Fat Talk Among Female Friends: Do Friends' Responses Buffer the Relationship Between Fat Talk and Health-Related Outcomes?
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractFat talk refers to the negative, evaluative conversations that women have with each other about their bodies (e.g., "I'm so fat!"). These comments are often driven by negative self-evaluations and engaging in fat talk leads to negative health-related outcomes for the individual. Grounded in confirmation theory, the current research sought to uncover the role of communication in moderating the relationship between fat talk and health-related outcomes (i.e., mental health, body image, and weight management) by focusing on perceptions of both dysfunctional and functional responses to fat talk. Participants were young adult female friendship dyads (N = 239 dyads) who completed a number of measures including fat talk, depression, bulimia, drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, dieting, and exercise. Statistical analyses included multilevel modeling and actor partner interdependence modeling. Results revealed that fat talk was associated with most of the health-related outcomes, even after controlling for BMI and different responses from a friend. Engaging in excessive conversations about weight with a friend (i.e., co-rumination) was positively associated with bulimia, drive for thinness, and body dissatisfaction. Showing warmth and attentiveness during conversations about weight (i.e., acceptance) was associated with lower levels of depression and bulimia. Pushing a friend to change her thoughts and habits (i.e., challenge) was associated with lower levels of body dissatisfaction. None of the interaction terms yielded significant results, indicating that responses to fat talk (either positive or negative) did not moderate the relationship between fat talk and the health-related outcome variables. This research highlights the importance of understanding fat talk as a communication process that may be driven by and result in intra-individual outcomes.
Degree ProgramGraduate College