Students work to end “Fat Talk”

Mackenzie Akers, sophomore in event management, and Ericka Green, sophomore in child, adult and family services, talk with Bethany Schafer, senior in marketing, about their handouts for the Delta Delta Delta sorority’s “End Fat Talk” campaign. The Tri Delt house proposed a challenge to promote positive self-image by getting rid of negative comments around campus.  

Mary-Kate Burkert

This week is dedicated to raising awareness of “fat talk” in society and working to cease it. The weeklong event is hosted by Delta Delta Delta sorority and is held across the country. It highlights the importance of taking the pledge to end “fat talk” and celebrating a woman’s inner beauty and character.

“Fat talk describes all of the statements made in everyday conversation that reinforce the thin-ideal standard of female beauty and contribute to women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies,” according to Delta Delta Delta’s official Fat Talk Free Week website. “Statements that are considered fat talk don’t necessarily have to be negative; they can seem positive yet also reinforce the need to be thin.”

People are greatly influenced by those around them. With each person refusing to partake in “fat talk,” the chances of a more positive and healthier society will increase.

“People do it for a variety of reasons, the most important being that other people do it. So it becomes a social norm and an acceptable behavior. In addition, people want compliments, and it is one way to get them,” said Dr. Susan Cross, professor of psychology.

Scientifically, reasons that prompt “fat talk” and negative body images are clear.

“Some people feel like they don’t measure up to society’s expectations in a domain, or what they believe to be society’s expectations, or the expectations of other people they care about,” Cross said. “Some people compare themselves to others and perceive that they fall short in some domain. They feel they aren’t as thin, pretty, rich or as smart as the people to whom they compare themselves.

Cross said “fat talk” can start early in a woman’s life.

“Some people grew up getting implicit or explicit messages from their family that they weren’t good enough or pretty enough, or thin enough or smart enough,” she said. “Others do have low self-esteem or psychological disorders that make them think negatively of themselves. So there are a variety of both external and internal reasons why people feel badly about themselves.”

This weeklong event not only raises knowledge and understanding of the societal issues, but it also works to help end the battles of weight and appearance that young women deal with.

“I support this campaign because I am a recovered anorexic. Daily, I have to remind myself to accept myself for the way I am and want others around me to do the same,” Morgan said. “This is especially important in college where we live in close proximity to each other — other people’s perceptions and attitudes strongly affect ours. College is stressful enough, we don’t need to add negative body image to the mix.” 

Taking a stand and pledging to end negative conversations concerning outer beauty is important for everyone. It promotes the fact that people can learn to be accepting and make the change today. It is not far-fetched to think that tragic effects of “fat talk” occur on Iowa State’s campus.

“I developed a severe eating disorder called anorexia nervosa when I was 13 years old,” Morgan said. “I had an extremely low [body mass index] and had to have blood drawn monthly and attend weekly doctor appointments to monitor my organ functioning and weight. I also had to see a psychologist.

The disorder affected Morgan’s life in several ways.

“I was in competitive dance at the time and wasn’t allowed to practice because I couldn’t afford to exercise,” she said. “I’d say the disorder was severe for about two years and then became more manageable. The summer before my sophomore year I had to be hospitalized for dehydration; I think that was the reality shock I needed to take my recovery more seriously.”

Morgan eventually learned to control her eating disorder.

“By my senior year in high school I was able to maintain a healthy weight and didn’t have to go to weekly doctor appointments. This was a huge feat,” she said. “I would definitely say I am fully recovered now, and as happy as I’ve ever been. I needed to accept the problem in order to fully deal with it, as well find a healthier way to cope with stress.”

Since recovering from her illness, Morgan decided to get a tattoo to remind her of how far she has come.

“Before coming to college, I got a tattoo of a butterfly on my stomach,” she said. “The butterfly signifies my ‘metamorphosis’ or recovery from the eating disorder and placed on my stomach because it was always what I called ‘fat.’ It reminds me how far I’ve come and that I’m stronger because of it.”

The “Fat Talk Free Week” campaign not only targets young women, but it can also be helpful to male students.

“It is believed that men’s body image dissatisfaction has tripled in the previous 25 years, from 15 percent to 45 percent of all Western men,” according to the Better Health Channel website.

Not only do males deal with body issues, but they are affected by the “fat talk” of women as well.

“Guys can influence negative images women hold, but generally the young women are trying to make themselves feel better and not always appeal to men,” said Cade Russell, junior in German and international studies. “Men usually don’t find a girl who looks like a twig attractive, but if that is what the media and celebrities are showing is in style, then that is what the women want to achieve.”

Russell went on to say that men can have a role in ending “fat talk” as well.

“Men can help by end ‘fat talk’ by just being supportive and not just ignoring the issue. Complimenting a woman is one of the best things a man can do to make her feel more secure and confident in herself,” Russell said.