Who Shapes Your Shape?

Fat Talk and How It Shapes Your Body Image

I’m mulling over some conversations I’ve had this week about weight, and am aware that they’re really conversations about body image but that the women I was speaking with do not think they have any body image issues, it’s just normal and easy to talk about losing weight, or not losing weight but making an effort – yes, the old Fat Talk conversations again!

It’s fine-tuned my awareness again of the idea that thin=healthy and that we all have an obligation of some kind to be healthy and therefore to work hard to get or stay ‘thin’.

And it’s a long conversation, getting someone to reconsider their default settings, their automatic restricted eating, their “aren’t I bad because I ate chocolate or chips” comments, their own nasty self fat talk.

Way too long a conversation to have in the lunchroom and with people you don’t really know that well…

What to do?

As we’ve discussed before, there are still a few things you can do:

1. Change the subject, just don’t join in the conversation.

2. If that’s not possible because the people involved are committed to keep diet talking fat talking, practice some lines that you can use to start changing the conversation – like, “I like to think about the quality of my food rather than the calories because I think my body is good at managing its own calorie needs when I feed it well” – or “What are you doing this weekend?”- or “So how is your project going?”….. Really, anything – anything – other than another round-robin of self-bashing dressed up in the language of weight loss.

3. Get really honest and engage in a conversation-changer – like “I feel really unhappy about how often we talk about losing weight and how big our butts are, I really want to talk about things that are important to us as people” or… share your idea below?

I think it really is vital to engage in changing the fat talk conversations around us, because if we don’t change the subject the self-bashing will continue and keep influencing us all with bad information and distorted opinions of what is normal and healthy for our bodies.

Because as long as we keep maintaining the fat talk conversations by not saying *something* to change them… are we part of the problem? What do you think?



  1. Kama Frankling on July 1, 2011 at 7:33 am

    I have also observed that we talk about losing weight in order to be healthy but maybe we could be saying “let’s get healthy”. With the focus on healthy the weight is less of a focal point. I was unwell a few months ago and as a result gained 5kg which I couldn’t shake. I started to focus on my health instead and now that I am healthy the 5 kg isn’t an issue for me. I just feel amazing being healthy. It is a change in perception which really makes a difference πŸ™‚

    • Sandy on July 1, 2011 at 10:42 am

      Oh yes for sure. It bugs me when people use ‘lose weight’ and ‘get healthy’ or ‘get fit’ interchangeably though, because they are SO not the same thing at all! Good on you for the perspective shift πŸ™‚

  2. Julia Manson Cheng on July 1, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    I’m with you ladies, on approaching fitness & diet with the intention of optimizing “health”, versus losing weight. What worked for me was focusing on ADDING MORE of the good stuff (nutritious foods & balanced bouts of exercise) versus TAKING AWAY. I think that shifting your mindset from one of self-deprivation, to permitting a bounty of healthful options, is a more empowering approach to long-term health. I think we’ve conditioned ourselves to think that we can’t have, which just ends up back-firing. So why not just turn that whole idea up-side-down & focus on what we can have!

    • Vivian on March 28, 2013 at 12:49 am

      I love the attitude of “adding more” rather than “taking away”; this is KEY and extremely vital to our overall well-being (mind, body and soul); I too think that society is WAY over-conditioned to talk about weight loss, the gym, how enjoying food (of all sorts) is ‘bad’ and ‘sinful’ (commercials are especially notorious for this) and so on. It’s time to take back the word HEALTHY and apply terms like well-being, happiness, fulfillment, joy, etc. rather than counterproductive and self-harming ones such as ‘restrict’ and ‘avoid’ and ‘lose’. Very glad this type of forum exists; my wish is that it gains support and focus in the rest of society. Good job everyone for CHOOSING to take a different view! πŸ™‚ good luck to all! πŸ™‚

      • Sandy on March 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm

        Vivian – yes we are SO conditioned to talk about weight loss, the gym, the new diet, the bad food, the good food – it’s all so BORING I think! And what really concerns me too is how the weight loss industry is starting to talk about wellbeing and health etc as alternative terms for “lose weight”. We need to pay attention to that too and call them on it. It’s the same way they’ve made “fit” be another word for “thin”. Thanks to you too for being part of the solution πŸ™‚

  3. Donna-1 on July 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    It does require a paradigm shift. It is as if the “excess” weight were something to recover from, like a bad disease, instead of something that may be an intrinsic part of me.

