Ugly Talk

“Surround yourself with people who lift you up”

When women get together and chat, they so often express dissatisfaction with their bodies that scientists refer to the phenomenon as “fat talk.”

Researchers at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, presented 124 college students with written scenarios describing a conversation among four women. They found that 94% of the readers believed a woman in the scenario would make self-degrading comments about her body if others were doing it. “The consequences of fat talking are complicated,” says study author Denise Martz, PhD, professor of psychology at Appalachian State. “It does help women fit in with peers, but it also creates a vicious cycle.”

She adds: “If women only hear other women saying negative things about their bodies, they think their own body image issues are normal. And it keeps women who feel positive about their bodies from saying so in public, so we have no positive role models to break this cycle.”

But change can begin with you.

Be aware of your tendency to fat talk, and opt out, urges Martz. “I personally choose not to participate when I hear it in my social circles,” she says.

When friends lament their less-than-perfect silhouettes? Remind them that there’s more to them than their love handles.