As I came out of the gym the other day, I cringed when I overheard one student say to another, “Wow, you look great! You’ve lost weight.” Why? Because it is fat-talk and I want to help end it.
I want you to think of all the women you know and think about how much time, energy and emotion they spend disliking their body. Now, add it up. Now imagine what we could do with all that time, energy, emotion and money if we were to have them be happy with their bodies. Imagine what we could do to change the world to make it a better place if they felt more satisfied with how they looked.
This is how Carolyn Becker begins her TEDx Talk called Combating Body Dissatisfaction: The Destructive Impact. In this talk, she shows the negative impact of having a thin ideal internalization and how even three to five minutes of fat-talk can significantly increase body dissatisfaction which causes people a lot of misery and is a risk factor for eating disorders. It’s also associated with decreased activity and worse consumption of fruits and vegetables. Basically, it is causing a whole lot of problems for a whole lot of women. Becker describes it like this: If you have a car you hate, you don’t wash it, change the oil or take good care of it. On the other hand, if you have a car you love, you treat it very differently. We don’t take care of things we don’t like.
As you know, I have been in the fitness industry for many years and for much of my career I have been promoting those ideals. Now I am on a mission to help undo that.
Research has shown that dropping the fat-talk can help reduce thin ideal internalization. Because of this, Becker designed the anti fat-talk campaign to help people identify the “thin ideal” – essentially a pre-pubescent girl’s body, plus boobs – that is perpetuated by the media and pop culture, and then learn to reject it in favor of a healthier more realistic attitude.
I’m accepting the anti fat-talk challenge for the next 7 days, and am inviting you to join me! Let’s pay attention to how many times a day we engage in fat-talk, whether it be with ourselves when we look in the mirror, with our children, with our co-workers or gym buddies.
Get a group of friends together, share this blog with them and make a decision to devote one week to anti-fat talk.
It may seem like a simple, or even useless, exercise but in her TEDx Talk, Becker presents research that shows when you act contrary to your belief system, you create an uncomfortable cognitive state that occurs. When your beliefs and your actions are misaligned, typically the beliefs will shift to be in alignment with your actions. It’s called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance was in fact proven to reduce thin ideal internalization.
We need to do our part to make sure we stop handing down these thin ideals to the younger generations. This is one way we can all participate and make a difference today. Will you join me?