As some of you may have seen on my Facebook profile, we’re currently smack dab in the middle of TriDelta’s “Fat Talk Free Week.”
“Fat Talk” is all those everyday, somewhat offhand, throwaway comments we make about our weight and appearance. You know what I’m talking about — you’re talking to your girlfriends about Avatar, and one mentions she needs to lose 20 pounds, ha ha. You’re talking to your sister as you get ready for school that day and she wishes aloud that she could lose her muffin top. You’re talking to your mom and let slip that you just went up (or down!) a pant size. These everyday comments that we make, not necessarily because we want to have an open discourse about healthy, beauty, and body image, but because we either know we’re supposed to want to be thinner, or do think about our body shapes so often that they just spew out into otherwise unrelated conversation.
I l”Fat Talk Free Week” (and Tridelt for sponsoring it) because Fat Talk IS a huge issue that crops up ALL the time, and yet one we barely formally recognize. No politically correct woman likes to admit that she’s concerned about her weight, but a huge chunk of us (myself included) are.
I’ve got a lot of issues with Fat Talk. One is that which I’ve alluded to: by pretending we aren’t Fat Talking, we refusing to acknowledge the elephant (heh) in the room: beauty norms we know we’re not supposed to take seriously, but do anyway. Fat Talk can be so damaging simply because it IS insidious discourse. As my friend Verbal Kint (ok, or Baudelaire) once said, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” If said devil doesn’t exist, we aren’t allowed to acknowledge the power he has over us, and thus we allow him to drag us down even more. By the time we realize what a huge problem we have, we’re already too deep in the well.
The other, much more concrete reason I hate Fat Talk, is not just the trick it plays on the speaker’s own mind, but how damaging it can be to others. I still remember changing in the PE locker room in sixth grade, when my beautiful resident hottie friend was complaining about how she felt sooo fat and she needed to lose weight and how she would never be pretty. This, right after I had walked by some beautiful eighth graders a couple rows ahead, who were complaining that they were too fat and just NEEDED to be smaller.
The funny thing is that I actually was a little chubby at the time, but had never really worried about it. (As an only child, I probably wasn’t subject to a lot of the teasing that usually comes with pubescence.) Now, all of a sudden, I worried: if these beautiful girls whom I admired thought they were fat, what the hell did I look like? They look amazing! If they’re amazing, am I obese? Am I hideous? And so the cycle officially began, and continues today.
So, essentially, Fat Talk is discourse is super damaging for many reasons, chief among them:
1. Fat Talk hurts those who are talking: Fat Talk is insidious. I know I’m not *supposed* to care about my weight, so I pretend I don’t, but then I make these offhand comments about my belly. Who do I think I’m fooling? By pretending that I’m NOT fat-talking, I actually give it even MORE power by letting it sift into my everyday, non-body image-related discourse, instead of giving it its own time in court and then letting go of the subject whenever I’m talking about something. By discursively being “nowhere,” Fat Talk ends up being EVERYWHERE.
2. Fat Talk hurts those who are listening: I was a little tomboy who didn’t care how much I weighed! I actually WAS chubby and didn’t even notice! I was perfectly happy in Plato’s cave!
3. We can do better! Since I was 11 and recognized what my friend’s verbalized insecurities did to me, I consciously have tried to refrain from discussing my weight as much as humanly possible, whether I was fit, thin, chubby, overweight, whatever. Have I always succeeded? No. But I HAVE kept it to a minimum, and am sure that my friends’ self-images are better off through my abstention.
4. How fucked-up is it that we’re making little kids worry about being fat? Fat Talk has no place on Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, or, for that matter, MTV, or anywhere else we know droves of little kids gather on weekday afternoons. (TRL, anybody?)
5. “Fat Talk” adds NOTHING productive to our collective senses of health, weight, beauty, or self-worth. Either talk about your health, weight, beauty, and self-worth, or don’t; don’t talk about Jersey Shore or Foucault or our lack of onion subsidies while sneaking Fat Talk in the back door. You’re not fooling any sentient being, and only making life harder for everybody.
So, spread the message: Fat Talk stinks! I try not to put myself up on a pedestal tooooo often (yeah right), but I promise that refraining from Fat Talk really does have huge positive effects. Be a better beacon today!