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

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