Written by Melissa Riegel, BA, and Christine Call, AB.
“Ugh, these jeans make me look so fat!” If this phrase, or something like it, sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. This is just one example of a common phenomenon referred to as “fat talk”—speaking negatively about your body shape or weight. Research shows that engaging in fat talk may contribute to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. In 2007, catalyzed by the realization that fat talk occurs far too frequently among college women, the sorority Tri Delta initiated a public awareness campaign to silence the body negativity. The annual initiative is called Fat Talk Free Week (and in 2014 will take place from October 20th to October 24th) – and preliminary research suggests it’s helping to initiate a reduction in disparaging body remarks. In recognition of Fat Talk Free Week, we at The Feed Blog spoke with Holly Thompson, Director of Marketing and Project Management at the Tri Delta Executive Office, to learn a little bit more about this movement.
Feed Blog (FB): What is Fat Talk Free Week?
Holly Thompson (HT): Fat Talk Free Week is an international, 5-day body image awareness campaign to draw attention to body image issues and the damaging impact of the “thin ideal” on women in society.
FB: Who is your target audience?
HT: Our target audience is collegiate chapter members and we encourage them to help bring awareness to their campus and community.
FB: Have you seen an outgrowth to other community organizations?
HT: Our original audience was our chapters but in the seven years that we’ve been implementing Fat Talk Free Week, other organizations and groups have heard about it. We’ve also received several inquiries from high school teachers, eating disorder awareness organizations, support groups, and counselors.
FB: How did you get your message out and why do you think it has been so successful?
HT: Fat Talk Free Week caught on through social media and awareness efforts. The campaign resonates with many people and aims to empower men and women through positive body image education and eating disorder prevention. It is not uncommon for people to engage in fat talk. Unfortunately, it can feel like a normal part of conversation without recognizing the detriment to our body image and our self-esteem.
FB: You’re aim then is to bring awareness to something that feels normal or routine – comments focusing on appearance — and try to change it. How can our readers get involved in this initiative?
HT: We’re always looking for new groups to find a way to engage with Fat Talk Free Week. Whether using the resources available on our website or individually pledging to be fat talk free, we hope others will feel inspired to change the conversation that they have with themselves and others.
Where can you start? You might check out this video for inspiration about how you and your friends can help change the conversation and shift the thin ideal to a healthier self-image. Or, read some refreshing ‘real beauty’ stories. Although Fat Talk Free Week only occurs five days out of the year, you can strive to be fat talk free as often as possible (and, of course, encourage others to do so the same!) and to redefine beauty and health for yourself if your current definitions are not serving you well.
If you are interested in taking action, consider bringing Fat Talk Free Week to your college or get involved with other initiatives, like Proud2BMe or Project Heal, which aim to boost self-confidence, promote a healthy definition of health, and enhance awareness of eating disorders campus-wide.