4 Ways To Deal With Negative Body Talk From Your Friends



You can probably imagine what negative body talk is based on the few examples listed above. It might seem relatively harmless on the surface, until you look deeper at why people do it—and how it affects all parties involved.

In a 2015 analysis published in the journal Body Image, researchers looked into why people engage in what they call “fat talk,” referring to “self-disparaging remarks made to other people about one’s weight or body.” The research found that people participate in this type of negative conversation in an effort to reduce anxiety about their body—essentially by venting or “getting it out of their system” through verbalization.

The problem is that it doesn’t work like that, according to licensed professional counselor Alicia Muñoz, LPC. She notes that it’s common to complain to others in an effort to reduce the discomfort you’re feeling and get rid of your self-judgment, but unfortunately, the negative body talk only ends up reinforcing those negative feelings.

“Speaking negatively about your own or another person’s body, or commiserating with others who speak negatively about their bodies, doesn’t actually ‘get rid’ of self-judgment and discomfort—it increases it,” she explains to mbg. “The things you say get reinforced as you repeat them.”

Indeed, the aforementioned study found that engaging in conversations like this has been linked with everything from low body esteem, to body dissatisfaction, to a drive for thinness, and more.

To make matters worse, the research also found that people engage in negative body talk to boost “social cohesion,” a term which describes the connection formed by people when they bond over something—which in this case, would be feelings of dissatisfaction around their bodies. One friend says they feel ugly, and the other chimes back that they feel ugly, too.

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