A Journey Towards Well-Being
How your friends are making you obsessed with your body
Imagine going shopping with your girlfriends:
You head to the change room and come out to model your new look saying, “Once I lose this belly then this dress will look amazing”, and they tell you about a new diet that might help.
Your friend notices another woman in there trying on a swimsuit and whispers nonchalantly, “Omg, can you believe she has the guts to wear that at her size?” The woman doesn’t hear you so it’s not extremely rude.
How do you feel?
Likely, you haven’t even noticed that these observations have affected you. Ah, but they do!
I recently read an article (which is included at the end of this blog) about an unfortunate social norm we have all observed and participated in, called ‘fat talking’. The researchers of this study define ‘fat talking’ as: “degrading of either one’s own or others’ bodies, endorsing the thin ideal, objectifying the body by commenting on particular body parts.” I know people want to raise their hands and say “not me” but that’s a lie and we all know it. Such is reality.
These researchers found that there was a link between listening to people ‘fat talk’ and an increased tendency toward disordered eating. That’s listening. Engaging in ‘fat talk’ is even more likely to emphasize your body dissatisfaction, increase negative affect, endorse thin-ideal internalizations, and spike dieting intentions.
Sounds like a good time, right?! There’s more to the story.
Your circle of friends could be eroding your confidence and making you more obsessed with body image. We already know that many of us are heavily influenced by the types of conversations we have with our friends. But not only are we more likely to take part in the kind of talk that our friends use, we are actually liked more if we adhere to group norms- ‘fat talking’ included. For instance, in that change room, if you had said something positive or neutral about your appearance: simply, “I love the colour of this dress!” while the others are demeaning themselves and others, you might actually not be the most popular person of this crew.
It’s heart-breaking that we bond with others through this negatively distorted view of what’s beautiful, admired, and even what’s acceptable. However, by using positive or neutral body talk, you will encourage your own well-being most importantly, and who knows, maybe you will be a positive catalyst for change amongst your friends. Or, it might mean that your friends won’t like you anymore because you won’t shame others or yourself with them.
Let them have their salad party.
Cruwys, T., Leverington, C.T., & Sheldon, A.M. (2016). An experimental investigation of the consequences and social functions of fat talk in friendship groups. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49(1), 84-91.
About the Author
Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.