I was at work one day and I overheard two co-workers rave about their keto diet. They went on and on about how it’s hard to stick to the plan, but it was worth it because they’ve lost so much weight. They then started talking about keto recipes, keto-friendly food establishments, and about how sometimes they are naughty and down a box of Girl Scout cookies because they can’t stop thinking about carbs. As I typed away at my work station, I couldn’t help but sadly reflect on how common it is to hear this type of conversation.
Diet talk is everywhere, but why is diet talk even a thing?
- It’s a form of social bonding. Humans are naturally social creatures and sharing dieting struggles and successes builds a sense of camaraderie. It’s easy to empathize because pretty much every woman on the planet has dieted in some form or anther at some point in their lives.
- It’s makes small talk easier. Dieting is a common topic, especially among women, so bringing up the latest diet fad is like talking about the weather or asking “How was your weekend?”
- The medical community often encourages it. When doctors see someone in a larger body, they immediately prescribe weight loss even when all other indicators suggest a healthy person.1
- The dieting industry exists. Dieting talk is all around us because dieting is what is marketed to us.
So what’s a girl (or guy) to do? Here are a few tips for dealing with diet talk:
- Surround yourself with positive role models. One of the easiest things to do is to unfollow people/groups who promote dieting and replace them with people who are anti-diet and body positive. This is you fighting back against diet mentality!
- Remember that it’s about them, not you. People diet to fulfill a need such as compensating for low self-esteem or wanting acceptance. Their dieting talk is related to their issues and has nothing to do with you.
- Keep in mind that everyone’s path looks different. It can be tough to be around people who are so into dieting, but everyone is on their own journey. That person is where they are in their food journey and this is where you are.
- Don’t engage and redirect. If I’m in a larger group, I keep quiet when the subject of dieting comes up. If it’s a one-to-one conversation, I’ll nod and smile to be polite, but I don’t engage. If the person persists, I might be a little facetious and say something like “How is dieting really going for you? It must be hard being so hungry and deprived all the time” and see where the conversation goes. If somehow the focus is on me and my weight loss,2 I respond with something neutral like “I’m taking better care of myself”. In the end, I try to find other common topics to bond over.
- Consider talking about intuitive eating. I have tried to discuss intuitive eating with people but many are not ready to hear it. People won’t change unless they want to, so I give an overview of how I’m doing and hopefully plant a seed of dieting doubt in their mind.
- Politely enlighten your doctor. If your doctor automatically recommends weight loss, ask what the doctor would suggest to a thinner person with the same ailment. And if you’re really gutsy, you could cite a study or two about how diets fail.3
I wish that society would have the rule of “don’t discuss religion or politics…or dieting”. There are people in my life who strongly believe that diets work and I know that’s not true, so I guess we’re at a point where we agree to disagree. I think that’s a fine approach, but I will admit that I feel somewhat alienated when I try to join a conversation and all everyone wants to talk about is their diets. Sometimes it’s tempting to partake in the conversation to be part of the community, but I know that I don’t want to go back to that crazy, obsessed world of dieting. Even though it may be a challenge to deal with all of this diet talk around me, I am very content with my diet-free life.
How do you deal with diet talk? Please share in the comment section below.
1This isn’t the case with all doctors, so lucky you if you found one who’s go-to isn’t weight loss.
2When I started IE, my weight fluctuated a bit, but ultimately I gained some much needed weight.
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