Monday, August 25, 2014


‘Fat talk’ can lead to big problems

We’ve all done it. Heck, I caught myself doing it just the other day. For me, it always seems to come out when I’m trying on jeans. Or swimwear. Or just about anything that isn’t a burlap sack.

These should be the right size, but I can’t even get them on!  I am so FAT!

Followed by tears. Followed by shame spiral. Followed by trip to Dairy Queen. Jumbo double chocolate caramel butterscotch peanut butter Oreo M&M cheesecake blizzard with extra everything, please. 

Sound familiar? According to one study, an astonishing 93% of women engage in fat talk, with a third of those admitting to fat-talking on a regular basis.

Isn’t it odd that we are so careful about the words we say to others, but we are so harsh with ourselves? Many of us would not say the words we say to ourselves every day to our worst enemy.

Harmless as it may seem at the time, fat talk can hurt us more than we realize. For one, as evidenced by the aforementioned shame spiral, negative thoughts tend to lead to negative emotions which, for many of us, lead to emotional eating. We eat junk food in an attempt to fill the void and end up feeling lousier than ever. This causes more negative thoughts, and the cycle repeats. That’s one nasty Catch-22.

Second, the way we talk to ourselves is a reflection of how we see ourselves. This may surprise you, but our brains actually don’t know the difference between true reality and our perceived reality. In other words, if you think of yourself as overweight or unattractive you will project this self-image to the world and others will begin to see you the way you see yourself. This translates into a self-fulfilling prophecy that I, for one, would rather not fulfill.

And we are not the only ones hurt by our self-bashing talk. If you are a parent, you know just how much a child learns simply by watching you. When young people see you talking negatively to yourself often enough, they understand this as normal behavior and begin to model it, whether you are their parent or not. Is this what we want to teach our children?

Buddha is credited with the quote, “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.”

If this is true (and I believe it is), wouldn’t you rather become something beautiful and wise and powerful? I would.

We all have our down moments from time to time. Just do your best to recognize and reverse those damaging thoughts when you have them. And avoid department store fitting rooms at all costs.

Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, August 11, 2014


How to talk to someone fighting cancer

Almost everyone knows at least one person who has been diagnosed with cancer.  It can be difficult to know what to say to that person when you see them, but this may be the time when that person needs your support and friendship most.  Here are some ideas and suggestions to consider:

•  Be a good listener. Don't feel as if you have to do all the talking. Sometimes cancer patients just need someone to listen to their thoughts, feelings and even their fears about the disease. Be ready and willing to listen whenever you're needed.

•  Be supportive. Offer your support, but don’t judge, give advice, or make light of their concerns.

•  Be positive.  Don’t tell stories about other people who have undergone cancer treatment if it resulted in a bad outcome.

•  It’s OK to just sit quietly and be there for the person.

Saying, “Call me if you need anything” really isn’t very helpful.   Greta Greer, MSW, LCSW, director of survivor programs for the American Cancer Society, offers this advice:  “Offer suggestions for specific things you are able to do such as prepare a meal, transport to appointments, pick up the kids, babysit, mow the lawn, etc. Also give some dates you are free to assist.”  

Remember that just because a person is battling cancer, they don’t need or want to think and talk about it constantly.  Being included in normal, everyday activities is welcome.  When I was a home care nurse I remember vividly a patient who was very weak from cancer treatment.  He insisted on sharing a joke, cartoon, or funny story at the start of every home visit.  It was his way of maintaining some control while sharing a light-hearted, funny moment.  

My good friend Claire is currently undergoing cancer treatment, so I asked her for some suggestions on communicating with sensitivity, since that is really what we are all trying to achieve.  She said she appreciated all the get well wishes from people, and those who said they were praying for her.  That boosted her spirits and was appreciated.  Cancer treatment can be overwhelming; it’s easy to get discouraged.  She cautioned people not to be negative.  For example, one person asked her what the mortality rate was for her type of cancer.  

A very thoughtful gesture two friends made was offer to help Claire pick out a wig, and also made suggestions of places to go look.  She felt that was a caring and sensitive thing to do.

One thing for which Claire was especially grateful was receiving cards, notes, and emails from people, just saying, “I’m thinking of you” or “sending positive thoughts your way, or “I’m still available to drive you to appointments.”  She contends it’s never too late to send a card, even weeks after surgery, or at intervals during the long months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The emotional boost the cards and notes bring is very welcome at any time.

These suggestions are by no means a comprehensive “how-to” guide for talking to someone with cancer, but they are food for thought.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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