Sounding fat?

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Shh! Don’t tell!

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I’ve heard it said various places that being fat changes the sound of people’s voices. I think, maybe, I sometimes can hear a difference between fat and thin voices. What do other people think about this? If you’ve personally gained weight, do you notice a difference in your voice?
 

Marshmallow Minotaur

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Hmm... Not sure if it’s directly related to being fat or just coincidence but my voice and enunciation have changed. The biggest thing I noticed is that I speak using “dark l”. If you listen to Tom Brokaw he speaks with a pronounced dark l. Mine’s not quite as pronounced. My <s> and <sh> are more retroflex, meaning my tongue curls slightly.
 

Green Eyed Fairy

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I think your voice can start sounding more "muffled" at significantly bigger sizes, meaning I don't think a 5 lb weight loss or gain can affect it. I work in a dental office doing insurance pre-authorizations. I've had to get medical documentation for people who have lost a lot of weight (in the realm of about 200 lbs) to get the insurance companies to pay for new dentures because the old ones get "too big" on their gums.
If you can gain/lose weight on your gums....it doesn't sound like too far of a stretch that significant weight can affect your voice, does it?
 

LarryTheNoodleGuy

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I have a dear friend who has put on a tremendous amount of weight in the last 20 years, and yes, I can definitely tell the difference in her voice, as well as the labored breathing I hear when we talk on the phone.
 

Shotha

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I remember discussing this with a friend. We played each other recordings of various men's voices and the other one had to decide whether or not they were fat men. We didn't seem to be able to tell the difference. This doesn't mean that there was no difference, because it wasn't a scientific experiment.

The sound of our voices is determined by the size and shape of our vocal organs. The fact that we can produce different sounds by modifying the shape of our vocal organs and the cavities around them demonstrates this. The difference in the size of gums mentioned by @Green Eyed Fairy should be enough to change the sound of a person's voice. Whether we notice it or not is another matter. The laboured breath mentioned by @LarryTheNoodleGuy is a very clear instance of weight gain affecting someone's speech. Fat under the gums would affect the quality of sound produced by resonance in the mouth cavity (buccal cavity). I'm aware of the fat that I have put on around the face has pushed the inside of my cheeks inwards, which would have an effect on the timbre of my voice, because it reduces the volume of air in my buccal cavity.

As we put on weight as we get older, it would be difficult to determine which changes in our voices are produced by weight gain and which by aging.

In short we have good reason to believe that weight gain can affect how we sound but the big question is how much we notice this, especially in people with whom we talk every day.
 

squeezablysoft

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Yeah, I've heard what I could call a "fat voice", partly it's a tendency towards breathlessness/heavy breathing, partly a low pitch and a raspy sound, sometimes maybe a bit of a nasal quality. High, clear voices I tend to associate with slim people, though I know some of the world's finest sopranos and tenors have been obese. And I do tend to associate a very loud, strong voice with a more robust figure also. Having said all that, I've known way too many fat people who didn't have a "fat voice" and too many skinny people who did to say I can gauge a person's weight just by their voice with any degree of certainty.
 

Shotha

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Even the people that one would expect to be experts about this seem to be divided.

Weight gain definitely affects breathing. That is because certain muscles tend to be restrained by the fat. In very fat people, this can manifest itself as a noticeable breathlessness. Sometimes the effects can be more subtle. My doctor once asked me if I had any breathlessness. I remarked that most of the time I didn't notice any but that I found that when singing I found that longer phrases we a little more difficult. He explained that it was to do with my weight. It was the fat pushing my diaphragm up, so that I could not breathe as much air in as I used to. It's probably significant here that I have a classic ball belly, because I tend, like all of the men in our family, to accumulate a lot of visceral fat. (I have to comment here that my wonderful doctor never uses the words "obese" and "obesity".)

It will be interesting to see what information comes to light in this thread.
 
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