Diet culture and diet talk are everywhere, and one of the most frustrating things is that it has become normalized to talk about it and comment on people’s weight and bodies.
Diet culture and diet talk
It can happen on dates, at dinner parties with friends, at work, or even at family gatherings. While some people may consider it seemingly harmless, diet talk can really affect our mental health and make us question our eating disorder recovery.
Diet talk and weight loss stories can be harmful and triggering for many people, whether they struggle with disordered eating or simply don’t want to engage in conversations about food and weight because it’s boring.
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Here are 5 strategies for dealing with diet talk and protecting your well-being:
1. Steer away from diet talk by changing the subject
One way to gently steer the conversation away from diet talk is to simply change the subject. This can be as simple as asking about someone’s weekend plans or bringing up a news article you recently read. The key is to do it in a way that doesn’t make the other person feel judged or dismissed.
2. Set boundaries about diet talk and communicate them clearly
It’s important to be open and vulnerable when it comes to setting boundaries around diet talk. Let the other person know how you feel when they talk about their diet or food choices and be specific about the emotions it brings up for you. This requires getting out of your comfort zone. You can say something like, “When you talk about your diet or weight loss, I feel insecure because I’m in recovery from an eating disorder and I’ve been struggling with my body image lately.” You can also try saying, “This type of talk doesn’t help my recovery and can be triggering for me.” Speaking up can be uncomfortable and so it’s important to first do this with people you trust and who are capable of responding in a supportive way.
3. Be sassy and make it funny
Sometimes, the best way to deal with diet talk is to use humor. This can be a great way to defuse the tension and deflect attention away from the topic. For example, if someone says they feel guilty for eating, you could say something like “Why, did you steal that food?”
Life is too short for self-hatred and cardboard cookies. Eat whatever you want, and if anyone tries to lecture you, eat them too! (Just kidding, we don’t eat people around here).
4. Educate about the harmful effects of dieting and diet talk
If you have a wealth of knowledge about the ineffectiveness of diets and the dangers of disordered eating, you can use this as an opportunity to educate the other person. This can be as simple as sharing some statistics or research about the failure rate of diets and the negative impacts they can have on mental health. For example, according to Robinson, E., et al (2015), dieting is associated with an increased risk of disordered eating, depression, and low self-esteem. By approaching the conversation from an educational perspective, you may be able to shift the other person’s thinking and help them make more informed decisions.
5. Use the “visitor” strategy
The “visitor” strategy involves imagining that you are an outsider observing the conversation from a distance. This can help you stay detached and objective, rather than getting caught up in the emotions of the situation. You might then literally detach yourself from the situation by stepping away or leaving the room. You might say something like, “I’m going to help someone in the kitchen” or “I’m going to use the bathroom”. This approach can be helpful if you want to distance yourself from the conversation.
Overall, it’s important to remember that you have the right to set boundaries around diet talk and to choose how you engage in these conversations. By using these strategies, you can better navigate these situations and take care of yourself.
Robinson, E., et al. The impact of dieting on mental health: a systematic review. Public Health Nutrition. 2015;18(12):2067-2074.
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