No Room for 'Fat Talk' in a One-Piece

Lately I’ve been loving the one-piece swimsuit trend that is coming back in style. Although one-pieces never really go out of style, in years past it has been harder to find a cute yet conservative swimsuit. Considering last year’s “bare it all” trend, I am happy to see young women donning fashionable one-pieces. When I posed the idea to do a style post featuring my favorite one-pieces for spring and summer, my husband asked if I would be modeling one. “Ha! no,” I immediately replied. While my muscular thighs may have been a good look in the 1950s, they are not exactly the “hot dog legs” we see on runways, in magazines, and on TV nowadays. My husband, reading my thoughts and aware of my Lenten promise, gave me a knowing look. 


This year for Lent, I gave up negative body talk (and attempted to give up negative body thoughts). In general, I mostly refrain from contributing to public body self-disparagement, also known as “fat talk,” and I eat and exercise without the intention of achieving some elusive body type. Yet the physical insecurities I have struggled with throughout my life inevitably creep back. While I usually feel confident in my athletic build—despite stretch marks and cellulite—I did not realize the pervasive nature of self-critcal body talk or thoughts until I tried to get rid of them completely during Lent. On far too many occasions, I have come home from my workout class on Tuesday feeling strong and secure, only to be complaining about the way my legs look on Wednesday.

Knowing my vulnerabilities and this Lenten promise, my husband urged me to pose for this post precisely for the reason I did not want to—because I do not look like a typical model (or even a typical “fashion blogger” for that matter). While I am posting these photos with a lump in my throat, I know my husband is right. I want my sister Grace—and all girls—to see body types other than the stick-thin look that the media deems as the only worthy body type. I want Grace to see what women look like without Photoshop; women who are still healthy and fit, yet whose appearance may not fit into the mold of a “perfect body.” 

By giving up body shaming, I not only helped change my psyche, but my silence (or explicit positivity) detracted from the fat talk of women around me. “When women refer to themselves as fat, other women around them are more likely to chime in with their own self-deprecation,” a recent Verily article cites. Think of the Mean Girls scene, “My pores are huge, my nail beds suck….” Lindsay Lohan’s character, new to the American culture, quickly picks up on the need for self-deprecation in order to fit in: “I have bad breath in the morning?” While this scene pokes fun at our cultural truism, it points out girls’ and women’s inherent need to contribute to negative body talk.

So why are women of all ages and body types so programmed to contribute to fat talk? Women not only feel like they have to say something negative, but it almost feels taboo to acknowledge positive qualities about oneself. Mean Girls again hits on this fact when queen bee Regina George says to Lindsay Lohan, “So you agree, you think you’re really pretty,” after Lohan’s character simply says “Thank you” to being called pretty. I’m all for humility, but this is decidedly different. Part of our problem may be that as females we do not know how to receive compliments, especially regarding our physical qualities. We often feel the need to brush off compliments and offer self-hate instead, opening the conversation to fat talk.

Another study found that women who engage in fat talk have higher levels of body dissatisfaction, shame, and eating-disorder behavior. Fat talk is not inspiring women to be healthy, but rather doing the opposite. Our culture complains—and rightfully so—about the media’s obsession with Photoshopped and unrealistic women, but women of all ages and body types casually engage in fat talk. We might not be able to change what we see in the media, but do we even realize the power of what is coming out of our own mouths? Imagine what your home, school, workplace, or team would like if fat talk stopped altogether. We do have the power to remain silent; better still, we have the power to say good, honest words to ourselves and others about our bodies.

To help steer our youngest sister, Grace, away from fat talk, my 19- and 20-year-old sisters and I have attempted to ban words like “fat” and “skinny” from our vernacular. We emphasize adjectives such as “fit” or “healthy” rather than glorify thin sizes or lament bigger builds. While we may not be able to control what Grace is exposed to in the media, we can control how we talk about ourselves and each other. One woman’s self-critique can spark an avalanche of self-disparagement, but another woman’s choice to love herself—despite her imperfections—can inspire a radiance of self-worth unbound by body image.

one-piece style tips

Part of loving your body is knowing how to dress it! Check out my one-piece favorites (all under $100) for your body type:

  • Fuller Stomach: A one piece with ruching across the middle helps disguise the tummy. 

  • Small Chest: A ruffle or contrasting fabric across the chest "confuses the eye," as my mom would say, and helps your chest appear more proportional.

  • Fuller Bottom Half: Try a one piece with a fun pattern that keeps the eye drawn upward.

  • Fuller Bust: A halter neckline helps balance the bust with the rest of the body, or try a suit like that supports without sacrificing style

With a little grace,