program for them at the start of the New Year.  Right after I agreed to put on a healthy weight loss program, a few of the nurses started engaging in fat talk.  I said if I do this there will be no fat talk!  And boy did I get some looks and one “you are tough Brooke!”  It made me sweat to say those words, but I couldn’t take it anymore!!!  Who does fat talk help?  No one!  It is time WE come together and actively change the way we talk about our bodies with others.  Let’s think of new ways to reinforce our friendships without fat talk.

Do you participate in fat talk?  How do you think we can stop this cycle?


Britton, L., Martz, D., Bazzini D., Curtin, L., and LeaShomb, A. (2006). Fat talk and self-presentation of body image: Is there a social norm for women to self-degrade? Body Image, 3, 247-254. 

Gapinski, K., Brownell, K., and LaFrance, M. (2003). Body Objectification and “Fat Talk”: Effects on Emotion, Motivation, and Cognitive Performance.  Sex Roles, 48, 377-388. 

Nichter, M., and Vuckovic, N. (1994).  Fat talk:  Body image among adolescent girls.  In N. Sault (Ed.), Many Mirrors: Body image and social relations (pp. 109-131).  New Brumswick, NJ: Ruters Unversity Press.


(Photo Source)

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica A. November 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I love that you brought this up! As a graduate student, I worked for two years in health promotion at a university, and they challenged (our mainly female) employees one week to keep track of how many times we had a negative weight/fat-related thought about ourselves. I’m a pretty serious runner with a healthy body on the small end of the healthy spectrum, and I was appalled how often I had these kind of thoughts! A few weeks later we had our first university-wide “Fat Talk Free Week”. After discussing the kinds of thoughts we had, we put together messages like, “I love my body and cake, too”; “Strong comes in all shapes and sizes”; “Real women eat real food”; etc. Health educators were all over campus starting up real conversations with students about loving yourself, being objectively honest with yourself about your body, and finding balance with food, exercise, work, stress, and life. It was a huge success, and I think the first step to changing this mindset is creating meaningful productive conversation.

Good luck with the New Year’s weight loss program!


Brooke November 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Hi Jessica, Thanks for sharing your experience :) I love the “Fat Talk Free Week” idea!


Cameo November 15, 2011 at 10:59 pm

I hate fat talk. I hate when I hear it, do it or engage in it. Thank you for the reminder that it doesn’t help anything or anyone.


Kristen @ Swanky Dietitian November 21, 2011 at 2:57 am

Great post! I have to admit, I do engage in fat talk every so often. I try very hard not to, but it’s difficult. I try to say positive things to myself everyday. I also find that taking time for me (getting ready nice in the morning, working out, etc.) helps me to feel better about me.


Doug November 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm

As a trainer, I have to squelch fat talk just about every day.

Why is it that we are so tough on ourselves?


Leave a Comment