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Body Image and Negative Self Talk in Women

Do you focus on your body image more than you should? When you look into the mirror, do you talk negative about your body image? Let’s take a look at the connection between negative self-image and the increased risk for an eating disorder.

According to an article at, “Body Image Effect on Women”

5767973_s“Women face body image issues throughout their lives. Concern about her body’s size and shape starts to intersect with a young girl’s development of her self-concept. Much of this concern develops as a result of the media’s glorification of thinness. Starting as early as middle childhood, girls become vulnerable to these images. They start to view themselves in terms of whether or not they fit that idealized image, a tendency that only worsens as they hit the key years of late adolescence and early adulthood. This is the time of peak identity development, when teens and emerging adults formulate an overall sense of self. How well they believe their bodies fit in with society’s norms take on an important role in defining not only “who” they are, but also how positively or negatively they feel about themselves.

Concerns about body image affect both men and women, though men are subject to negative self-judgments for being too thin, not too heavy. Women’s body image, however, seems to be more vulnerable to media portrayals of the “perfect” female form. This is in large part due to the vastly wider amount of advertising directed toward women telling them that to look sexy and desirable, they need to be thin (though obviously not in the bust). Body image research on women throughout adulthood shows that women most preoccupied with their bodies, particularly as they change in the midlife and later years, are most vulnerable to mental health concerns (Whitbourne & Skultety, 2002).

Given women’s focus on their bodies, it’s no wonder that women talk to each other about these preoccupations and, as they do, share their worries about being overweight with their girlfriends. You may not even be aware of your own tendency to engage in this type of conversation, called “fat talk,” because it happens so frequently and in so many subtle ways. Every time you engage in fat talk, you run the risk of driving down your feelings of self-esteem. Low self-esteem combined with a negative body image place women at risk of depression, eating disorders, and anxiety.

Researchers are trying to determine whether perhaps some of the increased risk that women have for these forms of psychological disorder can be traced to a negative body image made even more negative by fat talk. In a New York Times article (link is external), Jan Hoffman reports on the conversation she overhears at a Gap store among two young women trying on jeans. Both of them express disgust and frustration with their inability to find a size that conforms to their body shapes. They leave the store “feeling lousy.” To read the entire article click here.

ABC Nutrition Services specializes in eating disorders, such as binge eating, overeating, and anorexia. To schedule an appointment contact ABC Nutrition Services at 775-329-0505 or visit

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