Eliminate fat talk


By Rebecca Kapolnek

We all have that friend: The friend who looks fabulous in just about anything but always poses the question, “Do I look fat in this?” Or, maybe we are the person who has these worries.

Either way, “fat talk,” or speaking negatively of one’s body and reinforcing the thin-ideal standard, is far too prevalent in today’s society. 

It is something we hear on a day-to-day basis, and it is the inspiration for Fat Talk Free Week, which is in progress and is put on by the national Delta Delta Delta women’s fraternity, Illinois Panhellenic Council and the Counseling Center to combat negative body image, according to an event press release.

Negative body image is something I have always been surrounded by. 

I was a competitive gymnast for most of my life, and being thin has been a priority for as long as I can remember. Being thin not only made doing skills a lot easier, but it also is the body type many people expect gymnasts to have. I don’t remember the exact moment I realized I had body image problems, but I do remember that it has consumed me for a majority of my life.

This is why Fat Talk Free Week hits so close to home for me. Having initiatives like this to bring awareness to these problems is essential in changing people’s outlooks.

In high school, I quit gymnastics but my body image issues stuck with me. I was obsessed with being as thin as I was when I competed, and I did not want to settle for anything less. I was always a size extra-small in leotards, and I had the same standards for my everyday clothing.

All of this pressure led me to make very poor dietary choices, and it deeply affected my health and well-being. 

For the next couple of years, I had to work my way out of disordered habits and learn to eat healthy and love myself again.

My story is not that unique. Eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder are extremely common, especially on college campuses. 

According to the Anorexia Nervosa Associated Disorders group, 91 percent of college women surveyed tried to control their weight in some way, and 25 percent have tried to binge and purge in order to control their weight. These statistics illustrate that body image is a major problem. 

And the disorders associated with it do not just stop at college-aged women; it also affects men and people of all ages.

The negative attitudes many people have about body image need to stop.

Because of my personal experiences, I feel having initiatives on college campuses like Fat Talk Free Week are extremely beneficial for all students and should be encouraged more widely.

While we might not be able to completely end “fat talk” due to the way our society idolizes thinness and throws it at us on a daily basis, promoting awareness and actively trying to work past it will help put an end to these problems.

Throughout the week, members of the Panhellenic Council and the Counseling Center have hosted booths around campus and handed out information promoting positive body image.

Just having this presence on campus helps to put positive messages in students’ heads, and I think it is a great way to show college-aged students that they shouldn’t hate their own bodies.

Fat talk and putting myself down seems unavoidable for me, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

This week has helped me take steps to move past my own insecurities and work to stop my own fat talk. In addition, throughout this week, I have done my best to encourage others to love themselves and their bodies, and I hope the rest of the Illini community will do the same.

While Fat Talk Free Week might be close to an end, we can encourage positive body image every week. And we should start by avoiding fat talk in our own day-to-day lives.

Rebecca is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]