We live in a weight-obsessed culture . America is obsessed with dieting and thin bodies. So much so that there’s actually a term for it. Eating disorder professionals refer to this societal obsession as the thin ideal.
The thin ideal is the belief that thin bodies are the most attractive and healthiest. Because of this, people do all kinds of things to try to make their fit this. This leads to people talking about their weight and dieting all the time. It becomes a regular topic of conversation.
For people with eating disorders, these topics can be triggering and upsetting. But it’s not just people with eating disorders who can be harmed. Research shows that the pressure to be thin and diet can contribute to someone developing an eating disorder .
Everyone is bombarded with messages about what their body should look like in the media. They don’t need more of that pressure to come from conversations with co-workers, friends, or family. Here are ways to deflect and redirect conversations about dieting and weight:
Change the Topic from Dieting
If someone is talking about dieting or weight, you can change the topic. This can be difficult or awkward to do, but it’s a valuable skill to learn. One way to do this is when it’s appropriate in the conversation to say something like, “Anyways, I wanted to talk to you about…”. Using a transitional word like this helps shift the conversation to another topic.
You can also leave the conversation temporarily, like to go to the bathroom or take an important phone call. When you return, the conversation may have already changed to something else, or you can introduce a new topic.
Maybe some people in your life talk about dieting and weight constantly. In situations like this, changing the topic doesn’t really work. The best bet may be to set a boundary. A boundary like this could sound a few different ways.
For example, saying, “I really don’t want to talk about weight when we’re together,” or “It’s really triggering for me to talk about diets. Please don’t talk to me about dieting.” This can be really difficult to do, but setting a boundary can prevent future triggering conversations that you have to figure out how to get out of.
Talk About Your Body Differently
Talking about your own approaches to food and body-positivity can set the tone for future conversations. If people know that you practice intuitive eating or are an advocate for Health At Every Size, they may be less likely to come to you to talk about weight loss techniques.
This also is a way to start bringing awareness to healthier ways of approaching our relationships with our bodies. Some people may not even know about intuitive eating or body-positivity. This can help shift the conversation within your circle, and little shifts like this lead to bigger societal shifts.
Ultimately, some people will continue to talk about weight or dieting, even if we’ve done everything we can to move the conversation in a different direction. In situations like this, it’s important to take care of yourself. This can look like calling a friend, doing something to relax, or ending the conversation.
Until society changes its obsession with weight and dieting, conversations like these are likely to continue. You can only control yourself. Knowing how to handle conversations about weight and dieting can help you feel more capable of taking care of yourself during these discussions.
Resources: National Eating Disorders Association. (2018). Statistics and research on eating disorders. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders
About the Author:
Samantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published March 25, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on March 25, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC