New “Body Project” Course Aims to Fight Fat Talk

Delta Delta Delta sponsors Fat Talk Free.

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.

Ingrid Adamow

Ingrid Adamow (COM '14) is Editor-in-Chief and also a writer for The Quad. Ingrid is an advertising major and enjoys reading, writing, good music, fashion, coffee, and adventures around the city of Boston. But mostly coffee.

2 thoughts on “New “Body Project” Course Aims to Fight Fat Talk

  • October 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    What a great article! Brennan is absolutely helping women with body image probles and should be commended!

  • October 21, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Ingrid–this is a wonderful discussion of The Body Project and Fat Talk Free Week. Thank you so much for publicizing the work that is going on at BU. We hope that students will take your words to heart and sign up for The Body Project. Thanks to Elizabeth Brennan for her comments as well! And also thanks to Sarah Butler, of Nutrition and Fitness at Sargent, who helped put together many of the creative and important events for Fat Talk Free Week. This is a campus increasingly rich in resources for anyone wishing to get help for these and other problems.
    Margaret Ross MD
    Director, Behavioral Medicine, Student Health Services


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