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"Fat talk' leads to depression and body image issues

more than talk

A new study shows that people who believe they are fat, whether they are or not, may be damaging their mental health. Internal or mental ‘fat talk’ leads to decreased body self-esteem and increased incidences of depression.

“These results suggest that expressing weight-related concerns, which is common especially among women, has negative effects. We found that fat talk predicts changes in depression, body satisfaction, and perceived pressure to be thin across time,” said leading author Analisa Arroyo, PhD student in communication at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Arroyo and her colleague Jack Harwood, PhD, professor of communication at the University of Arizona, decided to find out if the ‘fat talk’ was the cause or the outcome of body weight concerns and mental health issues.

After using online surveys on a group of men and women, they determined that overall, regardless of the participants’ sex or body mass index, the more the ‘fat talk’ the higher their level of depression after the three week study. They found that body weight concerns and mental health issues were in fact the result of critical ‘fat talk’.

Researchers found that lower body satisfaction led to more ‘fat talk’. More ‘fat talk’ led to higher depression of time and greater perceived pressure to be thin. However, in contrast, they found that listening to ‘fat talk’ was neither a cause, or a consequence or body weight issues or mental health issues. This could mean that exposure to media images do not have the impact we fear. If people aren’t listening, or aren’t buying the message, it does not seep in.

“It is the act of engaging in fat talk, rather than passively being exposed to it, that has these negative effects,” concluded Arroyo.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of Applied Communication Research

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