I’ve had several readers ask about how to deal with diet talk – especially its uptick during the holiday season. There is no doubt that whether it’s donuts in the break room from a vendor, an appetizer buffet at a party, or your family holiday dinner, the more food options present themselves the more chances there are for you to be subjected to other people’s triggering talk about exactly what they are and aren’t eating and why.
I think that diet talk is a product both of a culture that insists that women apologize for and/or justify our every action, a diet culture that diet companies have very profitably perpetuated, and the hormonal shifts that occur when someone diets that can lead to them being hungry all the time and perhaps thus unable to shut the freaking hell up about their diet.
Regardless, I don’t know about you but I don’t give a crap why my co-worker is or isn’t eating something, what morality they’ve assigned to that choice or why. Much the same way that I don’t want to know if the cream that their doctor prescribed is making that rash any better. Boundaries people, boundaries. Can you imagine if we talked about every personal decision the way we talk about food choices “I have to poo but I don’t like to do it in public so I’m hoping to make it home before I really have to go.” Why are you telling me this? What can I do to make you stop?
People can participate in diet talk for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they do it to reinforce their own behaviors – someone has told them that talking about this out loud will help them stick to their diet, but failed to tell them that it may annoy the ever loving crap out of the people around them. There are some who do it for approval – diet talk, pat head, good dieter. Sometimes people do it out of habit and without any thought at all. Finally, it’s not your imagination, some people do it as a way to passively aggressively comment on your eating behavior (or their perception of it.)
Our society is screwed up around food and eating, and diet talk is one of the byproducts. Knowing that, when I deal with this I try to keep in mind that, unless I have reason to believe otherwise, this person probably isn’t trying to be the champion of triggering overshare, even if that’s how I’m hearing it. Regardless of why people do it, I think that there are four basic choices in how to deal with it:
1. Ignore It
Just act like it didn’t happen, continue the conversation or start another conversation.
They say: No cake for me, I’m being good.
You say: So I told him that if we don’t get that copier fixed I’m never going to get the shareholders report done in time for the meeting.
2. Return in kind
Talk about your Health at Every Size/Mindful Eating/Intuitive Eating Practice the way that other people talk about their diets.
They say: Do you think there is there any fiber in these brownies, I have to calculate the points.
You say: Sorry, I have no idea, I eat based my bodies internal cues and my enjoyment.
3. Ask them to stop
Let someone know that it’s upsetting to you and ask if they can refrain from doing it.
They say: Blah blah blah diet blah blah blah
You say: I’m working on getting to a healthy place around food and that kind of diet talk makes it much harder for me. Would you mind if we both refrained from talking about our food choices and talked about something else instead?
3. Snarky (not actually recommended but fun for me to think about)
They say: I am starting [insert intentional weight loss attempt name here] and I’m making it my New Year’s Resolution to lose 20 pounds.
You say: I’m resolving to do something that’s more likely to succeed, like play the lottery.
They say: I can’t eat that, I’m on the [whatever] diet.
You say: I’m planning to try laser surgery for my toe fungus. Sorry, I thought that we were over-sharing.
Feel free to leave other ideas in the comments. If you’re wondering how to deal with people policing your food choices, asking you “do you need to eat that” or giving you unhelpful, unsolicited advice at the holidays check out my first official Ms. Fit column here. (I’m super excited about this, hence all the linking – may I recommend that you poke around the site – lots of really cool articles.)
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