Dietitian Advice: Avoiding Diet Talk and Body Bashing
Tips for navigating food and body conversations with friends and family
Dietitian advice from Jana Spindler RD
For most of us, the constant talk of good and bad foods, dieting and fitness regimes has become so normal that it doesn’t even make us think twice any more.
When you stop to think about it though, don’t you get sick of hearing about someone’s food intake for the day? Or what they don’t like about themselves? Or even why they really must hit up that 5am fitness class when you know they hate getting up early. Is there anything else you would rather talk about? How about your next big trip, your favourite Netflix show, or a challenge that you overcame at work?
I challenge you to be more aware of what is really being discussed in your environment.
The constant talk of food guilt and body bashing needs to stop. The way you talk about your food and your body affects the people around you. This conversation, well-intentioned or not, can cause them to spiral into their own negative thoughts about themselves and their self-image. While this effect is unintentional, it is potential very harmful to the mental and physical health of those around you.
So we know that praising weight loss and smaller bodies is dangerous, but the question is, how do we stop it? How do you get out of the constant cycle of diet talk?
Here is some Dietitian advice for avoiding these conversations:
If the conversation starts when you are out for dinner with friends or over lunch break with co-workers, but you don’t feel comfortable standing up to the comments, you can disengage. You can avoid participating in the conversation and simply be quiet. You could go to the washroom for a break. You could quietly start up a completely different conversation quietly with the person next to you. If you are asked for your input, you can say something along the lines of “I really have no input for this conversation”.
Get your butt out of there if you can! Maybe you start taking lunch break at another time. Or maybe you choose to eat at another table or outside on a nice day.
Set a boundary
If you feel comfortable enough, set a firm boundary that you do not want to hear diet talk or body bashing. This may feel easier if you get an ally in on it with you, whether it is Mom at a family dinner or your bestie when you are out with friends, but having someone else supporting your mission will make it feel easier. This way you aren’t the only one challenging the conversation topics.
This can be awkward the first time. Prior to a girls’ weekend away, I found my self in a group chat where body bashing was happening. So I simply said that I wasn’t coming if they were only going to talk negatively about their bodies in a bathing suit all weekend. At first, a few of the women were defensive, and I simply said, listen, I care about you and I don’t want to hear you say those things whether you believe them to be true or not. They were a bit taken aback initially, but that boundary made for a relaxing body-neutral weekend with great people. I am so glad that I set the boundary. I was even thanked by another friend for taking that stance.
- Change the topic.
Now this can be done in a subtle or blunt manner. You may have noticed by now, that I am a bit more blunt by nature. So when these conversations start around me, I have gotten comfortable blatantly changing the subject: “this conversation bores me, can we talk about something interesting?” But changing the subject can be a much more subtle art: “ I did hear about that keto diet thing. But I just have to tell you about this event coming up that I am so looking forward to!”
- Blame Me.
One last way out, if you are ever being sucked into body bashing and diet culture conversations, feel free to use me as your excuse any time!! “My dietitian won’t let me discuss food related behaviours, sorry”.
If you have other tips and tricks that work for you to avoid diet talk and body bashing, I would love to know! Drop us a comment below to let me know your experience and how you are handling things.
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Disordered Eating, Emotional Eating & Sports Nutrition
Fitness enthusiast and lover of all things food, Jana is passionate about helping her clients improve their relationship with food and their body. She is a strong, motivational leader. Jana also offers the balance of a warm, supportive coaching style to nudge her clients from their comfort zone while feeling safe and supported. She specializes in mental health, eating disorders, body image and sports nutrition.