“I’m being bad today, so I’ll have a piece of pie.”
“You look great, have you lost weight?”
Diet and weight talk is unhelpful for everyone. It can be harmful for people in recovery from eating disorders, for children, and for pretty much anyone who is trying to have a healthy relationship to food and their body. It’s also just boring.
As an eating disorder and body image therapist, the following are a few tips for dealing with the inevitable “diet” and “weight” talk this Thanksgiving.
1. Recognize that this says way more about the person commenting, than it does about you.
If someone feels the need to comment on your body size (or other people’s bodies) or on what you are eating, it’s important to remember that this says way more about the person who is commenting and where their focus lies.
Often people who are highly focused on their own bodies and eating patterns are more likely to comment on other people’s bodies and eating habits. This is typically because they are feeling insecure, unhappy, or fixated, on their own weight and body.
It can be helpful to remember that their comments are really a mirror into their own insecurities or unhealthy focuses.
2. Set some boundaries.
Just because someone wants to launch into a conversation about their latest diet, does not mean that you have to sit there and listen. If someone is talking about a topic that is harmful for you, it’s important to remember that you always have the option to set boundaries.
Setting boundaries might entail changing the topic, asking that certain topics not be discussed, or finding an excuse to temporarily remove yourself from the room.
3. Come up with a plan in advance.
It can be difficult in the heat of the moment to determine how you might cope if someone is launching into a conversation about their diet or talking about their weight. It can be helpful to come up with a coping plan in advance for who you could reach out to for support (either in person or via phone), and even some statements that you might feel comfortable saying.
Tips for Shutting Down Diet Talk
Here are a few ideas for things that you can say when someone is talking about dieting.
· I get that you are excited to talk about your diet, but I’m working on healing my relationship to food, so I’d rather we talk about anything else.
· Hearing you talk about this is upsetting to me. So can we change the topic?
· So how are your kids doing?
· Dieting is so 1990s, have you ever heard of intuitive eating?
· I’m just thankful to be here and to be able to enjoy this food with people that I care about.
· I think that focusing so much on food rules can actually be very unhealthy.
· Instead of counting calories, I’m working on counting what I have to be thankful for. It’s making me a lot happier.
Tips for Shutting Down Weight Talk
· I think it’s better that we don’t talk about people’s bodies.
· This house is a weight-talk free zone.
· I’m just thankful that I have a body that does so much for me every day.
You look great, have you lost weight?
· Nope (with a smile).
· Nope, I just look great.
· What does looking great have anything to do with my weight?
· No clue. I don’t focus on my weight.
· I know you are trying to be nice, but it makes me really uncomfortable when you comment on my body.
The Bottom Line
Holidays can be tough enough. Having to deal with weight and body discussion can make them even harder. However, it can also feel empowering to learn how to set boundaries, shift the conversation, and even (only if you want to) educate people on how to be kinder to their bodies and themselves.
If you are struggling with fixating on food and your body over the holidays, it’s important to be compassionate with yourself, and then work to shift focus to the things that are actually meaningful and important. It’s unlikely that you will look back on this holiday season in your 80s and feel regretful that you enjoyed a slice of pie, however you might regret missing out on enjoying the moment due to anxiety or guilt around food.
If this is difficult for you, please consider seeking help. You deserve to have freedom around food and to feel at peace in your body.
Also, it’s important to note that food and morality do not go together. The only reason you are “bad” for eating cake is if you stole it from the store.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com