By Aidan Hamelin
A new questionnaire developed in a joint study by affiliates of Ryerson University, the University of Toronto and others is the first of its kind to measure the effects of “fat talk” in the home.
Fat talk is used to describe when people say things like “I’m so fat,” or “I’m such a lard ass,” regardless of whether or not it could be considered true.
The Family Fat Talk Questionnaire (FFTQ) measures the frequency of fat talk, as well as external factors in the home, expanding upon the existing Fat Talk Questionnaire (FTQ) to better understand how daily discussion in the home contributes to negative body image in young women.
The study noted that that “there may be a number of negative consequences of fat talk, such as increased body dissatisfaction …
weight reducing practices and the development of eating disorders in girls and young women.”
“Poor body image is something that a lot of women struggle with, and the literature suggests that fat talk and body dissatisfaction are connected,” said Danielle MacDonald, a Ryerson PhD student in the department of psychology.
According to the study, “the [FFTQ] captures both sides of the fat talk conversation – the types of fat talk behaviours the respondent is doing, but also what she hears from her family members.”
The questionnaire is made up of 16 questions, rated on a five-point scale (1 = never, 5 = always), that examine comparisons between an individual’s self-image and how it is discussed in their home.
Questions range from topics about personal body image – “when I’m with my family members, I complain that I should not be eating fattening foods” – to family pressures and external influence – “when I’m with my family members, I hear them pressure each other to be thin.”
Although fat talk is prevalent in modern society, MacDonald attributes this to “a diet and thinness obsessed culture,” referencing the change in Western soceity’s ideal body type to a slimmer appearance in recent years.
“This is a social behaviour that is located in this particular time and place, not an inherent human behaviour,” Macdonald said. “We don’t need fat talk to survive, and in fact, we would probably be better off without it.”