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October 2013

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Fat Talk Free Month

By Maggie Roth

Fat Talk Free Month
  • Change the way you think and speak about your body
  • Change the conversation
  • End fat talk
Fat Talk Free Month events:
Enjoy Fat Talk Free Zones at UREC
Look for Absolute Value tables on campus and share what you value outside of physical appearance
Contact UHC Health Educator Veronica Jones for more information

Have you ever walked past a mirror and disliked what you saw? While at the gym, have you ever compared yourself to the person on the next treadmill over? How many times a day do you complain about your appearance?

These three scenarios are all examples of fat talk.

"Fat talk is any statement that puts down yourself or others, in terms of body image," said Veronica Jones, health educator at the University Health Center.

While the name might make you to think that fat talk deals only with weight; it is representative of anything to do with body dissatisfaction. Whether it is an acne breakout or the color of your hair, body dissatisfaction encompasses any negative feeling you might have about the way you look.

While everyone can, at some point, feel dissatisfied about their body, participating in fat talk can be detrimental to both your mental and physical health. While fat talk is seen predominately as a women's issue, it actually affects women and men. Because it is more socially acceptable for women to come forward about body image problems and disorders, the statistics and research that encompass men who deal with the same issues is not complete.

"Women are more obvious with fat talk because it is viewed as something to bond over, while men are not as public with their discussions since it can be viewed as un-masculine," Jones said. "However, men do engage in this type of language, just more privately."

"We're looking to change the conversation at JMU," Jones said. "We want JMU students to change the way they think and speak about their bodies."

Operation Beautiful, a national organization, works to end negative self-talk and promote inner beauty among both men and women. One of its trademarks is to write a positive or motivating note and to post it somewhere public for people to see. Not only can this be considered an act of kindness but it helps to perpetuate their goal of ending fat talk.

JMU has its very own Operation Beautiful. Senior and current president Melissa Scatena started the group with freshman year roommate Hannah Foley after attending their first Student Org Night and realizing there were no organizations dedicated specifically to promoting positive body image and spreading eating disorder awareness.

"We promote positive body image and raise eating disorder awareness by bringing speakers to campus, organizing panels, facilitating body image workshops, hanging sticky notes or compliment posters around campus, and other random acts of kindness," Scatena said.

Another organization that works to combat fat talk is Bare Naked Ladies, which was recognized last year as an official campus organization. Bare Naked Ladies works to educate JMU women about the harmful effects of fat talk and promote positive body image.

"Fat talk needs to be addressed as a really unhealthy habit that negatively affects personal body image for the individual doing the talking and those around her," said Samantha Summerford, founder and current president.

In order to be both physically and mentally healthy, it is crucial to have a positive self-image. Starting with eliminating fat talk is a great step in the right direction. To find out other ways to cultivate a positive body image, check out some of the Fat Talk Free Month programs this month.

If you or a friend struggles with body image or an eating/exercise disorder, there are resources at JMU. The HOPE team, Helping Overcome Problems with Eating and Exercise, is a multidisciplinary team that provides on-campus support for students struggling with disordered eating and exercise behaviors. 

For further information or questions, please contact Veronica Jones.








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