3 Strategies to Squash Unwanted Diet Talk
Are you finding yourself frustrated with diet talk wherever you go? Your mom refusing ice cream because she “needs to lose weight before Aunt Susie’s wedding” or your friend telling you that she needs “to run 5 miles tomorrow to make up for that burger and fries.”…
We all have those people in our lives…those who are always on a diet and need to tell you all about it. The apps. The food containers. The restrictive recipe swapping. This is exhausting for anyone but it can be harmful when for those who are breaking up with diets and improving their relationship with food.
In this blog post, we’ll cover what diet talk is, why you might want to protect yourself from it and exactly how to do that. No more need to have anxiety about family or work events: you’ll know just what to do!
What is “diet talk”?
Diet talk is so common in our society that we don’t realize how odd or harmful it is. Diet talk is when people discuss their eating and exercise habits, which are usually in the pursuit of a lower body weight.
Hearing how much weight someone has lost and how they have done it can undo so much of the work you have done and might even start pulling you back towards previous disordered behaviors, like food restriction, food obsession and over-exercise. It’s just not helpful.
You definitely don’t want that!
So how can you protect yourself from diet talk?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked from my clients. Over the years, I’ve come up with several strategies that help you navigate toxic diet and body conversations.
Note that the approach you take will vary based on your personal style and each individual situation. I want you to know that you should feel free to honor your own boundaries. You don’t have to be nice and bury your feelings to keep the peace. Remember that your needs count too!
How to break free from diet talk
As an Intuitive Eating dietitian, I help clients break free from all things diets, including diet talk.
Here are my favorite strategies when the food, wellness and diet talk is taking you down.
1. Remove yourself from the diet talk conversation.
Sometimes complete non-confrontation is the best way to handle the situation. Say you’re at a relative’s home and suddenly your Aunt Sally declares that she has lost weight and wants to tell you all about it.
You might sit politely for a moment but you don’t have to remain in a situation that is harmful to you. Sometimes some truth or a white lie is in order to get yourself out of there:
- Excuse yourself to the restroom.
- Explain that you have to return an important call.
- Go out for a walk
- Offer to run an errand nearby.
Note: if you are visiting someone who has a long history of diet talk, body bashing, or disordered eating, it can be helpful to give yourself a daily planned escape, such as an alone walk or time in your room to read, stretch or relax. Setting a boundary before you arrive is a strategy that several of my clients have used to make family holiday travel more bearable.
2. Change the topic away from diet talk.
It’s amazing to me how long people can go on and on about what they eat or what they weigh!
But honestly, aren’t there more interesting, and frankly consequential, things we can discuss?
When someone starts in on their diet culture diatribe, why not pivot to discuss a book, a favorite movie, future travel plans or something new with work?
We know that people love to talk about themselves, so asking a non-diet question will often be enough to shift the conversation away from dieting.
3. Set a firm boundary around diet talk and enforce it.
This strategy is often best accomplished with closer friends or family members but sometimes it is absolutely necessary.
The exact boundary may differ from person to person but in this example you would tell the other person that you are doing work around your relationship with food and your body and explain that all this talk is actually very harmful for you.
You can then ask if this other person or group of people can refrain from discussing their diets or discussing bodies in general
Explain that you need and want to spend time with them but that you can’t if this diet talk persists.
Some examples of what you might want them to avoid discussing:
- Anyone’s weight, regardless of whether it has increased, decreased or stayed the same
- Discussion around what they can’t eat
- Discussion of exercise, particularly if it is related to eating more or less food
If you do find that a friend or family member asks how they can best support you in your non-diet lifestyle, check out my article, How To Support Your Family or Friend Who Is Working on Intuitive Eating.
Hearing diet talk can be hard and make you feel very alone, especially in our weight-focused culture. I want you to know that it won’t always be this hard. The further you get from diet culture, the easier it is to avoid getting caught up in it and having it affect your own behavior.
So hang in there and keep doing the work that will help you lead your healthiest life!
How to get help
Are you working on healing your relationship with food and your body, but feeling like you are stuck? Many of my current clients felt this way too, but through their work with me they are able to find food freedom as well as increased resilience around the dreaded diet talk.
Want to know what your journey towards freedom might look like?
Here’s what a couple clients have to say about our work together:
“All I can say is thank you Kelly, thank you for teaching me to stand up for myself and my boundaries surrounding my body and food. Thank you for never forcing anything but letting me come to ideas on my own. Thank you for all the time, wisdom and patience you have given to me. I truly can’t begin to thank you enough.” – Rachel M.
“Prior to working with Kelly, I felt like food controlled me. It was one of the few places in my life that I felt out of control. I started diet after diet for nearly 30 years. I would lose, then gain more. I couldn’t stop eating. I felt like a total failure.
I can now trust my body to tell me if I’m hungry or not. Who knew I could tell that?!!? I can also notice when I am stress/bored/tired eating.
It is also freeing to know that I can listen to diet talk around me and not join in. I can “stay in my lane” and listen to my body.” – Marley S.
Are you ready for your transformation? Schedule your call today!
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”