With holiday season approaching, we are likely to be in situations that are FILLED with diet talk. Read on to learn about how to recognize and deal with diet talk.

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Recognizing Diet Talk:

Diet talk is EVERYWHERE. It’s on television, social media,  in magazines, at the grocery store, the dentist, the hair salon, family get togethers…it’s unavoidable.

Diet talk includes any conversation around restricting foods/ food groups to lose weight or exercise for the sake of wanting to change our body weight, shape or size. Diet talk can be toxic as it leads you further away from trusting your body’s cues and causes you to be wrapped up in the diet messaging you are continuously exposed to. Diet talk places a huge emphasis on self-worth being determined by: our level of “control” when ignoring our bodies needs/ cues and restricting foods/intake, our compliance to UNREALISTIC and UNSUSTAINABLE diet rules as well as how we look in relation to unrealistic beauty standards. Diet talk goes beyond the obvious “trendy” diets such as Whole30, Keto, Intermittent Fasting, Macro Counting etc. and is built into TOO many of our day to day conversations. Example of diet talk that perpetuate the diet mentality include:

“Oh, I’m so bad for having that (insert food here) for lunch….I’m not going to eat dinner tonight to make up for it.”

“You’re so good for skipping dessert! I wish I could have your self-control”.

“I feel so bloated after that dinner…good thing I’m starting [insert trendy diet here] in January/ for New Years!”

“I better get my (insert exercise here) in today, if I’m going to have a bite of that (insert food here).”

“I can’t eat that (insert taboo food here) it will go straight to my (insert body part here).”

“I can’t have that (insert food here) now, I don’t eat past (insert time here).”

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It’s happening so frequently around us that we might not even realize it’s happening. But what do you do when you hear it? How do you respond?


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Dealing with Diet Talk:

Understand that diet talk or comments are reflective of that person’s issues/ struggles around food and their body . Embrace the fact that you are on a better path towards body acceptance and a healthier relationship with food.

Create an Anti-Diet Bubble:

Just because someone wants to talk about their diet, does not mean that you must sit there and listen. You have the right to remove yourself from diet-talk conversations. Simply put, surround yourself with people who don’t engage in diet talk, food shaming or body shaming. You can do this by unfollowing pages & social media accounts that heavily promote diet talk/ diet mentality and restrict your time in triggering environments (i.e. the water cooler at work). Finding a supportive circle may be hard to find at first; you may want to look into supportive online communities, blogs or podcasts to get you started. Continue to work at developing your own understanding of Intuitive Eating/ Body Acceptance. Live the values that you learn and share them with others to help reframe diet-driven conversations.

Set Boundaries:

You have the right to set boundaries in your relationships. People who truly value you and care will respect those boundaries. Even if you once participated in diet-talk or body shaming at one point with this person, you have the right to communicate that your values, beliefs and boundaries have changed. You will likely have to remind someone more than once that you don’t engage in these types of conversations. Remember that diet culture and talk is mainstream and sometimes people don’t even realize they are doing it.

Decide if you want to educate people on Non-Diet Culture:

Once you have created boundaries, you can decide how much or how little you share of your own perspective. Some individuals may be baffled that you don’t want to talk about their latest diet tirade and may have a hard time imagining trusting their bodies. You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. Or even if you want to, it might not be the right time or place to do so. If you do want to share with others, think about how much pushback you can handle. Sometimes, engaging in a “debate” like conversation can do more harm than good, at that time, redirecting the conversation may be best.

 


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Responding to Diet Talk:

Your approach can be gentle (redirect conversation) or more direct (letting them know that you specifically do not engage in diet talk).

Change the Conversation:

  • I’d rather talk about anything other than your diet! Did you watch the new [movie/ music video/ sports clip]?
  • Hey, let’s talk about something different. How was your weekend?/ How are your kids doing?
  • How about that new [show] episode?
  • I hear that your really into your new diet, but talking about it keeps me from enjoying this meal and my time with you.
  • I get that you are excited to talk about your diet, but I’m working on healing my relationship to food, so I’d rather we talk about anything else.
  • Hearing you talk about this is upsetting to me. So can we change the topic?
  • I don’t really want to talk about that stuff anymore.

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Gently Educate & Set Boundaries:

  • I’m trying not to focus on weight; there are so many more interesting things about people.
  • I think it’s better that we don’t talk about people’s bodies.
  • This house is a weight-talk free zone.
  • I’m just thankful that I have a body that does so much for me every day.
  • I’m just thankful to be here and to be able to enjoy this food with people that I care about.
  • I think that focusing so much on food rules can actually be very unhealthy.
  • Instead of counting calories, I’m working on counting what I have to be thankful for. It’s making me a lot happier.
  • Health and happiness is not size specific.
  • I’m trying to focus on listening to my body’s needs, so could we refrain from the diet talk please?
  • I try to never discuss diets, religion, or politics at work!
  • Life is too short to worry so much about food-so I choose to focus on other things.
  • I’m working on getting to a healthy place around food and that kind of diet talk makes it much harder for me.  Would you mind if we both refrained from talking about our food choices and talked about something else instead?
  • Please do not make comments about my food choices. I am working on finding a balance that works for me and do not need your input.

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When someone makes a comment on your weight/ if you have lost weight:

  • I think it’s better that we don’t talk about people’s bodies.
  • I’m just thankful that I have a body that does so much for me every day.
  • Nope (with a smile).
  • Nope, I just look great.
  • What does looking great have anything to do with my weight?
  • No clue. I don’t focus on my weight.
  • I know you are trying to be nice, but it makes me really uncomfortable when you comment on my body.

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A few snarky/ sarcastic suggestions (not recommended but fun to imagine):

  • I hear that you’re into your new detox cleanse, but I save money by relying on my functioning liver and kidneys.
  • That diet sounds ridiculous. I’m aiming to do something that is more likely to succeed, like winning the lottery.
  • Thanks for sharing that huge list of foods you avoid because of your diet. I am getting laser surgery for my toe fungus next week. Sorry, I thought we were oversharing.
  • Dieting is so 1990s, have you ever heard of intuitive eating?

What are some of your favorites?

Article by: Brittaney Berendsen RD, P.H.Ec.


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Sources:

  • Psychology Today ( Jennifer Rollin MSW, LCSW-C)
  • Real Life RD (Robyn RD, NP)
  • Nourish RX
  • The Intuitive Eating Workbook, 10 Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food (Evlyn Tribole MS, RDN & Elyse Resch, MS, RDN)

 

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