Talking Negatively About Your Body can Lead to Depression
A recent study has found people who talk about being fat or compare themselves to others in conversation may be increasing their risk for depression. The new research, published in the National Communication Association’s Journal of Applied Communication Research found that so called “fat talk” decreases an individual’s body self-esteem while increasing levels of depression.
Fat talk, as defined by the researchers, is broken down into three areas. The first is comments about what a persons eating and exercise habits should be. The key here is the words “should be”. It is not unhealthy to discuss exercise or eating, but when someone begins talking about all the things they should be doing, the research shows it can have a very negative effect. The second area of fat talk focuses on concerns about becoming overweight. People who are always talking about their fear of weight gain may be reinforcing a negative body image. The final type of fat talk is any conversation based around perceptions about a persons shape or weight in comparison to another person.
People who engage in fat talk may also be entering a dangerous cycle. The research has shown that as fat talk drives peoples body image lower, they are more likely to engage in more fat talk and reinforce the their negative feelings.
The study's lead author, Analisa Arroyo, a Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona said, “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.”
In an interesting twist, researchers say that while engaging in fat talk can be harmful, there seems to be no harm in listening to fat talk. People in the study who heard fat talk were not caused any mental health issues.
Arroyo added, “It is the act of engaging in fat talk, rather than passively being exposed to it, that has these negative effects."
While more study is needed, this insight may help explain how people can get caught in a cycle of depression. It could also shed new light on the causes and triggers of eating disorders.
The full study will be published in the may issue of the journal of applied communication research.