A group of four TCU students have started a campaign against the negative effects that language can have on body image.
Their group project aims to eliminate ‘fat talk’, which is language that, consciously or not, portrays someone’s body image in a negative way to the point of lowered self-esteem and the development of eating disorders.
“We thought eating disorders were relevant to college-age students, especially at TCU,” said Nick Timmer, a junior accounting major and member of the group that created the ‘Eliminate Fat Talk at TCU’ campaign.
“A lot of people say we have good-looking students, and there’s a lot of pressure here at TCU for people to look a certain way,” Timmer said.
The group founders include Timmer, junior strategic communication major Katie Herr, junior biology major Laurel Gardner and sophomore physics and mathematics major Dave Thompson. The group said the main goal of their project is to raise awareness about “fat talk”.
The project was originally for an Honors Colloquium course called ‘Disruptive Nature of Information Technology’.
In this course assignment, students formed groups and chose a social cause which they wanted to impact, said Beata Jones, the business information systems professor who is teaching the course this semester.
“This team embraced eating disorders as their social cause and, after learning about the cause through research and guest speakers, they decided to create an awareness campaign that showcases ‘fat talk,’” Jones said.
The two other groups in the class also chose social causes they could become active in through technology. One group is running an awareness campaign about social media addiction and the other group is raising money for an after-school music program at Como Elementary School in Fort Worth, Jones said.
Katie Herr’s group decided to focus on ‘fat talk’ after research indicated eating disorder rates at TCU are above the national average.
Herr said the group interviewed 10 students about negative body image issues and the negative effects of ‘fat talk’.
“We wanted something that was representative of TCU but also diverse,” said Herr.
The questions focused on the impact of media on body image, how often ‘fat talk’ is used and what can be done to reduce ‘fat talk’.
“We asked [the respondents] over the course of two days to essentially keep track of the ‘fat talk’ they used or other people and the media use,” said Herr.
Dave Thompson said that the experiment and interviews were meant to target the type of language the group wants to reduce.
Herr said the students interviewed were “shocked” by how much they heard negative language about body image over two days.
Jones says repeated negative language in our surroundings could have long-term effects on the way we view our bodies.
“Mass media provides a context for people to learn about body ideals and the value placed on being attractive,” said Jones.
The project proposal says the group hopes to “have a positive impact on people who struggle with their body image and are either at risk for developing, or have already developed, an eating disorder.”
“The more we refrain from ‘fat-talk’ in our conversations, the less we will contribute to creating body image dissatisfaction among our friends,” Jones said.
“We want a good amount of signatures,” said Herr, “We want people to work to make an effort.”