If you’re a woman, chances are good that at some point you’ve looked in a mirror and focused on your imperfections. But have you given much thought to just how your internal monologue: “I wish I had slimmer thighs“, “I wish my butt was smaller” or “I can’t believe how much I gained with my pregnancy” has an impact on your mental health?
According to a recent study, women who engage in “fat talk” about their bodies are more likely to be dissatisfied with them. Seems obvious, right? If you don’t like the way you look, you harp on it and obsess about it. But it’s not so simple. Researchers believe that engaging in fat talk isn’t just a product of dissatisfaction but can actually make you feel worse about your body. Just as our exposure to images of Photoshopped bikini perfection can change the way we think about our bodies, the dialogue we choose to engage in (whether internal or external) can also make us less happy with our bodies and ultimately, our whole selves.
Interestingly, some women believe fat talk is a healthy coping mechanism when acted out in the company of peers, who are then triggered to counter negative statements with fat talk of their own. (“You’re SO not fat! Look at my thighs. I would kill for your abs.”)
It’s impossible to contest the idea that women are surrounded by images of “ideal” women, and also by women who normalize the idea that we’re supposed to be obsessed with how we look and be in constant pursuit of some superior physical self. There’s much debate about what constitutes “fat” versus “healthy” and whether it’s medically responsible to impose one strict standard on many different types of bodies. But this study is a good reminder that how you feel about yourself has a huge impact on your reality: If you feel like you’re fat and that being fat makes you in some way deficient, you (and not “society”) will make your life more miserable. It’s an incredibly tough cycle to break and it’s amazing just how entrenched shaming yourself can become. We would all be happier if we were a little less hard on ourselves when it came to how we look.