The phenomenon known as "fat talk", which occurs when a group of women get together and talk about how dissatisfied they are with their bodies, is being put under the microscope by researchers from Appalachian State University.
Most often occurring among Caucasian females, the researchers define fat talk as the pressure for women to say negative things about their own body. "Our research showed that college students - males and females - know that when women are in a group of other women who are fat talking, that they are supposed to join in to say negative things about their bodies. And, there is pressure to do so," researcher Denise Martz said.
Intriguingly, Appalachian psychologists studying fat talk found that women in a group would be more inclined to like a woman who participates in fat talk than a woman who doesn't join the discussion. "My interpretation is that they think fat talk is a normal thing," Martz said. "But, it's an unfortunate thing that women do."
Additionally, the researchers found that when a subject talked negatively about her body in front of another female, the second student in the pair would also express dissatisfaction with her body. Conversely, when the subject talked positively about her own body, her partner was more likely to verbalize a positive body image.
"We believe that many American women succumb to a vicious cycle of private/public body image dissatisfaction," the researchers write. "In general, we find that women in the United States, particularly Caucasian women, feel poorly about their bodies. Women also believe there is pressure to fat talk, and that other women do it because they feel poorly about their bodies. We never break out of that cycle. If there are women who have a positive body image, they never step up and vocalize that, so the norm never changes."
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Source: Appalachian State University