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Why 'Fat Talk' is Bad for Reaching Weight Loss Goals

Why 'Fat Talk' is Bad for Reaching Weight Loss Goals

"My butt is big." "I'm so fat." "No you're not fat, I'm fat."

Sound familiar? If so, you're indulging in "fat talk," and it's doing nothing to help you reach a healthy weight. Those who regularly trash talk their body weight are more likely to have a poor body image, higher levels of depression, and feel more pressure to be thin, according to a new study.

Researchers recruited undergraduate students at the University of Arizona -- both women and men -- to report their use of fat talk, body satisfaction, pressure to be skinny, self-esteem, and depression by answering two series of online questionnaires. The researchers uncovered a link between body image and depression in both men and women, so it's not just the ladies who worry about flabby arms or belly fat.

Engaging in fat talk about your own body and weight tends to blossom into broader negative feelings about yourself and adds to feelings of helplessness. Not surprisingly, messages about what you should weigh come from a variety of sources. Family, friends, and the media all play a part, although healthier role models, such as Jennifer Lawrence from The Hunger Games and the singer Adele, who makes no apologies for her weight, have made headlines recently.

How to break the cycle? Camilla Mager, a clinical psychologist in New York City who specializes in the psychology of women and eating disorders, offers the following tips for improving poor body image:

  • Avoid reading magazines or looking at images that reinforce the body image problem.
  • Pay attention to the tone you use when talking to or about yourself. Would you talk that way to anyone else? Probably not. Try not to be so critical of yourself.
  • Focus on what your body is capable of -- your strengths -- instead of what it's not doing.
  • If you find yourself in a fat talk conversation with friends, commit to not engaging in those types of discussions.

What it comes down to, Dr. Mager says, is self-esteem. "Tap into another voice in your head that isn't so critical and begin to use it," she says. "Counter 'I'm so fat' with 'I don't want to think of myself that way.'"

And be honest with your pals. "Tell them, 'Having this conversation isn't helping us at all,'" she says. Changing the subject may not solve the problem, but it's a first step toward seeing yourself in a more positive light -- and as more than a number on the scale.

Fat talk isn't the only thing that halts weight loss. Check out these 10 diet obstacles.

Medically reviewed in September 2019.

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