During the summer, it seems like conversations around food, body, and weight happen all the time. You have your friend who comments on how fat she feels in her swimsuit or your cousin who can’t stop talking about how large the portions are at dinner. What might start as innocent small talk can become triggering diet talk. In this post, I’ll teach you how to handle diet talk so that you can confidently continue on your Intuitive Eating journey.
What is Diet Talk?
Diet talk includes conversations that center around restricting food, exercising to “make up” for food choices, or weight control. On one hand, it might include a reference towards a particular diet, like your sister telling you about her experience on Whole 30. On the other hand, it might include subtle diet messages, like someone saying they were so “bad” for ordering dessert. If these conversations make you feel guilty for what you ate or second-guess yourself, here are some tips to navigate the conversation.
How to Handle Diet Talk
Use the following 3 steps to handle triggering diet talk.
1 – Observe the trigger.
First, notice what the comment triggered in you. Did it make you feel guilty for what you ate? Did it trigger negative self-talk? Does it make you second guess your intuitive eating progress altogether? Hold compassionate space for whatever feelings arise. The last thing you want to do is suppress the emotions, which only leads to future resentment. It can be helpful to talk to a therapist or a non-diet dietitian, about the deeper wounds that were triggered.
2 – Re-align your mindset.
Next, shift your mindset by repeating an affirmation. Affirmations are a form of positive self-talk that can help you overcome limiting beliefs. Use them to come back to what you actually know to be true about food and your body. Here are some helpful affirmations:
- I am committed to my intuitive eating practice.
- I choose to treat my body with respect.
- Other people will have their own opinions on this subject. I choose to listen to my intuition instead.
- What I eat does not dictate my worth.
- My weight does not dictate my worth.
- I deserve to nourish my body.
- I am learning to listen to my body. Sometimes that means eating seconds. Sometimes that means asking for a to-go box. Both are okay!
3 – Communicate boundaries.
Finally, communicate a boundary for next time. Here are some helpful phrases you can use to respectfully communicate your boundaries:
- “I prefer we not talk about weight loss because I am working on my body image. For the remainder of our conversation, could we agree to refrain from this topic?”
- “I’m practicing intuitive eating right now. It’s helping me listen to my body as a guide in making food choices. Your comments about the menu are making it difficult for me. Could we talk about something else?”
- “I’m happy to discuss food through a non-diet lens. Would you be interested in learning more about this perspective? ”
It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what to say. Over time, you will get more comfortable with your response.
3 Realistic Responses to Diet Talk
Change up your response by drawing upon humor, education, and subject changes.
Diet talk: I’m so “guilty” for eating ice cream.
Response: You didn’t steal it, did you?
Diet talk: I ate a cheat meal this weekend.
Response: You didn’t share the meal with a married man, did you?
Diet talk: I feel so “bad” for eating donuts.
Response: The only bad food is moldy food.
Diet talk: I need to exercise tomorrow after that cake we ate.
Response: I might exercise tomorrow. If I do, it will be to celebrate my body, not punish. Have you heard about joyful movement?
- Offer to send them this article on joyful movement.
Diet talk: I was so unhealthy this weekend.
Response: Help me understand your definition of health.
- After listening to their perspective, you could share your own definition of health. Offer to send them this article on the non-diet approach to health.
Diet talk: I need to lose weight to get healthy.
Response: Did you know that dieting is a predictor of weight gain? I’ve learned about this through the Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating movements. It’s fascinating!
- Offer to share information on Health At Every Size.
Diet talk: I tried Noom and I lost 5 lbs already.
Response: It sounds like you found something that you like. Did you see Monday’s episode of the Bachelor?
Diet talk: I’ve been doing this new workout class that helps me burn belly fat.
Response: That sounds like an intense workout class. How did that date go that you were telling me about last weekend?
Diet talk: I’m going to work out first thing in the morning since I ate so bad at dinner.
Response: What else are you doing tomorrow? I’m thinking about “x”…want to join me?
At the end of the day, you can also leave the conversation. Remember, your body = your business. Your plate = your business. I hope this article helps you feel more empowered to handle future situations.