Introducing...No Diet Talk December
‘Tis the season to talk about how much we hate our bodies. Let's change that.
This is the time of year where we tend to talk about how much our bodies have changed, how much we’ve been overeating, how little we’ve been exercising and how we really should get back to the gym—all while gathered in the kitchen loading up on something that’s “bad” for us. This is also the time of year when we reconnect with friends, acquaintances and family members we haven’t seen in a long time, and for some of them, it’s open season for talking openly about theirs’ and other people’s bodies, the latest diet they’re following (if it’s working), how much weight they’ve lost and how much more weight they have to go.
Having had two children with eating disorders, I’ve found myself having “the talk” with family and friends multiple times over the years, particularly during the holiday season. “The talk” involves setting clear ground rules about what should and should not be discussed around someone dealing with an eating disorder. “Diet talk,” or discussions about food and appearance, can be highly destructive to those with eating disorders, but they are unhelpful to everyone.
What can we do about it and why should we opt out of it? Read on to get tips on how to handle diet talk … plus how you can be part of the solution!
What is diet talk?
"Diet talk" is any kind of conversation or language focusing on dieting, diets, "health programs," weight loss, food or food group restriction, moralizing about food, body size, and fitness. Whether directed at ourselves or others, it often carries judgment and disdain. This kind of discourse comes in various flavors, from casual discussions among friends and family to moral directives about how we should be living or behaving. It may involve sharing personal diet experiences, discussing the latest fitness trends, or exchanging tips on weight management. It may be openly directed at you, your body or your eating habits. My friend and non-diet nutritionistdid a podcast that delved into the topic of diet talk and why it’s so destructive if you’d like to learn more.
What’s so bad about diet talk?
While diet talk may seem harmless in some contexts—some of us do it to make conversation—it has a negative impact on mental health, body image, and self-esteem. It perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards, promotes unhealthy eating habits, and creates feelings of inadequacy. It also creates the ultimate party killer—a judgmental atmosphere.
For those of us suffering from eating disorders, disordered eating and body dysmorphia, the prevalence of diet talk at holiday events, parties with friends and family functions can make the holidays an exceptionally difficult time. We feel like we’re heading into battle as we head to Thanksgiving dinner!
Hence, this month’s accountability challenge.
So, what’s the challenge?
Starting now and for the entire month of December, I’m inviting you to opt out of diet talk. I'm calling this No Diet Talk December. The purpose of this challenge is to support those of you who have given up diets or are just working to be kinder to yourselves. It’s to spare everyone the uncomfortable conversations that creep up this time of year.
Going forward, I will debut a new accountability challenge at the start of the month, but I’m unofficially debuting the December challenge early since some of us will need extra support next week at Thanksgiving.
Take the vow to not engage in diet talk now and through the month of December. If you want even more accountability, put it in writing right here in the comments, or if you’re reading this in email, just hit reply and say, “I’m in!”
Now, it’s true you can’t control anyone else around you, but you can take the deliberate step of prioritizing your mental health by not engaging in diet talk.
Whether you’re in recovery from an eating disorder or you’re transitioning to intuitive eating or you’re just trying to stop measuring your self-worth by your appearance, this is about supporting you on your journey. It’s also about bringing awareness to how destructive diet talk is—and how common it is. Many of us aren’t even aware that we’re engaging in negative self-talk about our bodies or our appearances.
This isn’t to shame anyone. As my daughter and I were talking through the many examples of diet talk we’ve encountered over the years, she reminded me that I, too, used to engage in diet talk before I knew better. And this is a reminder to us all: We’re here to learn and grow.
It’s also a good reminder that the kids are listening. When we engage in diet talk, we are modeling this behavior to those around us.
‘I’m in! How do I sign up?’
The best way to ensure you don’t miss out is to become a subscriber. It’s free and ensures you don’t miss any of the accountability prompts, chats, posts and other goodies I’ll be sharing this month.
Upcoming accountability events
Monday, Nov. 20 - A writing prompt to get you prepared for No Diet Talk December.
Thursday, Nov. 23 - We’ll open up the chat thread for those of you who might need some extra encouragement on Thanksgiving.
Thursday, Nov. 30, 12 p.m. CST (10 a.m. PT) - A workshop to officially kick off No Diet Talk December with special guest, non-diet nutritionist. You’ll find tips for dealing with diet talk and maybe even find an accountability partner!
