Tips to Cope with Diet Talk
Ugh, diet talk! It can be so frustrating. In our society filled with diet culture, it can sometimes seem as if you’re fighting an uphill battle when practicing body acceptance, intuitive eating, health at every size, etc. You go into work and suddenly your coworkers are chatting about how they’re starting Whole 30. They ask if you want to join. The volume of diet talk may seem so loud when it’s the last thing that you want to focus on. What do you do?! Luckily, there are many things that you can do to cope in these situations. It may seem natural to just be quiet, or chime in to the conversation in order to fit in, but that just allows diet culture to win. Consider the following example and check out the tips below on how to handle it:
You: “Would you like a piece of cake?”
Other person: “No thanks, trying to be good. Starting this new diet called XYZ. Let me tell you more about it…”
1. Re-frame your thoughts.
It can be so challenging to hear these words when you’re consumed by diet culture and trying to make peace with your body at the same time. But remember, you do not need to absorb everything you hear. If hearing this begins to trigger negative thoughts about your self, try re-framing. Perhaps think: “Wow, it seems as if diet culture is affecting them too. However, just because they believe in diets doesn’t mean that I have to. Just because they don’t want the slice of cake doesn’t mean that that’s the right thing to do.” All foods have value and bad foods are not a thing.
2. Change the subject or remove yourself.
If you’re not super familiar with the group of people you’re with, or you don’t feel comfortable telling them to zip it, you can certainly divert the conversation. For the example above, you could say: “Let’s talk about it a little bit later, I really want to hear about your weekend plans.” Or, if you’d rather completely remove yourself from the situation, you could say: “I really have to run to the bathroom, I’ll catch up with you in a minute.” Leaving the situation is beneficial if you’re feeling very overwhelmed and need a minute to do some deep breathing exercises.
3. Set boundaries.
You are 100% allowed to set boundaries with the people around you whether it be friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers, or strangers. It may seem daunting, but boundaries are actually a part of what makes relationships healthy. And remember, nobody can read your mind. People may not even know that what they’re saying is harmful to you and they will likely appreciate that you told them. So, what does this look like? You could say: “I’m working hard to have a better relationship with food, could we talk about something else?” or “Diet talks upset me, can we talk about ____ instead?”
4. Educate if you are comfortable.
Hey, this could be a great educational moment. Those around you may not understand the negative effects of diet culture and dieting. You could take this opportunity to inform them. If you don’t want to throw out research and statistics, you could tell them about your past experience with dieting and your current beliefs, such as Health at Every Size and/or intuitive eating. You could even recommend a book or podcast to them.
5. Be understanding and offer support.
Unfortunately diet culture affects everybody. It may help reduce anger and frustration (especially among family members… shut up Aunt Linda!) to know that they may be struggling the same way you did. You could even offer them support if you want by saying something like: “All bodies are good bodies. I hate that you think you need to change yours.”
6. Filter social media and social circles.
Social media can either be really positive or really detrimental. If you’re following any social media accounts that make you feel any sort of bad about yourself then please un-follow them ASAP. Instead, begin filling up your feed with accounts that believe in body acceptance, health at every size, intuitive eating, etc. Also, if you notice you’re surrounding yourself with a certain social circle that constantly engages in diet talk and culture, then you may need to cut ties from those relationships. Trust me, you will find more meaningful relationships that align with your beliefs and build you up.
P.S. There are so many more interesting things to talk about than diets!