It’s probably not surprising that our YouBeauty statistics reveal that the vast majority of readers are not “very satisfied” with their current weight. And they’re not quiet about it: More than 50 percent often say things like “I feel fat, “I need to go on a diet,” and “I wish I were thinner.” Now, here is a confusing predicament: On the one hand, the majority of readers often engage in fat talk, disparaging their own bodies or comparing themselves unfavorably to other women (often in the company of friends). On the other hand, a recent study found that women who fat talk are significantly less liked by their peers. Apparently, people don’t like spending time with other people who frequently criticize their own appearance and put their poor body image (or maybe their need for reassurance) on display. In addition to furthering poor self-esteem and negative body image, fat talk seems also to damage friendships.
So, what’s a girl to do? How can you share your feelings about your body with your friends in a way that doesn’t make them want to hit you over the head with your scale? How can you avoid fat talk, while staying true to your feelings and not crossing the line to bragging? We can get some great examples from the What I Love About Me column in Marie Claire magazine. Each month, it features photos and quotes from random women, with a focus on different geographical areas. The question is simple: What do you love about how you look? Here are some of the answers from Philadelphia women in the July issue:
“My subtle freckles keep me looking youthful.”
“Thanks to great genes, I was lucky to inherit a flawless complexion.”
“Red lipstick emphasizes my already-full lips.”
“Like all of the women in my family, I’ve been blessed with great curves.”
“Mascara and liquid liner help me play up my almond-shaped eyes.”
“I often forget I have them, but I love my uneven dimples.”
These statements all express a positive focus in a way that doesn’t come across as obnoxious or boasting. Some mention why they like a particular attribute, some acknowledge genetics (luck), some discuss how they bring out their favorite characteristic with makeup—any of these comments could promote a supportive conversation among friends. Focusing on what your body can do (like run, dance, lift a toddler, paint a room, garden) is another way to find a happy thought instead of self-bashing. Unlike fat talk, realistic positive comments encourage similar self-confident comments by others in the group, and individual self-esteem.
These strategies for avoiding fat talk among friends can also help you stop being so hard on yourself in general. Practice them; self-confidence is habit-forming. Make yourself identify something you like about your appearance every day (not the same thing each day), and write it down in a notebook or on your phone. Add to your list each day and look at your list when you’re having a low-body-image moment. Stop comparing yourself to other women. Focus on your health, not your measurements, and appreciate your body for what it can accomplish. And, finally, never rely on Barbie to set your standards for yourself or your friends.