How often have you been out with friends and found yourself mentioning how you need to lose weight, or that you can’t eat this or that because it’s too many calories, or seen someone in an unflattering outfit and declared that they “shouldn’t be wearing those pants”? If you’ve seen Mean Girls, you’ve definitely observed this happening. (“My pores are huge.” “At least you guys can wear halters, I have man shoulders.” “My nail beds suck.”)
This kind of thing is classified as Fat Talk. Being accepting of your body can be a struggle, and there is a fragment of society that views this self-criticism as the norm and even to a certain degree encourages it, through magazine articles that encourage you to “lose ten kilos fast,” try some new diet or dress in a way that makes you appear thinner/more tan/taller, etc. By making these comments, whether it be to yourself or to someone else, the cycle of negative body image is increased and becomes further entrenched in wider society. Body image and mental health is fast becoming the one of the largest concerns affecting youth today, and although it may seem like an offhand thing to say to yourself, to others it may trigger serious self-doubt and self-deprecating thoughts.
In an attempt to combat this dialogue that reinforces body dissatisfaction and emphasises the ideal of being considered “thin” or “beautiful,” the Butterfly Foundation is again celebrating Fat Talk Free Week from December 3rd-9th this year. The initiative originates from the Tri Delta Sorority in the US, which first celebrated Fat Talk Free in October of 2008. The aim of the week is to encourage people to eliminate Fat Talk amongst themselves and their friends and family, working to make their communities and eventually wider society a Fat Talk Free zone.
According to the Butterfly Foundation:
“How we look and what size or shape we are does not determine how special, unique or worthwhile we are as a person. By shutting down and disengaging from Fat Talk we are actively supporting this message and boosting our body confidence.”
Whether it’s by being more mindful of how you think about yourself and the way you voice it to others, reminding friends of positive things about themselves when they use fat talk in self-description, or making a promise to try to talk positively instead of critically and changing the subject when negative body talk comes up in conversation, you are able to take a step to empower yourself and others in improving self-esteem, body image and social norms when it comes to beauty ideals and values.
Dance around the house to One Direction, host a cupcake party, chant body-positive affirmations all day, have a swear jar to collect change whenever anyone starts using negative body image language, just do whatever it takes! If you can, get your school, workplace or community group involved. It’s time to kickstart a change and encourage positive body image so that this generation and the next can be empowered and confident in themselves instead of consumed and devalued by a focus on physical flaws.
Remember, you are beautiful, and as they say, words can’t bring you down… so don’t let them bring you down today, tomorrow, or ever. We all have bad days when it comes to how we feel about ourselves, but by celebrating Fat Talk Free Week, you might just discover a love for yourself you never thought you could have.
Reader submission by Kara Gibbons