How to Navigate the Diet Talk Around You
It can be tricky to extricate yourself from the diet talk that tends to feel more omnipresent once you step onto the intuitive eating path. If you’re working to make peace with food and your body it’s important to learn how to navigate it so that it no longer poses a threat to your recovery.
Because it can. Big time.
You’d be surprised how fast one offhand comment from a relative can have you careening back to the Weight Watchers app. We’ve coached many clients through just that situation over the years.
If you’ve been wading in the anti-diet waters for some time now, you may have already cleared your social media feed of anything that makes you want to diet or hate your body. You’re no doubt hyper-aware of your own food and body talk when it pops up. And you might even have a community of women and expert coaches to guide you on your journey.
But, you might notice that it’s the people in your personal life that are saying the most triggering sh*t to you. Be they from your mom, cousin, coworker, or even the cashier at Target, comments about food, bodies and dieting can come crashing in and knock you off course if you’re not prepared. And since you may not even fully understand this whole intuitive eating thing yourself just yet, explaining it to others might feel like a giant challenge.
The key to navigating diet talk around you is to consider it a part of the process of learning to navigate the world as an intuitive eater, not just an afterthought. Our culture and community have played a huge role in shaping our relationship with food and our body, so as we start to heal there is bound to be some friction.
Today we’re going to share how you can stealthily navigate the diet talk around you to protect yourself from it.
If you’d like to listen to this week’s lesson instead, you can do so on the podcast right here:
Here’s How to Navigate the Diet Talk Around You
- Expect it, it’s everywhere. It’s unfortunate but the faster we accept that we live in an anti-fat biased diet culture, the sooner we can see water we’re swimming in where the other fish don’t. In our experience, and the experience of our clients, once you start to wake up to it, you can’t unsee it. From our parents’ comments about our childrens’ dinners. To the marketing of gym memberships and shapewear. To the messaging on the cover of women’s magazines. It’s literally everywhere. Preparing yourself to deal with it is the first step.
- Consider your own boundaries and needs. Think about how you’ve been feeling on your anti-diet journey. Do you feel pretty solid? Or are you just starting out? Are you feeling vulnerable with body changes? Or going through a wobbly chapter? How harmful will a before and after pic on someone’s Instagram feed, or a comment from your parents, be for you right now? Would it be something that can roll off your back without throwing you back into the diet-binge cycle? Or will you be swearing off carbs the moment you leave their house? What do YOU need to feel safe and steady and protected as you work toward your goal of food freedom and body acceptance? Defining that for yourself first is going to be really important. If you’re not clear on it first, it will be very difficult to establish, communicate and enforce boundaries. Our podcast with Katie Sturino has some great tips on this.
- Consider the context and/or relationship. The next step is to consider the context/relationship. Was the before and after posted by one of your closest friends? Or an Instagram influencer you’ve never met? Was the comment from a stranger at daycare drop off or your sister? We might not feel the need to give certain loose social ties the same consideration and focus as close friends and family (online or IRL).
- Decide what is under your control. Though we’re literally never in control of what other people say or do in our lives, we might be able to wield some influence by appropriately communicating our boundaries and the consequences for violating them. For example, we might not be able to do anything about overhearing women chatting about their diet at a coffee shop, or influence the marketing of the gym down the street. But we could, for example, communicate to our sister that her comments on your body will no longer be tolerated or unfollow influencers who market detox teas.
- Create an appropriate “back-pocket” response or strategy for each expected scenario.
- Can you proactively ask the WhatsApp group chat not to talk about dieting and weight loss?
- Can you clearly communicate to your parents that your body is no longer up for discussion? (Aka freak out more intentionally at your mom.)
- Can you find fitness classes that are body inclusive and avoid weight loss, punitive or compensatory language?
- Can you have something prepared for the co-workers doing a weight loss challenge?
Example Responses You’re Welcome to Borrow
“That actually reminds me of this (article, documentary, friend of mine, etc.) ….. Have you ever…?”
“I’m trying to talk less about dieting and body stuff, let’s talk about something more interesting.”
“I’ve been working on making peace with my body and food, I’d love to talk about something else.”
“Well, there are no cheat days if you’re not dieting.”
“I’m working on rewiring my dieter’s brain, I’d prefer not to talk about it.”
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t talk about my body or food and exercise.”
“I don’t want to talk about dieting or weight.”
The Thought Prompt:
“Hey, I usually love your class, but can you stick to the body-positive stuff? I’m not interested in coming to classes that talk about burning calories or fat, it’s not fun or motivating for me.”
“I work out because of the way it makes me feel, so many benefits, but I don’t do it to lose weight or change my body.”
“Would you mind not discussing food and dieting around me? I’ve been working to heal my relationship with food.”
“I’ve struggled with food and body image, could you try to be mindful not to talk about that around me? It would be so helpful for me.”
The “F*ck The Patriarchy”:
“I’m no longer interested in perpetuating the system of oppression that is diet culture.”
“As a woman, eating what I want and accepting my body is my favorite, radical act of resistance against the patriarchy.”
The “You Should Feel Like an *sshole”:
“Can you repeat what you just said? It sounded a bit offensive.”
Two Helpful Reminders
- You don’t have to preach, teach, explain, defend or say anything at all. You can always get up and walk away. (There might be consequences for that, but it is usually an option).
- As you heal from dieting and build body image resilience, the diet talk of others will roll off you with far less impact over time.
This is a big challenge as we begin our journey toward recovery from dieting, disordered eating and body image issues. Learning how to navigate diet talk around you is an important part of taking care of yourself and your progress toward true food freedom and body acceptance.
At the end of the day, the best way to navigate diet talk around you is to work on your own relationship with food and your body. When you’re feeling fortified in your intuitive eating practice and resilient in your body image, the ongoing chatter of diet culture will have less and less impact on how you feel over time. It’s easier and safer to live in diet culture when you’re no longer participating and perpetuating it yourself.
If you’re ready to dive in and go full throttle on your own journey, check out our free master class that will teach you the 5 shifts to make that a reality today.