And the award for Depressing Research goes to…a study that says as women age, fat talk yields to ‘old talk’. Ugh. It’s not really surprising that our attitude towards growing old is damaging to women’s self-esteem, but the fact that most women just never grow out of talking trash about their bodies and looks is a disturbing revelation. So much for 40 being the new 30 (or whatever the latest adage is that’s supposed to make us feel better about aging).
Led by Carolyn Becker, Ph.D. and coauthor Phillippa Diedrichs, Ph.D., the study surveyed one thousand women between the ages of 18 and 87. ‘Fat talk’ and ‘old talk’ (defined as “speech that reinforces the thin-ideal standard of female beauty” by Psych Central) weren’t exclusive to specific age groups, but surveys showed that fat talk diminished with age, and old talk increased with age.
And if the idea of constantly making self-deprecating comments, or hearing them from friends and family doesn’t upset you enough, here’s the rub: Both fat talk and old talk are related to poor body image, which is known to be an indicator of physical and mental health problems.
The authors have some not-so-surprising suggestions, including that the media should reign in the amount of fat talk and old talk directed at women:
“This study suggests ‘old talk’ may have similar negative effects on women. It also indicates that we should begin to explore the effects of media driven ‘old talk’ and ‘fat talk,’” said Diedrichs.
“Overall, our results suggest that researchers need to broaden their understanding of body image and eating disorders to include ‘old talk’, particularly when studying midlife and older women,” Becker said.
But as much as we hate misogynist comedians like Seth MacFarlane and misogynist publications like The Daily Mail, the most realistic place to start is probably just refusing to parrot their nasty discussion of women’s looks. That just so happens to be the basis of anti fat talk campaigns; now we just need to start thinking through the damage we cause by cutting down ourselves and other women for things besides just weight.