“You Look Fat in Red”: Fat Talk in the Workplace

  • Desy Catur Karinatasa Languages and Literature Department, Faculty of Cultural Studies, Universitas Brawijaya, Malang 65145, Indonesia
  • Emy Sudarwati Languages and Literature Department, Faculty of Cultural Studies, Universitas Brawijaya, Malang 65145, Indonesia
Abstract views: 360 , PDF downloads: 168
Keywords: Citizen sociolinguistics, Fat talk, Linguistic characteristic


In the Indonesian context, commenting on one's less adequate body size is considered normal. However, the effect it has on the person who is subjected to it is quite surprising. The fat talk phenomenon in the workplace is one example of fat talk case that remains under-researched. This research reflects the phenomenon of fat talk in the workplace viewed from a sociolinguistics viewpoint. In analyzing and gathering the evidence, this research uses a descriptive qualitative approach and citizen sociolinguistics. The data were obtained from the discovery made by citizen sociolinguists in the workplace. Based on Bulik's 12 types of fat talk, the results showed that the most frequent types are personalized and generic (24%), followed by compliment fishing and bullying (21%). The least used types of fat talk are comparative, joking, and fat-is-ugly. The results also showed that the fat talk's linguistic features were found to be linked to body parts, clothing, food, body health, appearance, weight, and context of appearance and height. Eventually, fat talk is a new language variation that has fulfilled a specific language purpose in the workplace.


Download data is not yet available.


Agostini, Gina, Cindi SturtzSreetharan, Amber Wutich, Deborah Williams, and Alexandra Brewis. “Citizen Sociolinguistics: A New Method to Understand Fat Talk.” Edited by Zhiqiang Cai. PLos ONE 14, no. 5 (2019): e0217618. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217618.

Bowen, Glenn A. “Naturalistic Inquiry and the Saturation Concept: A Research Note.” Qualitative Research 8, no. 1 (2008): 137–52. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794107085301.

Bulik, Cynthia M. The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing what You Look Like with Who you are. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.

Cavico, Frank J., Stephen C. Muffler, and Bahaudin G. Mujtaba. “Appearance Discrimination, Lookism and Lookphobia in the Workplace.” Journal of Applied Business Research (JABR) 28, no. 5 (2012): 791. https://doi.org/10.19030/jabr.v28i5.7223.

Corbin, Juliet M., and Anselm Strauss. “Theory Research: Procedures, Canons, and Evaluative Criteria Grounded.” Qualitative Sociology 13, no. 1 (1990): 3–21. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00988593.

Dakanalis, Antonios, Assunta M Zanetti, Giuseppe Riva, Fabrizia Colmegna, Chiara Volpato, Fabio Madeddu, and Massimo Clerici. “Male Body Dissatisfaction and Eating Disorder Symptomatology: Moderating Variables among Men.” Journal of Health Psychology 20, no. 1 (2015): 80–90. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105313499198.

Engeln, Renee, Michael R. Sladek, and Heather Waldron. “Body Talk among College Men: Content, Correlates, and Effects.” Body Image 10, no. 3 (2013): 300–308. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.02.001.

Faulkner, Sandra L., and Stormy P. Trotter. “Data Saturation.” In The International Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods, 1–2. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118901731.iecrm0060.

Gapinski, Kathrine D., Kelly D. Brownell, and Marianne LaFrance. “Body Objectification and ‘Fat Talk’: Effects on Emotion, Motivation, and Cognitive Performance.” Sex Roles 48, no. 9 (2003): 377–88. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023516209973.

Kartawidjaja, Jenae E., and Elizabeth D. Cordero. “Fat Talk and Body Dissatisfaction Among College Dancers.” Journal of Dance Education 13, no. 4 (2013): 122–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/15290824.2013.768767.

Katrevich, Alina, J.D. Register, and Mara Aruguete. “The Effect of Negative Body Talk in an Ethnically Diverse Sample of College Students.” North American Journal of Psychology 16, no. ` (2014): 43–52.

