Denise M. Martz

828-262-2272 x429
Research Interests: 
Health Psychology & Behavioral Medicine; Fat Talk; Women's Health; Obesity & Eating Disorders; Body Image & Relative Size; Teen Interpersonal Violence


  • Clinical Psychology Internship Specializing in Behavioral Medicine, 1993-1994, Medical University of South Carolina
  • Ph.D., 1994, Virginia Tech, Clinical Health Psychology
  • M.S., 1991, Virginia Tech, Clinical Health Psychology
  • B.S., 1989, Virginia Tech, Honors Psychology

Research Interests

Fat Talk

"Fat talk" is a form of dialog whereby individuals, usually females, speak negatively about their bodies in social circles. Our research has documented gender and ethnic differences in fat talk for college students and American adults in that women fat talk more, yet men's body talk is different (more about muscularity).  More recently, we have found that fat talk is more of a Caucasian American tendency whereas African and Hispanic Americans are more likely to speak in a self-accepting or positive direction about their bodies.  We have also found that competing norms exist for women in college (pressure to fat talk but also pressure to self-accept).  Despite early ethnographic research on fat talk in middle school girls suggesting that fat talk serves some positive social functions, overall our research and others suggest it is more harmful than beneficial.  Hence, I believe that fat talk is a feminist issue and I am currently writing a review of the fat talk literature. We conducted one study showing that young men in a potential dating relationship found fat talk, rather than self-accepting dialogue, was associated with perceived poorer mental health of the young woman.  We are about to launch on study on how middle-age men's perception of a female partner's fat talk is related to relationship and sexual satisfaction.

Interpersonal Violence

We have been used Youth Risk Behavior Survey data on adolescents in two rural high schools to examine how intimate partner violence (IPV or dating violence) and a rape history are associated with depression, suicide, substance abuse, and poorer academic grades, body image, and eating disorders in yong men and especially so for young women.  We have an additional study in the works examining how rural teens who identify as LGBT compared to heterosexual teens have additional similar risk factors. Further, we have an ongoing national study documenting how adolescent interpersonal violence is associated with eating disordered behavior and anabolic steroid use.

Relative Size

"Relative size" is the body image construct whereby we ask women and men to report their dress or pants clothing size and what would their ideal size if it is any different.  We have found that relative size operates more as a body image or affective measure than actual body size (often measured as body mass index).  We know that relative size predicts behavioral avoidance, especially avoiding display of one's body) in women, more than men, in Caucasians more than African Americans, and in younger versus older people.


Popular Press on "Fat Talk"


Representative Publications

  • Ballard, M.E., Jameson, J. P., & Martz, D.M. (Under Review). Sexual identity and risk behaviors among adolescents in the rural southern United States. Journal of Rural Mental Health

    Rogers, C., Martz, D.M., Webb, R.M., & Galloway, A. (2017). Everyone else is doing it (I think): The power of perception in fat talk. Body Image. DOI10.1016/j.bodyim.2017.01.004

  • Martz, D.M., Jameson, J.P., & Page, A.D. (2016). Psychological health and academic success in rural adolescents exposed to physical and sexual violence. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, DOI: 10.1037/ort0000174

  • Martz, D.M., & Rogers, C.B. (2016). Understanding and treating women's body image and eating disorders. North Carolina Medicine Journal, November.

  • Mikell, C. M., & Martz, D.M. (2016). Women’s Fat Talk Can Kill the Mood for Men. Eating Behaviors, 21, 211-213.

  • Fiery, M., Martz, D.M., Webb, R.M., & Curtin, L.A. (2016). “She’s (and He’s) Got it Going On:” An Exploration of Racial Differences in Favorable and Unfavorable Body Talk. Eating Behaviors, 21, 232-235.

  • Ellis, J.M., Galloway, A.T., Webb, R.M., & Martz, D.M. (2016). Measuring adult picky eating: The development of a multidimensional self-report instrument. Psychological Assessment. 19.

  • Ellis, J.M., Galloway, A.T., Webb, R.M., Martz, D. M., & Farrow, C.V. (2016). Recollections of pressure to eat during childhood, but not picky eating, predict young adult eating behavior. Appetite, 97, 58-63.

  • Barwick, A., Bazzini, D., Martz, D., Rocheleau, C., & Curtin, L. (2013).  Testing the Norm to Fat Talk for Women of Varying Size: What’s Weight Got to Do with It? Body Image: An International Journal of Research.
  • Maphis, L., Martz, D., Bergman, S., Curtin, L., & Webb, R.M. (2013). Body size dissatisfaction and avoidance behavior: How gender, age, ethnicity, and relative clothing size predict what some won’t try.  Body Image: An International Journal of Research.

  • Martz, D., Curtin, L., & Bazzini, D. (2012). Fat talk and body image. Encyclopedia of Body Image and Human Appearance.
  • Petroff, A., Martz, D., Webb, R. M., & Galloway, A. (2011). Predicting ideal BMI: What does clothing size have to do with it? Body Image: International Journal of Research.
  • Payne, L., Martz, D., Tompkins, K.B., Petroff, A., & Farrow, C. (2010). Fat talk in the United Kingdom and the United States. Sex Role: A Journal of Research.
  • Galloway, A., Farrow, C., & Martz, D. (2010). Retrospective reports of child feeding practices, current eating behaviors, and BMI in college students. Obesity. DOI 10.1038.
  • Bolger, K., Carter, K., Curtin, L., Martz, D. M., Gagnon, S. G., & Michael, K.D. (2010). Motivational Interviewing for Smoking Cessation Among College Students. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy.
  • Bazzini, D., Curtin, L., Joslin, S., Regan, S., & Martz, D. (2010). Do animated Disney characters portray and promote the beauty-goodness stereotype? Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
  • Tompkins, K.B., Martz, D., Rocheleau, C., & Bazzini, D. (2009). Social likeability, conformity, and body talk: Does fat talk have a normative rival in female body image conversations? Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 6, 292-298.
  • Martz, D. M., Petroff, A.G., Curtin, L.A., & Bazzini, D.G. (2009). Gender differences in fat talk among American adults: Results from the Psychology of Size Survey. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 61, 34-41.
  • Curtin, L., & Martz, D. (2007). Health Psychology. In S. F. Davis & W. Buskist (Eds.). 21st century psychology (pp. 100-119). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Tucker, K., Martz, D., Curtin, L., & Bazzini, D. (2007). Examining "Fat Talk" experimentally in a female dyad: How are women influenced by another woman's body presentational style? Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 4, 157-174.
  • Martz, D., Baker, G., Knott, N., DeStefano, J., Wallace, A., & Greenfield, K. (2006). Physician's personal and practice use of CAM Therapies in a rural community in the southeast U.S. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12, 715-716.
  • Britton, L., Martz, D., Bazzini, D., Curtin, L., & LeaShomb, A. (2006). Fat talk and self-presentation of body image: Is there a social norm for women to self-degrade? Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 3, 244-250.
  • Broadwater, K., Curtin, L., Martz, D., & Zrull, M. (2006). College student drinking: Perception of the norm and behavioral intentions. Addictive Behaviors, 31, 632-640.
  • Craig, A., Martz, D., & Bazzini, D. (2006). Peer pressure to "fat talk": Does audience type influence how women portray their body image? Eating Behaviors, 244-250.