How to Deal With “I Can’t, I’m On a Diet” Conversations

diet. illustrated woman holding her face in her hands smiling softly with eyes closed and surrounded by line drawings of leaves.
Don’t discuss your diet at the dining table.

I’ve heard the word far too many times this summer. At Mother’s and Father’s day celebrations, Memorial day BBQs, 4th of July. Even at summer birthday dinners, being on a diet is the topic of conversation. 

Americans have normalized, fetishized even, being skinny. It’s the media we grew up with, low-fat food marketing, and endless options for meal replacements. Now Tik-Tok trends of what-we-eat-in-a-day. 

But our diet craze is more than that. For example, when those magazine headlines and social media memes make their way into our social lives, as they inevitably do, it becomes personal. It’s the comments made by our loved ones, our friends, as we gather around our holiday parties and dinner tables, talking about diet and size. 

As our culture celebrates skinny on an interpersonal level, we’ve villainized the other state of being… You are skinny, or you are fat. There is no middle ground, no room for health at every size. As a results, because skinny is celebrated, food is now part of the discussion. 

Diets are normalized

We’re “so bad” for eating birthday cupcakes, comments that taught me celebratory treats cause fatness and therefore.. What? I’m less worthy as a person? Those are the conclusions I came to as a child. That my self-worth is tied to the size of my body. And I wasn’t alone.

8 out of 10 ten-year-olds fear becoming fat. Those childhood fears stay with us, as 3 in 4 women display disordered eating behaviors. If those numbers seem too high to be true, it’s because eating disorders are incredibly stigmatized.

People rarely talk about their insecurities, let alone a unifying human ingredient: eating and culture around food. I’m writing to change that. Speaking up, changing dinner topics, and encouraging celebration of diverse body sizes is far more impactful than going with the canned diet culture-isms

1 in 10 Americans have eating disorders. I wish we could be more mindful of those statistics. Even more so, more than half the crowd fears “fatness” at each elementary classroom, summer barbeque, poolside afternoon, and elsewhere. And at least one person has an eating disorder in any gathering. 

I have an eating disorder. I’m not fat, I’m not skinny, I’m just me—Megan, a twenty-two-year-old anorexia survivor, avoiding Instagram and uninterested in a hot girl summer. Chances are you’ve had birthday cake or holiday celebrations around people like me.

You do you and your diet, your hot girl summer, your “nature’s cereal.” That’s your business, but I sincerely hope you aren’t doing it because you fear “fat.” Whether you are or aren’t, let’s not discuss it at the table. Instead, let’s pull up a chair for health at every size.

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