Why Negative Self-Talk Is Bad for Managing Your Weight

Improve your body image with these expert-backed tips.

Reflection of the girl in a mirror

Medically reviewed in September 2021

Updated on May 12, 2022

"My butt is big." "I'm so fat." "I'll never lose weight."

If you've ever spoken these words to yourself, you're indulging in "fat talk," and it's doing nothing to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Those who regularly disparage their body size or type are more likely to have a poor body image, higher levels of depression, and feel more unreasonable pressure to be thin, according to research.

In one study, undergraduate students at the University of Arizona were encouraged to document their use of fat talk—as well as feelings of body satisfaction, pressure to be skinny, self-esteem, and depression—by answering two series of online questionnaires. In their analysis, researchers uncovered a link between body image and depression in both men and women.

Engaging in fat talk about your own body and weight may blossom into broader negative feelings about yourself and can add to an overall feeling of helplessness. Messages about what you should weigh and how you should look come from a variety of sources. Family members, friends, and representations of bodies in the media may all play a role.

How can you break the cycle?

Camilla Mager, a clinical psychologist in New York City who specializes in the psychology of eating disorders, offers the following tips for improving poor body image:

  • Avoid reading magazines or looking at media images that reinforce unrealistic body types and images.
  • Pay attention to the tone you use when talking to or about yourself. Ask yourself: Would I talk that way about anyone else? If the answer is probably not, try to take a step back and not be so critical of yourself.
  • Focus on what your body is capable of—your strengths—instead of ways you belive it may be falling short.
  • If you find yourself routenily engaging in a negative self-talk conversations with friends, try to commit to withdrawing from those types of discussions.

It all comes down to self-esteem, says Mager. "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 just a number on the scale or a clothing size.

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