Want to lose weight? Don't trash talk with Fat Talk.By Deborah Wilburn
"I know I shouldn't eat this brownie." "My ass is huge." "How does she stay so thin?" "I'm so fat." "No you're not, I'm the one who's fat."
Sound familiar? If so, you're engaging in Fat Talk, and it's doing nothing to help you reach a healthy weight. Those who regularly engage in these negative weight conversations are more likely to have a poor body image, higher levels of depression, and a perceived cultural pressure to be thin, according to a new study in the Journal of Applied Communication Research.
Researchers recruited undergraduate students at the University of Arizona -- both women and men -- to answer two series of online questionnaires reporting their use of fat talk, body satisfaction, pressure to be skinny, self-esteem, and depression.
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? "For starters stop picking up magazines or looking at images that reinforce the problem," says Camilla Mager, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in New York City specializing in the psychology of women and eating disorders. She also recommends paying attention to the tone you use when talking to yourself. "Would you talk that way to anyone else?" she asks. "I tell patients to do unto yourself as you would do unto others."
What it comes down to, says Mager, 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 "Wait, I don't want to think of myself that way. Focus on what your body is capable of instead of what it's not doing."
And what about dealing with fat-talking friends? "You can't control other people and what they say," says Mager. "But you can make a commitment to yourself not to engage in those types of conversations. Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom or say you have to get something.
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.
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