'Fat talk’ is making women feel worse about themselves

WOMEN are engaging in "fat talk" in more than a quarter of all social interactions, new research has found.

And far being cathartic, making negative comments about their bodies is only leading them to feel worse.

The study of 135 women aged 18 to 40 will be presented by Cairnmillar Institute's Jacqueline Mills at an Australian Psychological Society conference on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

It found that over the course of a week, 27 per cent of participants' social encounters involved some sort of "fat talk", where they spoke disparagingly about their own or someone else's appearance.

This is despite the average body mass index (BMI) of the women being within the healthy range.

Most of the time, participants were expressing dissatisfaction with their own bodies, but they were almost as likely to say something bad about a friend.

Dr Mills said the majority of participants cited positive reasons, such as wanting to make a friend feel better about themselves, for their "fat talk", but the research showed it actually had the opposite effect.

"It is also really dangerous because it has a contagious nature to it," she said.

"When you are in a group of friends, once someone makes some type of fat talk comment, it's very easy to pipe up and chime in and other research has indicated that fat talk is not only ­accepted of women in social interactions that it's expected," Dr Mills said.

For the study, women were asked to answer questions on an smartphone app six times a day for a week.

Butterfly Foundation chief executive Christine Morgan said language around appearance and our bodies was something everyone should be mindful of.

"If the comments are really starting to affect you, speak with your friends about your concerns and explain how reducing appearance-based talk may benefit everyone," she said.

Carmen Hartwich, 27, said that in her former job as a bar manager she had ­noticed so-called "fat talk" was "very, very prevalent" across all age groups.

"They'll say: 'Oh my god you look fantastic, but you need to get your eyebrows done'," she said.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing an eating disorder or body image concerns, you can call the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline 1800 33 4673.