Is the End of Fat Talk in Sight?
At Northwestern University, the girls in Delta Delta Delta sorority (known as “Tri Delt”) spend one week every year going totally fat talk free. The girls spread awareness on campus, counter friends’ mealtime fat talk with a breezy “Fat talk free!” and even have stickers on the mirrors in their sorority house that say, “Friends don’t let friends talk fat.”
They’re part of a national campaign, Fat Talk Free® Week, that educates sorority members about the negative effects of fat talk and encourages them to focus on health instead of weight or pant size. “We work with women all over the country to educate them about how to change the conversation,” says Stacy Nadeau, national Fat Talk Free® Week spokesperson and former model for the Dove Real Bodies campaign.
The intervention might only last a week, but the girls’ new awareness persists.
Just last week, Elizabeth Henderson, a senior political science major at Northwestern University and organizer of the Tri Delt Fat Talk Free® week, was watching TV with her girlfriends when an ad came on for Victoria’s Secret. The fat talk was immediate: One girl said, “I’m not going to eat for a week after this,” while another chimed in with, “I ran three extra miles today.”
Henderson called them out. “I just said, guys, this is ridiculous,” she remembers. She admits that it’s hard to take a stand when it’s your friends, but she finds it easier now that fat talk awareness is part of their lives.
Just the awareness helps, Henderson says. “I’m not going to say I never feel bad about my body or fat talk, but now I realize what I’m doing and I can get back to a good place.”
The program doesn’t directly measure its success, but Engeln-Maddox is happy to see interventions like “no fat talk” tables in sorority cafeterias. “It’s really taking a stand,” she says.
In Engeln-Maddox’s dream world, women would spend less time worrying about their physical appearance and more time engaged with the world around them. “I want women to focus on the health and strength of their bodies,” she says. “On what their bodies can do instead of how they appear.”
That’s a pretty appealing aspiration.
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