Alex Moreno, the Mexican Olympic gymnast who competed in vault, beam, uneven bars and floor exercise events, is amazing. Not only for her incredible athletic talent, but also because she is representing a country that typically does not have representation in this sport. So what did some Olympic viewers choose to tweet about? Her body, and how it didn’t measure up to their standards.
“Fat talk” is any statement that reinforces an unrealistic ideal of beauty that is promoted by the media. For females, this is often an ultra-thin ideal that is often unrealistic and unhealthy. Moreno was subject to fat talk when some viewers criticized her body shape and size.
While it is terrible that she was subjected to body shaming, it was impressive to see the outpouring of support from other Twitter users who tried to put an end to the fat talk. One response supporting Moreno stated, “#AlexaMoreno, thank you for giving many young Mexican girls hope. You rock… #rio2016” and another, “why are y’all even body-shaming Alexa Moreno? it’s not gonna make her less of a gymnast or an Olympics competitor.”
Putting an end to fat talk is challenging, but it can be done. Here are some ways that you can stop fat talk in its tracks when you hear it and ensure that you don’t promote it yourself:
- Appreciate what your body allows you to do. For example, rather than complain about your thighs, intentionally appreciate your legs for getting you around campus or taking a walk with a friend.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be someone with attributes that you believe to be better or worse than yours.
- Consciously change the way you talk to yourself and others. If you catch yourself engaging in fat talk, change your thoughts and comments to something positive.
- Challenge others around you to do the same. If your friend makes a negative comment about someone else or their own appearance, respond with a comment that promotes healthy behaviors and body appreciation, and a recognition that appearance isn’t the only thing that is important. For example, if someone says, “What’s too fat to be wearing those shorts,” you can reply, “Does she have a body? Then she has the body to wear that outfit.”
Challenging fat talk can be tricky, but it can be taught and becomes more comfortable over time. In fact, Illinois State University’s Student Counseling Services and Health Promotion and Wellness have collaborated to offer a wonderful healthy body image program, the Body Project, to Illinois State women. The Body Project actually teaches participants how to recognize and respond to fat talk, improve body image, and promote a healthier campus environment. The program is fun, effective, and FREE. Sessions are offered throughout the semester. Register today!