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Monday
Apr042011

'Fat Talk' Seeks to Reassure but May Hinder Self-Esteem

Creatas/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wis.) -- Ninety-three percent of college women today admit to engaging in so-called "fat talk," despite being of normal weight or even underweight, according to a new paper published in Psychology of Women Quarterly.

The study surveyed 186 participants on their frequency of fat talk, why they did it and how strongly they agreed with the model-thin body ideal espoused by some.

Most women said that they complain about their weight to friends as a way to vent or to reach out for emotional support over troubling body issues.  They viewed it as a way to make them feel better about their bodies, but researchers suspect that just the opposite might be true.

Women in the study who engaged in frequent fat talk were more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies -- regardless of their weight -- and more likely to buy into the super-thin body ideal, said Rachel Salk, lead author of the study and Ph.D. candidate at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

It could be that women who feel bad about their bodies feel the need to vent about their dissatisfaction more, but some research suggests that it might also work the other way around: the mere act of complaining about one's body could contribute to poor body image, leading women to feel worse about themselves, despite the fact that they turn to fat talk for comfort.

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