I have read several articles recently (highlighted in red) that confirm what I've been trying to say for years: "fat talk" never helps anybody. I see fat talk as two separate ideas: one is an individual saying negative things about his or her own body, and the other is negative talk about another person, aka "fat shaming."
(Most of the things I'm talking about here are specifically for women, but can apply to men too.)
You know when you go to a store with a friend to try and find some cute clothes that make you look good? How many times in the past year have you ended the trip saying something like "I look terrible" or "My hips are huge" or something similar? And you know that every time one person in a group says something negative about their body, everyone else has to speak up and share their own flaws and perceived imperfections. Have you ever noticed that if you say something enough times, you'll start to believe it? It's true. The more negative things you say about your own body, the more you will believe it. It also creates a culture within a friend group that feels like a competition. It's a fight to see who is the "fattest" or "ugliest," but the winner of this contest doesn't feel like a winner by the end.
I'm as guilty of "fat talk" as anyone is, just ask my husband. However, as important as it is to be a healthy size (a journey I am on right now), it is also important not to insult yourself every way you turn. The article says of fat talk, "It’s a bonding ritual they describe as “contagious,” aggravating poor body image and even setting the stage for eating disorders." I would also draw a parallel for people who happen to be "too skinny" because they get a lot of grief for that, too. Besides the fact that it is not good for your own self-worth, talking about weight and size with friends will ALWAYS lead to someone feeling like they are not good enough. Take it from experience. I have plenty of friends and family who are beautiful and much smaller than I am (as well as those who are beautiful AND the same size or larger). How do you think it feels for me when someone who is half my size talks about how much they need to lose weight? Well, I'll tell you: not very good. Duh! Obviously, if this adorable tiny person thinks that she looks bad, how much worse must I look? (Answer: I look just fine, and so do they.)
Fat Shaming is a huge issue right now, too, as you probably already know. Have you ever been looked down upon or outright insulted for your size? Does that ever feel good for anyone?
No. And not only does it feel bad, it actually hurts your chances of making a lasting change. Fat shaming is a trend that should be stopped immediately. If you are guilty of telling someone that they look fat or saying any similar negative statements to someone, please read that article and know that you are hurting, not helping, them.
Hopefully by now you get the point, it's not good to insult your weight or that of others, but I know that you want your friends to be healthy and for your own body to be working at full speed. So what kind of talk should we replace the bad stuff with?
My friends and I in the past have had a rule for spending time together, especially when one friend is going through a particularly low self-esteem time. The rule is For every negative thing you say about yourself, you must say three positive things. This is unbelievably hard for some people. I have had to make a friend sit still for thirty minutes until she could think of something good to say about herself. If they refuse, it might be fun to have everyone in the group say something nice about the person. Hopefully that will give the person a little self-esteem boost.
I also like the solution they give at the end of the NY Times article for when you're out shopping. Instead of saying your hips are too big for these jeans, say "These jeans don't get me." That acknowledges that the clothing is not the right fit for your body as opposed to blaming yourself.
The last article I'm going to link to could be a HUGE eye-opener, but it probably shouldn't be. It's called How Not to be a (Jerk)
to Your Fat Friends. I substituted 'jerk' for a more vulgar word, so if you're offended by vulgar language, maybe don't read it. But maybe do read it and just get over the language. It's that good. You will learn a lot about what it feels like to be the recipient of fat shaming, if you don't already know, and how you can be a better friend. And after all, doesn't everyone want to be a better friend, to yourself as well as others?