Mondays, Dec. 4 and 11 - Writing prompts to support you.
Thursdays, Dec. 7 and 14 - New chat thread topics, open discussion and calls for questions.
If you’re so inclined, please share this where appropriate:
“I’m taking a vow to not engage in diet talk from now through the end of December as a show of kindness to myself and to bring awareness to how pervasive and destructive it is.”
Starting in January, access to the Almost Sated community—the monthly challenges, writing prompts and chats—will only be available to my paid subscribers. This will make it easier for us to speak candidly and seek support among a smaller circle of trust. If you value this work, please consider pledging now and it will automatically be converted into a paid subscription in January.
What are the benefits of opting out of diet talk?
Choosing not to engage in diet talk and adopting a more body-positive and mindful approach to conversations about food and bodies has many benefits. I’ll get into more of them in the next few weeks, but here are a few of them:
Reduced stress and improved wellbeing
Constant discussions about diets and weight loss can be triggering for many people, and avoiding these conversations creates a more positive environment for everyone.
Reduced comparisons and judgment
Diet talk often leads to comparisons and judgments, which can negatively impact self-esteem. By steering clear of these topics, we are more likely to focus on our own wellbeing rather than comparing ourselves to others and feel less judged based on our appearance.
Creation of a positive social environment
A group that avoids diet talk is likely to be more positive and supportive. We as individuals can share our achievements, joys and challenges without the pressure or judgment associated with diet-focused discussions.
Recognizing Diet Talk
I’m sure you can think of some examples of diet talk right now. The most overt forms are pretty easy to recognize, but there are more subtle comments we don’t always attribute to diet culture. Here are a few I’ve heard over the years. Feel free to share more in comments below.
Please note: Some of these comments sound positive, but remember, you never know what someone else is going through. We sometimes look healthy when we’re not. Your positive comment might be supporting someone else’s eating disorder or be triggering for them.
“You look great! Did you gain or lose weight?”
“You aren’t underweight/overweight.”
“You look healthy.”
“You should try [diet or wellness trend].”
“I am so [fat, bloated, flabby].”
“I can’t get rid of this _________ no matter what I do.”
“I really shouldn’t be eating _________.”
“I’m so hungry. I haven’t eaten all day.”
“I can’t eat. I missed my workout today.”
“You have the tiniest waist I’ve ever seen.”
“You’re so skinny. What’s your secret?”
“What are you doing? That is so bad for you.”
“I wish I had your willpower.”
“Maybe you should try cutting out [flour, carbs, sugar].”
“Isn’t that too much food?”
“Do you know how many calories are in that?”
“Should you really be eating all that?”
“Just eat reasonably and you’ll be fine.”
“I can’t keep this type of food in the house.”
“This food is so bad for you.”
“I can’t control myself around _________.”
“You just need a little self-control.”
“You’re not good enough around food.”
“You just need to exercise more.”
“Should you be eating that much?”
“After all this food, I’m gonna have to be extra good tomorrow.”
“After the holidays are over, I’ve got to get back on my diet.”
The big question - do you confront someone else engaging in diet talk?
This is a personal decision. Often, when it happens in front of me without my kids, I ignore it and change the subject. Deflection is a solid strategy, and it almost always works. There’s no fuel to continue the conversation.
There have also been times when there is a table full of people, including my kids and other people’s kids, and I’ve had to confront it. My kids are pros at this now and can spot diet talk a mile away, and they will often say something before I do.provided more ideas in her comprehensive guide to eating with other people that included suggestions for having judgment-free holiday meals with kids. Here some more suggestions.
You might say, "I'm working on fostering a more positive relationship with food and my body. Can we avoid discussing diets or weight loss?"
I find that statement a little wordy in a stressful situation and prefer shorter statements like:
“I’d prefer not to engage in diet talk.”
“We don’t talk about other people’s bodies here.”
“I don’t like to talk about other people’s bodies.”
We’ll talk about more tactics for deflecting diet talk in the next few weeks, more reasons you should opt out of diet talk and why women are the worst offenders when it comes to engaging in diet talk.
This is just the beginning of the conversation, but I hope you’ve been inspired enough to take on the challenge of No Diet Talk December with me. I’d love to hear more from you, questions about how to deal with specific situations that you’re expecting to come up over the next few weeks, your own examples of diet talk or just to let me know you’re in for No Diet Talk December!