It's Time to Talk About {Women's} Locker Room Talk

“I wish I could be as skinny as her.”

“I hate my belly.”

“I need to wire my mouth shut.”

“I’ll never have enough willpower, I like food too much.”


These are just a few of the many things I’ve overheard adult women saying in fitness club locker rooms over the past couple of months. It breaks my heart to hear grown women speaking this way about themselves, and supporting one another’s poor self-confidence, all-or-nothing diet habits, and excessive exercise. {And, no, it’s not my place to interject myself into their conversation and make them aware of my expertise.}
It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and you don’t need a clinically diagnosed eating disorder to relate to these comments and admit that the media and society have at some point played a role in your dietary habits, exercise regimen, or how good (or bad) you feel about yourself. The theme is It’s Time to Talk About It. I’ve realized I have a lot to talk about, and because of that it’s taken me a long while to articulate this blog post. I decided instead of just focusing on this for one post, or one week, I need to make it more normal to talk about it on the blog all of the time.
The locker room talk above is something I have heard my entire life. It’s just that it didn’t bother me or even stand out to me until recently. Growing up as an athlete and competing in college this locker room talk seemed as normal to me as it does to most of you and to the women I overhear regularly. I’ve been through my own eating issues  and it took dealing with one super restrictive summer in college, and years of improperly fueling as an athlete to see how much I let body image take priority over performance and health. I can tell you endless stories about what I’ve done since then to despise diet culture even more. I’ve worked with clients who have full blown eating disorders, helped teens keep their disordered eating from turning into an eating disorder, and have spoken to many teenage and college athletes in group settings about positive body image and proper fueling. A niche population I work with now is new mom’s and middle aged women who are too hard on themselves and can easily project their thoughts and behaviors onto their small children. A priority in my job is to teach them that healthy eating for an athlete, or even just an active individual, is far from healthy eating for a non-athlete. My point: I’ve seen the extreme negative effects this type of talk has on people’s bodies and minds.
I’ll have more posts on athletes in particular in the future, but maybe these statistics will help you wake up a bit more so that when I tell those stories, you’re more willing to listen and relate.

Why does society see this locker room talk and the actions above as acceptable?

In the college courses I have, there are lively discussions on media’s contributions and how much worse it is now than in years past due to social media. I buy into this to an extent and even had my students do an activity on “health experts” on social media and how they effect the diet patterns and self-confidence of their followers. The responses were enlightening, and I’ll share some of them with you soon, too.
Still, we’ve had these problems since way before the internet was around. Just yesterday my mother-in-law mentioned the “raw egg diet” her sister had gone on decades ago. Back in November before the soup segment on Fox, I was reminded of how long ago the cabbage soup diet started. In conducting one-on-one sessions at the Newtown Athletic Club, I’ve worked mostly with clients I never expected to when I decided to pursue a career in nutrition: women over the age of 50 who are trying get healthier after “dieting” since childhood and teenage years. Can you imagine being on a diet your whole life? I’m sure some of you can cause you have. I’m also sure some of you relate because you’re stuck and you don’t want that to be you.
We live in a unique time where there is so much information at our finger tips; a lot of it in your face whether you’re looking for it or not. What’s awful about this is photo-shopped and filtered body images skewing your perception of reality. What’s great about our time is that we are moving towards body acceptance, listening to more registered dietitians who share real information about a healthy body and mind, and more and more celebrities and athletes are coming out about how diet culture has hurt them.
My call to women is to first start loving your current self more and second to stop competing with other women.

  • Say something positive to yourself, about yourself, to start your day. Good thoughts will filter out the bad.
  • Stop following accounts on social media that make you feel bad about your current self, or make you strive to be just like someone else.
  • Don’t go on diets together – support each other in making small changes for long term health. {Maybe, take the Fit Fueling Course together}
  • Stop your friend when she says something negative about her body. Say something great about her instead.

If you need more support, the first thing to do is find a psychologist and/or a dietitian that specializes in eating disorders or disordered eating. You don’t need to have an eating disorder to see a professional and prevent one. Whether you’re recovering from an eating disorder, are trying to lose weight, or are just realizing you speak to yourself a little too negatively, I beg you to read some of these blog posts from other RD’s.
Kylie from the blog Imma Eat That is one of the greatest RD resources for those who have actually had eating disorders. I want everyone to read her post about statistics on healthy living bloggers and then this one urging you not to avoid living your life for a size.
Heather, an RD friend of mine and runner, decided to get REAL on her blog last year and shared a series on how many dietitians are just like you and at one time dealt with eating issues and  counted calories. It was just followed that up with a lot of education on how our body’s work, why they need the right fuel, and how everyone needs different reasons and ways to change their behaviors.
Update (2/18): Heather and I now run a 4 week interactive virtual course for all of the reasons I originally wrote this post. It’s called Fit Fueling: Intuitive Eating for Active Females and sessions run at least every other month. It’s perfect if you’d prefer group education and support over one on one sessions, plus it’s an economical way to learn and get help versus one on ones, too.
Another RD friend, Kim, just put up a great post about body acceptance and how even the most athletic individuals deal with body image issues themselves, too.

Even if you’re not ready to talk about it, take some time to listen to what’s wrong with how women talk around you and what you say to yourself.

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    1. Thanks, Liz! I’ve noticed the same thing – it’s wonderful that more and more dietitians are speaking out, raising awareness, and moving towards health as the goal rather than weight loss!

  1. Excellent post Kelly. Those statistics are scary and even scarier for me as a mom of twin 5 year old girls is the stat about girls as young as 5 and 6 coming home and saying they feel fat or are fat. It makes me very nervous for what’s to come for my girls in the society we live in and I am doing my best to shield them from the negative body talk that goes on with women around the world. Thank you for being an inspiration and a model of this!