Lambert, Vickie A., and Clinton E. Lambert. “Qualitative Descriptive Research: An Acceptable Design.” Pacific Rim International Journal of Nursing Research 16, no. 4 (2012): 255–56.

MacDonald, Danielle E., Gina Dimitropoulos, Sarah Royal, Andrea Polanco, and Michelle M. Dionne. “The Family Fat Talk Questionnaire: Development and Psychometric Properties of a Measure of Fat Talk Behaviors within the Family Context.” Body Image 12 (2015): 44–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2014.10.001.

Mills, Jennifer S., Sarah Musto, Lindsay Williams, and Marika Tiggemann. “‘Selfie’ Harm: Effects on Mood and Body Image in Young Women.” Body Image 27 (2018): 86–92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.08.007.

Nichter, Mimi, and Nancy Vuckovic. “Fat Talk: Body Image among Adolescent Girls.” In Many Mirrors: Body Image and Social Relations, edited by Nicole Sault, 109–31. Rutgers: Rutgers University Press, 1994. https://arizona.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/fat-talk-body-image-among-adolescent-girls.

Ousley, Louise, Elizabeth D. Cordero, and Sabina White. “Fat Talk among College Students: How Undergraduates Communicate Regarding Food and Body Weight, Shape & Appearance.” Eating Disorders 16, no. 1 (2007): 73–84. https://doi.org/10.1080/10640260701773546.

Pop, Cristiana. “Self-Esteem and Body Image Perception in a Sample of University Students.” Eurasian Journal of Educational Research (EJER) 16, no. 64 (2016): 31–44. https://doi.org/10.14689/ejer.2016.64.2.

Rymes, Betsy, and Andrea Leone. “Citizen Sociolinguistics:A New Media Methodology for Understanding Language and Social Life.” Working Papers in Educational Linguistics (WPEL) 29, no. 2 (2014): 25–43.

Sabiston, Catherine M., Kristen M. Lucibello, David Kuzmochka-Wilks, Alyona Koulanova, Eva Pila, Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, and Drew Maginn. “What’s a Coach to Do? Exploring Coaches’ Perspectives of Body Image in Girls Sport.” Psychology of Sport and Exercise 48 (2020): 101669. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2020.101669.

Sladek, Michael R., Rachel H. Salk, and Renee Engeln. “Negative Body Talk Measures for Asian, Latina(o), and White Women and Men: Measurement Equivalence and Associations with Ethnic-Racial Identity.” Body Image 25 (2018): 66–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.02.005.

Soleman, Noviyanti, and Rifki Elindawati. “Fourth Wave Feminism in Indonesia: Body Shaming Through Social Media Phenomenon.” Journal of Islamic World and Politics 3, no. 2 (2019): 588–604. https://doi.org/10.18196/jiwp.3234.

Steinsbekk, Silje, Lars Wichstrøm, Frode Stenseng, Jacqueline Nesi, Beate Wold Hygen, and Věra Skalická. “The Impact of Social Media Use on Apperance Self-Esteem from Childhood to Adolescence - A 3-Wave Community Study.” Computers in Human Behavior 114 (2021): 106528. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2020.106528.

Stice, Eric. “Risk and Maintenance Factors for Eating Pathology: A Meta-Analytic Review.” Psychological Bulletin 128, no. 5 (2002): 825–48. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.128.5.825.

SturtzSreetharan, Cindi L., Gina Agostini, Alexandra A. Brewis, and Amber Wutich. “Fat Talk: A Citizen Sociolinguistic Approach.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 23, no. 3 (2019): 263–83. https://doi.org/10.1111/josl.12342.

Tylka, Tracy L. “The Relation Between Body Dissatisfaction and Eating Disorder Symptomatology: An Analysis of Moderating Variables.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 51, no. 2 (2004): 178–91. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.51.2.178.

Webb, Jennifer B., Courtney B. Rogers, Lena Etzel, and Meagan P. Padro. “‘Mom, Quit Fat Talking—I’m Trying to Eat (Mindfully) Here!’: Evaluating a Sociocultural Model of Family Fat Talk, Positive Body Image, and Mindful Eating in College Women.” Appetite 126 (2018): 169–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.003.