According to a recent study, 93% of college-aged girls engage in “fat talk.” You can hear it all around campus. “I can’t believe I just ate that.” “Are you sure my ass doesn’t look big in these jeans?” “My thighs/butt/tummy/arms is/are huge.” “I would be so much happier if I lost, like, ten pounds.” Fat talk, however, doesn’t actually have anything to do with being fat. This past Tuesday night, coordinator of services for BU’s Center of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Elizabeth Brennan described why in an intimate discussion about body-hating discourse among women held in the Women’s Resource Center as part of “Fat Talk Free Week.”
Brennan cited studies which show that most women who engage in fat talk are actually at or under normal body weight. Fat talk, she says, is a metaphor for feeling down and usually stems from insecurities that are not even weight-related.
Women who hate on their bodies agree its become a way to bond. The mentality is that it “helps to know I’m not the only one.” The problem? Studies show it doesn’t help at all. In fact, fat talk does more harm than good. The study shows that women can often place more emphasis on the shape and size of their bodies than on what stellar students, kind friends or interesting people they are. When women voice their complaints about mere appearances, they only perpetuate this unhealthy mindset. This maintains a level of complacency among women and a mentality that suggests they’re “supposed” to hate their bodies.
By changing the conversation, Brennan believes this mentality can be altered. Instead of complimenting a friend on how skinny she looks in that dress, tell her she has an admirable taste in clothes. Challenging fat talk simply means choosing not to engage in it.
Brennan is one of the instructors of BU’s “Body Project,” a newly offered half-credit course that is completed in four one-hour sessions. The course is described as “an intimate and entertaining class that challenges the destructive mantra ‘I hate my body.’” The class accepts female students only. This is because of the course’s interactive and conversational nature and also because most of the research done on negative body image lies with the female gender.
Settings like Tuesday night’s discussion are one way Brennan receives feedback to help her improve and evolve the “Body Project” course. Discussing female body image may not seem like a fresh concept; however, in the past, a female negative body image was always discussed in the context of eating disorders and the impact of the media. This course seeks to discuss fat talk, among other related concepts, with a heavy basis toward research and personal experiences. “I am doing this because I see it constantly and have to live it constantly,” Brennan said. Without a doubt, most BU girls would agree.