Approximately 55 percent of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat. This was just one of the many jaw dropping statistics heard on campus at an interactive presentation called “Girls don’t let friends fat talk.”
Towson University provides its students with a group of peer educators dedicated to informing the student body about body image, how fat talk is harmful to one’s body image and ways we can improve it.
Fat talk is when a person discusses their weight or someone else’s in a negative way. Fat talk makes it difficult for a person to have a positive and healthy body image.
“I think it is important for a woman to maintain a positive body image because it can be harmful to her quality of life if they don’t,” said Caitlin Fultz, 22, body image peer educator. “There are so many external factors out there that can hurt a person’s self esteem and if a woman can maintain a positive body image for herself her confidence will shine through the negative messages.”
Peer educators and leaders in the discussion, Emily Slason and Deanna Ashkeboussi, began by providing their audience with a range of statistics about weight. To start, one out of ten girls globally report wanting to change their appearance and 80 percent of U.S. women are dissatisfied with their appearance.
Fultz states that all that matters is what we think about ourselves but in reality the majority of us look to our friends, girlfriends, and boyfriends for the confirmation that we are good enough. This can often lead to fat talking.
We are consumed by a media that shows us multiple women who have an unobtainable body image. Slason stated that 100 percent of magazine pictures have been altered.
Slason continued with several true or false questions. For example, is it true that 25 percent of girls age 15-17 report that they would likely consider plastic surgery in the future? Yes.
Fultz believes that if we could stop exposing ourselves to the billboards, magazines, and other media that promote this it would be a happier world.
Slason also said that the average weight of a supermodel is 23 percent lower than the weight of an average woman.
“All women need to be aware that in reality the average woman wears a size 14 dress,” said Susan, a psychology major at Towson.
Inas Agabein is another body image peer educator and she said that girls are not very open when it comes to discussing their thoughts on their body. When girls do start to open up the majority will say they are content with their bodies, but once the topic of supermodels comes up most of them don’t stick to their original answer.
“Doing activities that you enjoy can help you take your mind off the negative aspects of your body and it is the first step in appreciating your body and every function that it does,” said Agabein.
When one has a healthy body image it eliminates the need to fat talk. The body image peer educators created a project called “Love your parts,” Where any student can hand in a picture of their favorite body part and explain why it is their favorite. These pictures will be posted during “Love your body week” this fall.
“It is a positive start when a woman thinks positively about one part of her body but it is just a step,” said Jamie Fenton, head coordinator for body image at the counseling center. “Women should work to appreciate their bodies even if their bodies don’t match the thin ideal, one vision of attractiveness sold to us by the media. Women should also appreciate their bodies for more than how their bodies look. Our bodies work hard to take care of us including helping students walk to class, tolerate a late night of studying, deal with spicy food, etc.
The peer educators support the concept that you should not only appreciate your body for what it looks like but for what it does.
Ashkeboussi says that people everywhere are fat talking. Fat talking not only is uncomfortable for the people who are saying it but it can be harmful to those who have to listen to it.
“I try to explain to people how I feel when they fat talk and how it makes me feel bad,” Ashkeboussi said. “So I try to approach it more from a personal standpoint than from a judgmental standpoint.”
Fat talking is dangerous because it can cause you to develop poor body image which can lead to an eating disorder, said Slason, and 25 percent of college women use unhealthy methods for weight control.
By the end of the presentation we decided as a group that it is important to not engage in conversations about weight at all. Even telling someone that it looks like they’ve lost weight can be taken the wrong way.
“Don’t be afraid to stand up and interject when you hear people fat talking,” said Ashkeboussi.
Slason and Ashkeboussi provide more statistics from a variety of sources.