    I just say, “Isn’t there something FUN we can talk about? By the way, how’s your love life?” It causes a person to reboot his or her end of the conversation.

    • Sandy on September 7, 2011 at 9:28 pm

      Yes exactly, just what’s needed – thanks for sharing, that’s a question that really engages πŸ˜€

  4. karen on August 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    people need to realize that being thin doesn’t mean healthy, i have a friend that is WAY thinner than me, but she’s sick from not eating right, on the other hand, i’m a bit bigger…not fat, just a bit bigger, and i am super healthy….i weight 116lbs, which i dont think it’s a lot, specially because i gave birth 4 months ago, and i think i’m actually doing pretty good, but people keep telling me how i still need to lose weight and how it’ll be okay…who told them it wasnt okay? the image of perfection we have is unreal….and it’s sad, i dont want mi lil girl to judge her self by the media standards…something needs to change…

    • Sandy on September 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm

      @karen, you’re right, 116lbs isn’t a lot by any standard. You’re already on the right track because you’re aware – your l’il girl is a lucky one πŸ™‚

  5. Kevin Smith Parr on August 29, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Hmm.. Not joining the conversation would make you left out of the conversation, changing the conversation would look rather obvious. Getting really honest and engaging in the conversation would be certainly good as you can share some of your experiences on what has helped you and what has not, will make you a part of the group and these experiences & tips would be remembered by a lot of them around

    • Sandy on September 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      Being obvious is sometimes the only way to change the cultural converstaion though? πŸ™‚

  6. Elisa on May 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    After I turned 30 my whole body changed. I am still trying to quit being so hard on myself and be more positive. I would eat right, work out, and I would still gain weight. I never had to think about my pants not fitting before 30. I agree that it is terrible the way women are feeling about their bodies. Hey, Marilyn Monroe was a size 12. I do what ever I can to stay positive about myself. I do try to encourage other women to do the same. It does work when you flip the negative around to positive. What really matters is what I think. I am the only one judging my body. I tell myself this everyday and it helps. Maybe thinking like that will help others too?

  7. Sandy on June 9, 2012 at 12:47 am

    Hey Elisa – high five girl, for doing what it takes to recognise yourself as a powerful woman, in a smart body that’s changing in ways we’re only beginning to understand, to maintain it’s health as you move into the next stage of life. Like, I only heard a few years back that body fat makes estrogen – no wonder we gain a few pounds at meopause, our body replaces the estrogen our ovaries used to make, with estrogen from fat cells.

    And yet we’re encouraged to think that the fat is ugly useless stuff that detracts from oue “hotness”, which is after all the most important thing a woman can be, right? Right? Hah, you know I don’t think that, but I do laugh often at how ridiculous we are, thinking we know better than our wise 100,000 year old bodies πŸ™‚

    Anyhoo, you keep staying positive Elisa, cos it’s your body, you’re in control as you said πŸ™‚

  8. Jane on June 13, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    I think what has made me think most this week is watching those I work with who are thin and how they look after themselves. They seem to be the ones that are always unwell and use smoking as an appetite suppressor. Or those that are constantly going up and down with their weight for each special occasion that comes along. Those of us that accept ourselves as we are, are the ones that eat healthily and get less illness. I just watch what I eat to keep myself as healthy as possible to keep up with my two sons and surround myself with like minded people

    • Sandy on June 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Jane, I bet you also don’t talk all the time about how ‘bad’ you are for wanting a chocolate, and perhaps you change the subject when peopel start talking that way. It’s my pet hate, fat talk, because it trivialises us, and we women do it to ourselves. So lovely to hear about a woman who’s making a different choice, thanks for stopping by and sharing πŸ™‚

  9. Jordan on November 11, 2013 at 1:12 am

    Although in the 20th Century we think that skinny = fit, but that was not how humans as a whole used to think. In fact in the 1600-early 1900’s people refused to go close to skinny people because it was a sign of disease in the house. Back then being FAT was HEALTHY!

    • Sandy on November 11, 2013 at 7:50 pm

      Hey Jordan πŸ™‚ Yes, agree – skinny and fit are not the same thing. Skinny is skinny and fit is fit, regardless of size. Skinny now means you can afford to both pay a personal trainer and obsess about your food – or do whatever you can to appear as though you’re that wealthy. Interesting how fashions and perceptions change hey?

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