If You Stop Saying the Word "Fat," Will You Stop Feeling Fat?

by Leigh Anderson
Originally Published: 

On Tuesday, Facebook, prompted by an online campaign, announced that you will no longer be able to post a “feeling fat” status update, thereby depriving those of us who like to commiserate about our perceived saddlebags and double chins of a platform. In an article for The New York Times, psychologist Renee Engeln, who was among those lobbying for the change, insists such venting is not making us feel any better: “As someone who studies this type of public body self-disparagement, known as ‘fat talk,’ I can say that it probably will make you feel worse. And it may drag down other people with you.”

It’s not just young women who engage in these kind of putting-yourself-down conversations—it’s pretty much women from ages 16-70 (the ages Dr. Engeln and her colleagues studied for a survey published in Psychology of Women Quarterly). I can tell you that my cohort of moms-with-little-kids definitely spends a good chunk of time bemoaning our stomachs (poochier than they used to be), our jeans (tighter), and our rear ends (wider, losing some of the perk of the younger years). Don’t get me started on the breasts.

Until now, I hadn’t noticed what Dr. Engeln points out, which is that I rarely feel better after these conversations. In fact, I generally feel kind of bummed. Then, I resolve to start a diet, and then, still feeling bummed, blow the diet immediately.

Of course, then I remember The Atlantic ran a story a few weeks ago reporting that an appearance-based diet is the least likely to work, because focusing on appearance makes dieters ignore their hunger and satiety cues—and then they binge. To my (somewhat disordered) way of thinking, this means that if I want to lose weight to look better, I should somehow trick myself into not thinking about how I look. This might be impossible for now. But, according to Facebook, I should at least stop talking about it.

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