Ever turn to your friend and tell her how fat you feel? Well, you’re not alone. “Fat talk”—lamenting about your body size and shape—is pretty common. But many people who do it are simply not overweight. 

In this study, nearly 200 undergraduate women completed an online questionnaire about their fat talk habits. First, they were told to imagine that one of their friends had said, “Ugh, I feel so fat,” and to write out the dialogue that might follow. They then rated how often they, and other college women, fat talked—as well as how it made them feel and what it really meant.

Almost all of the women—93 percent—said they fat talked with their friends, though most believed that other people did so more than they did. Body size had nothing to do with fat talk frequency and, in fact, the fat-talking friends the women conjured up were rarely overweight.

But self-image had a lot to do with it: the worse the women felt about their bodies, and the more they idealized thinness, the more often they fat talked. The response they get may be cathartic. Most of the women responded to their “friend” by denying she was fat, and said they’d want their friend to respond to their own fat talk in the same way.

Seems that fat talk is really a code for deeper dissatisfaction.