Does my bum look big in this?
I HATE MY THIGHS.
You look great–did you lose weight?
Fat talk. Many of us do it every day as we play the “compare and despair” game, trying to live up to an impossible stick-thin ideal of what we should look like and what it means to be feminine. But words have power. Even a casual remark about our own or another’s appearance can hold us back, reinforce our worst body image fears and stop us from being all we can be.
We should be celebrating our bodies and all our other amazing qualities and achievements!
So on Fat Talk Free Week, 19-23 October, please join me in trying to end the madness. Fat Talk Free Week grew out of a successful eating disorders program for young women on university campuses in the United States. It has snowballed into an international week to raise public awareness of how fat talk damages women and girls.
To get revved up, take a look at the video that was released last year for Fat Talk Free Week.
Some of the info shocked me, such as this statistic from the United States:
67% of women aged 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities such as giving their opinion, going to school or visiting the doctor because they feel bad about the way they look.
And the situation here is equally as alarming. A quarter of teenage girls surveyed in Australia say they would get plastic surgery if they could. Among 15-year-old girls, almost seven in ten are on a diet, and of these, 8 per cent are severely dieting. Six in ten girls say they have been teased about their appearance.
Let’s start freeing ourselves from all these negative and unrealistic body image beliefs–for our girls’ and our own futures. The Fat Talk Free Week website has great practical ideas for raising awareness in schools, such as:
- making and displaying positive body image banners
- writing down negative body image beliefs, screwing them up and cermonially throwing them out
- writing down positive body image beliefs and displaying them in the school
- making lists of friends’ best qualities, with one important exception: their physical appearance
- groups making a pact to put a coin in a jar every time a girl fat talks during the week, then donating the money to an eating disorders organisation
- discussion starters on defining fat talk and why it’s bad.
And I also love these great ideas that any woman or girl can try anywhere–at school, at work or at home:
The Top 5 Things You Can Do Now to Promote Positive Body Image
- Choose one friend or family member and discuss one thing you like about yourselves.
- Keep a journal of all the good things your body allows you to do (e.g., sleep well and wake up rested, play tennis, etc.).
- Pick one friend to make a pact with to avoid negative body talk. When you catch your friend talking negatively about their body, remind them of the pact.
- Make a pledge to end complaints about your body, such as “I’m so flat-chested” or “I hate my legs.” When you catch yourself doing this, make a correction by saying something positive about that body part, such as, “I’m so glad my legs got me through soccer practice today.”
- The next time someone gives you a compliment, rather than objecting (“No, I’m so fat”), practise taking a deep breath and saying “Thank you.”
Now is your chance to get prepared to try out some of these ideas on October 19-23. I’ll be sharing my experiences of ridding my life of fat talk, and I’d love to hear yours, too. Watch this space.