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Fat Talk


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Table of Contents

Preface Introduction: Barbie and Beyond 1. In the Presence of the Perfect Girl 2. Fat Talk 3. Are Girls Really Dieting? 4. Who Will I Look Like? 5. Mothers, Daughters, and Dieting 6. Looking Good Among African-American Girls 7. What We Can Do Appendix A: Research Strategies Appendix B: Tables Notes Acknowledgments Index

Promotional Information

Fat Talk is a benchmark of sanity on an issue that too often defies common sense. In this sympathetic, useful book, Mimi Nichter describes the realities of dieting and the complex process by which girls and women embrace an elusive physical ideal. -- Terri Apter, author of Altered Loves: Mothers and Daughters During Adolescence

About the Author

Mimi Nichter is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona.


Pychologists, nutritionists, sociologists, and others in the medical field have offered many statistics about body image and self-esteem as they relate to teenage girls. In this summation of a three-year study, Nichter (anthropology, Univ. of Arizona) lets 240 American teenage girls speak for themselves. The results, which make up the core of this work, cover weight, appearance, relationships with mothers, and race as variables in the girls' perception of body image and reveal that girls don't diet as much as they talk about dieting. In the third year of the project, 50 additional African American girls joined the study so that Nichter could further explore cultural differences, and of all the issues discussed, the differences in the answers about race were the most interesting. Nichter's writing style is pleasant, using the actual words of the subjects to supplement her theories and observations. Statistical data are supplied at the end. This is most appropriate for academic or libraries specializing in social sciences.--Mee-Len Hom, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

In this wonderful book, Mimi Nichter provides a tantalizing glimpse into the intimate world of adolescent girls. What girls say to their parents, girlfriends, and boyfriends about attractiveness and weight--and what they say they hear back--is surprising and sometimes troubling. Nichter's insights on the many meanings of 'fat talk' are shrewd and original, and keep us reminded of the complexity of girls' relationships with their physical selves, and the power of family talk, too. -- Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor, Child Development and Education,Teachers College, Columbia University [In] Fat Talk: What Girls and Their Parents Say About Dieting, the alleged silence of girls is penetrated by adults asking relevant, open-ended questions that play to the characteristic self-centeredness of the adolescent years...Nichter's careful listening confirmed the contemporary generation's preoccupations with 'body projects.' But it also penetrated beneath all the dissatisfaction and frustration to determine if young girls really were dieting, and what purposes 'fat talk' actually serves. The answer is that dieting is neither consistent nor extreme among teenagers, and that fat talk is a form of ritualistic speech used by girls as an idiom of distress, a call for support, a marker of group affiliation, and a way of establishing honesty, vulnerability, and humility...Nichter's insight that fat talk is actually part of a larger pattern of female self-deprecation is important. -- Joan Jacobs Brumberg Chronicle of Higher Education 20001124 In interpreting data from more than 200 interviews of teenage girls, Nichter calls into question a number of previously held beliefs about adolescent girls, eating, eating disorders, and dieting...Through Fat Talk, Nichter presents a comprehensive picture of the pervasive and powerful cultural messages concerning women's bodies and the effects that socially defined standards of beauty have on young women's thinking, relationships, emotional development, and, in some cases, physical development...More than anything, Fat Talk shows how the conversations of these girls initially bind them around the common experience of attempting to meet an impossible standard. -- Mary Ruth Lacock, Ph.D Anthropologist Nichterspent three years studying and interviewing teenage girls about their attitudes toward appearance, eating habits, and dieting...The reader gains a better understanding of teenage girls through the readable narrative that describes the results of the study. -- Deborah L. Dubois VOYA

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