Eating Recovery Center Wants You to Silence “Fat Talk” During Fat Talk Free Week

Eating disorders experts offer insight to increase awareness of the effect individuals’ words and behaviors have on child and teen body image.

Eating disorders are on the rise in children and one in 60 teens qualifies for an eating disorder diagnosis. During Fat Talk Free Week (October 16-22, 2011), Eating Recovery Center (, an international center for eating disorders recovery, urges individuals to increase awareness of the body-conscious comments they make in front of others, especially children and teens. “Fat talk,” whether directed at oneself or others, can damage children’s body image, and in serious cases, may trigger disordered eating behaviors. “When we engage in ‘fat talk’ and critique our own bodies or the bodies of others, we teach children to value thinness above all else,” explains Ovidio Bermudez, MD, FAAP, FSAHM, FAED, CEDS, medical director of child and adolescent services at Eating Recovery Center. “This excessive focus on body shape and size creates an unrealistic ideal in the minds of children upon which body image issues and eating disorders can develop.” Eating Recovery Center offers these four recommendations to help adults banish detrimental “fat talk,” model healthy behaviors and promote positive body image in children and teens. 1. Be aware of comments you make about your own body. Children and teenagers are far more astute than adults may give them credit for and they will often mirror observed behaviors. Offhand comments about having a “fat day” or feeling too snug in an old pair of jeans can have a bigger effect on a developing child or teen body image than many may think. 2. If you are a parent, talk to your children about images in the media. Children and teenagers are bombarded on a daily basis with celebrity gossip, weight loss advertisements and airbrushed photography. Discuss with your children how these images make them feel and explain why they are often unrealistic. Opening the lines of communication about body image can help children develop stronger self-esteem and healthier attitudes about their own bodies. 3. Encourage non-biased conversations about food and exercise. For many, “fat talk” can run rampant related to food and exercise. This negative self-talk can be as simple as expressing shame over eating a brownie or emphasizing the need to go to the gym to work off excess weight. To help children develop healthy attitudes toward food and exercise, focus on modeling behaviors that are “fat talk” free. Do not label foods as “good” or “bad;” instead, promote moderation and balance. Elevate exercise as a fun activity that gives you energy and makes you feel good. 4. Focus on who people are, not what they look like. Rather than focusing on body shape and size, compliment people for personality traits and focus on good deeds they have done. Teach children to do the same. “Many adults may not realize that what they say can have a significant impact on children and teens,” explains Dr. Bermudez. “Fat Talk Free Week is an opportunity to encourage people to be more conscientious of their comments and promote a healthy, positive body image.” Experts Available: Eating Recovery Center’s team of nationally recognized eating disorders experts are available for interviews to supplement your Fat Talk Free Week stories. Contact Shannon Fern at (303) 433-7020 or to arrange an interview.

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