When a friend says she likes your outfit, how do you respond? A recent Inside Amy Schumer skit suggests that most of us self implode (heads up: Seriously NSFW):
Of course, this scene is a bit extremeÃ¢â‚¬”but it gets at a real issue that many women face with trash-talking themselves and their bodies. Unfortunately, dissing yourself doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help you fit inÃ¢â‚¬”it actually makes you less likeable, according to a new study conducted by University of Notre DameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Body Image and Eating Disorder Lab.
In the study, 139 normal-weight undergraduate women ranked the likeability of noticeably thin or noticeably overweight womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s photos. Some were pictured next to statements researchers defined as Ã¢â‚¬Å“fat talkÃ¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬”self-disparaging comments about food, weight, or other insecuritiesÃ¢â‚¬”while others were pictured next to positive statements about their body image. And while people who engaged in fat talk were the least likeable, regardless of their weight, women who spoke highly of themselves were rated as the most likable.
Why? ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only natural to be drawn to people who are positive, confident, and comfortable with themselvesÃ¢â‚¬”both psychologically and physically, says study co-author Michaela Bucchianeri, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota. When youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re around someone who accepts her body, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re encouraged to shed your insecurities and embrace your own shape. And as a result, your mood soars.
On the flip side, previous studies have shown that fat talk is contagiousÃ¢â‚¬”just like in the Inside clip. And since fat chat is associated withÃ¢â‚¬”and can actually causeÃ¢â‚¬”body dissatisfaction, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re much more likely to walk away feeling badly about yourself, says Bucchianeri. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Whether these comments are made out of a need for belonging, desire for reassurance from others, or simple habit, the evidence suggests it can only hurt us, not help us,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says.
But because you likely hear people diss their bodies all the time, it can be especially tricky to cut it out of your conversations. Use BucchianeriÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s strategies to curb fat talk (and keep your friends):
Focus on your assets So you hate your cankles. The key to feeling better about themÃ¢â‚¬”or at least not complaining about them all the timeÃ¢â‚¬”lies in choosing to focus on the other things that more than make up for your slightly thicker-than-normal ankles, says Bucchianeri. Maybe youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re super-proud of your sharp wit, for example, or the fact that you can command a boardroom without breaking a sweat.
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re so stuck in a negative mindset that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re struggling to come up with a reason you rock, phone a friend or parent and ask them for a refresher course on your strengths. Everyone has at least a few things they totally ownÃ¢â‚¬”and hearing someone else articulate them may be just the kick in the pants you need to snap out of your funk.
Make compliments count Often, well-intentioned compliments (i.e., Ã¢â‚¬Å“You look amazing in that dress! Did you lose weight?Ã¢â‚¬Â) can trigger other peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fat talk (i.e., Ã¢â‚¬Å“I got so fat that nothing else fits.Ã¢â‚¬Â). And that leads you to chime in. So, instead of just commenting on a coworkerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s appearance, praise the qualities you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seeÃ¢â‚¬”like her awesome personality traits (Ã¢â‚¬Å“You give the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best advice!Ã¢â‚¬Â).
When you hear fat talk, change the conversation If your friend says she got so fat this winter and you chime in with Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ugh, me too!Ã¢â‚¬Â your reaction doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make her feel better; it just reinforces her negativity, says Bucchianeri. Instead, tell her you hate hearing her talk like that because she has so many positive qualities. Then name them to give your point more impact. And if her fat chat is incessant? Bucchianeri suggests saying, "I'm uncomfortable with all of the focus on weight when we get together. Can we talk about something else?"
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re genuinely dissatisfied with your bodyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Take charge with a new workout or some simple diet tweaks. But first, make sure youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re taking on healthier habits for the right reason. "Consistent exercisers who see working out as part of their lifestyle, rather than as a way to change their appearance, have the most success keeping weight off," says J. Graham Thomas, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center at Brown Medical School.
Instead of dwelling on the svelte figure you want, focus on the awesome benefits of treating your body wellÃ¢â‚¬”like having more energy, more strength, and maintaining a better mood. And when someone compliments you about how awesome you look as a result? Just say Ã¢â‚¬Å“thank you!Ã¢â‚¬Â