Diet talk is EVERYWHERE. It’s on television, in magazines, at the grocery store, the dentist, the hair salon...we can’t avoid it.
With that said, let’s quickly define “diet talk”.
what is diet talk?
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. It is rooted in diet culture and the belief that there is a moral link between a person and the food they consume. However, diet talk isn’t limited to diets in the most obvious sense such as Whole30, keto, paleo, Atkins, macro counting… It is swirling around us even in the most mundane conversations:
“Oh, I’m so bad for having that (insert food here)….I’m not going to eat tomorrow to make up for it.”
“You’re so good for skipping (insert food here)! I wish I could have your self-control”.
“I feel so bloated after that dinner…good thing I’m starting a Whole 30 in January!”
“I better get my steps in today if I’m going to have a bite of that (insert food here).”
It’s happening so frequently that we might not even realize it’s happening.
For those who are recovering from an eating disorder or perhaps working towards intuitive eating, these conversations can be toxic and triggering. Diet talk places a huge emphasis on self-worth being defined by our food choices and interferes with our ability to listen to our body’s internal cues for what it needs (food, rest, exercise, etc.). If you follow your plan, you’re “good.” If you fall off, feelings of guilt and shame are quick to follow. Nasty stuff!
So, how do we navigate these conversations and protect ourselves?
10 Tips to help you swerve that toxic diet talk:
1. Think to yourself: "Good for you, not for me"
What “works” for one person doesn’t work for everyone, and certainly doesn’t need to work for you. Just because Susan at work cut out gluten from her diet and claims to feel amazing, doesn’t mean you need to jump on that bandwagon, too. That's diet culture at work and you can feel free to say, "no thank you"!
2. consider diet talk critically
You may ask yourself:
- Does the diet sound too good to be true? It probably is!
- Is there any solid research to support the claims behind the diet? (for the record, there has YET to be a study demonstrating sustained weight loss from dieting)
- Aside from anecdotal evidence, is there anything to back up with the diet purports to “fix”?
YOU decide how others’ thoughts, opinions and beliefs affect you. Remember, thoughts can come and go. Latching onto a thought without further examination can cause a spiral of self criticism. Give yourself permission to create distance between these diet-related thoughts to allow for more critical thinking to occur. Curating a mindfulness practice can be helpful in practicing this!
3. clean our your social media feed
Be discriminatory in who you follow on Instagram. If the account makes you feel “less than”, constantly comparing yourself, or like you aren’t good enough as you are, they might not be worth following We wrote an entire blog post on that here!
4. choose to walk away from diet talk
Excuse yourself. You don’t need to explain. Escape the conversation - go to the bathroom to collect yourself if need be.
5. change the subject
Say something to shake up the conversation:
- “On another note, did anyone see the new Barbie movie?”
- "The weather has been crazy lately!"
- "I just read this really interesting book about traveling abroad"
- "I'm watching the best show right now!"
People might be taken aback by your lack of participation in the diet talk, but everyone will be happy to move onto something else. Talk about something meaningful you are generally interested in- it will be a refreshing change for everyone.
6. respond with education
Depending on the group you are in (and your own mental capacity) you may feel inclined to provide some gentle education about the harms of diet culture. If you have done some of your own research via podcasts, books or research articles or through your work with your dietitian maybe it's time to show it off!
You may say something like: "I've actually been doing some research on the harms of intentional dieting and have decided to take a step back from it" or "I've been meeting with a dietitian who has helped me see how messed up diet culture really is!" "In my research I've found that 95% of intentional diets don't work. I've been working on listening to my body and nourishing it with a variety of foods".
This may be the starting place for a great discussion!
7. Ask them to stop
There is nothing wrong with setting an intentional boundary around your needs! If diet talk is harmful or triggering for you (as it is with many, many people) it's okay to speak up.
You might consider something like, "I find that diet talk is actually not helpful for my in my work to healing my relationship with food. Can we try to stay clear of these conversations?" or "I'm happy that that seems to be working for you but hearing these conversations is difficult for me. Could we please avoid talking about diets?"
Your needs matter!
8. put your diet talk "blinders" on
Once you see diet culture around you, you can’t unsee it. Call it for what it is, and don’t let it take up any more brain space than it already has. Create your diet culture bubble- this includes step 3 above. Engage in self care that feels good for you and absorb all the anti-diet podcasts and books that you can. Check out our resources page for some of our favorites!
9. get mad at diet culture
The only feeling stronger than shame is anger. Getting mad at the culture that celebrates weight loss at the cost of mental and physical health can be helpful in breaking up with diet culture. Studies indicate that 95% of diets end up failing. STAND UP to the anti-diet banter and give yourself a pat on the back for doing so.
10. tighten your social circles
We’ve all had that one friend or acquaintance who incessantly comments on their (or others’) food and body. Setting a boundary can sometimes look like limiting your time with those individuals. Talk with a trusted treatment provider or friend who can help you navigate these individual situations.
Seeking like-minded folks can also make this boundary a bit easier. Facebook groups or online posting about non-diet, Intuitive Eaters, HAES-aligned individuals or body image support can help you get started with these relationships. Or joining groups about things that you are passionate about to help you connect with people on things outside of food and body.
The moral of the story, you can create an anti-diet bubble for yourself, ignore these conversations and make the active choice to rid them from your life. It is up to you whether or not you want to educate others or explain yourself, but you also are not obligated to do so.
Putting your own well being ahead of others’ diet talk is a form of self-preservation. And if you’re looking for support in breaking out of diet talk for good, look to our Jumpstart to Intuitive Eating Course to help you start to heal your relationship with food. As always, drop us as line and let us know how we can best support YOU!
10. Tighten your social circle.
We’ve all had that one friend or acquaintance who incessantly comments on their (or others’) food and body.
Limit your time with those individuals. This can be tough but limiting your exposure to negative presences will leave you feeling better off.
The moral of the story, you can create an anti-diet bubble for yourself, ignore these conversations and make the active choice to rid them from your life. It is up to you whether or not you want to educate others or explain yourself, but you also are not obligated to do so. Putting your own well being ahead of others’ diet talk is a form of self-preservation. And if you’re looking for a community to create that supportive bubble, join our newsletter and become a part of our community!