I took my kids to a new park this week in our neighbourhood.  When we arrived, there were about 15 other kids there with their childcare providers.  They were kind enough to share the sand toys with my kids, who played happily alongside the larger group.  The conversation among the childcare providers was light and friendly, but then took a turn for the worse when one of them started sharing about her new diet.  It started with an 'innocent' "hey, I lost 2 lbs this week", which was met with praise from the other women.  Within moments they were comparing notes about what they'd been eating, what time of day is best to step on the scale, and their frustrations with their bodies.  I sat silently wondering how much the children (all under age 5) were absorbing.
When I saw my daughter look up with interest from her bucket and shovel to listen, I couldn't stay quiet any longer.  I politely said "Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, but I don't think this is the healthiest conversation to be having in front of all these children".  Silence.  The women looked at me blankly.  Finally one of them said "they're busy playing, they don't understand what we're talking about".  I gently responded that when kids are around, they're always listening.  Kids are like little sponges learning from everything around them. More silence.  One by one the women dispersed to play with the kids around the playground.  Except for one.  One woman stayed behind and asked "do you really think it's so bad"?  I said “yes, I do.  Kids may not understand the details of the conversation, but they can certainly grasp the concept that their trusted role models dislike their bodies and are actively trying to change them”.   
Did I overreact?  After replaying this in my head for the rest of the day, I still don't think I did.  Early childhood is when we learn and internalize thoughts and feelings about our bodies.  We learn from our parents, caregivers, and role models about what is "normal", and if we constantly hear that our bodies are bad and must be perfected, this message becomes normalized.  This type of talking about weight, dieting, and bodies, that I sometimes call "fat chat", is socially acceptable.  Challenging it in a polite and respectful way, like I tried to at the park, is one way that we can get people thinking about the messages they are conveying with fat chat. 

What will you do the next time you hear fat chat?