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Question #152: Talking about diets: The “watching paint dry” of our times.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I used to have an eating disorder. While I consider myself to be mostly well now, this has left me with some conflicted feelings about dieting.

This tends to get awkward when other people talk about their dieting. First of all, hearing someone else talk about how wonderful their diet is, how they really shouldn’t eat whatever or how they really want to lose weight can be a bit triggering for me and sometimes makes me feel like I should maybe diet too. That’s not a good thing for me.

Second, I don’t want to encourage people around me to diet. I’ve gotten fairly into fat acceptance and I don’t want to participate in the idea that losing weight will make you a happier, healthier and more attractive person, because I believe that is a harmful idea. However, I don’t really know how act around someone who tells me they’ve lost weight without doing either that or coming across as an unsupportive jerk.

Is there a way for me to make other people not go on about how great their diet is and other things that are hard for me to hear, preferably without telling them about my history with eating disorders or coming across like a jerk? And is there a way for me to deal with dieting people that is neither encouraging nor… well, jerkish?

What’s that book about how French ladies don’t get fat because every once in a while they eat nothing but a cleansing broth made of leeks or something?  Who cares. Anyway, the author had one good point. Even if you are not actively policing the bodies of and making it weird for the people around you (as in people with eating disorders, or fat people who receive constant judgment and shaming around eating):

Endlessly talking about your diet is boring as fuck.

I don’t pretend to be some kind of ninja of calm self-acceptance, or that I even know how to solve this problem for you because you can’t make people do anything. The way I deal with that excruciating ritual of LadyBonding by talking about blah blah blah calories and blah blah blah “I probably shouldn’t” or “Maybe just a little, if we split one” or “My other meal of the day was laughing alone with salad, so maybe I will only have a tiny bite” is how I treat  someone who is telling me a long and pointless story with no beginning middle or end about how I should join their religion or forward this chain letter or maybe sign up for a pyramid scheme or try some woo cure they’re raving about:

1. Vague polite bemusement, with maybe a neutral “Huh, sounds like that’s going well for you,” or “I’m happy you’re feeling good.

2. Asking zero questions about it and giving zero “Tell me more about that” signals.

3. Changing the subject as quickly as possible.

I mean, I don’t need to argue with them or get into their personal decisions about what and how they eat  because why would I a) intrude on someone that way or b) open the door to them commenting on what and how I eat? It’s not my job to do that, and food/body image/health is such a personal, private thing. That doesn’t mean I let them talk endlessly about it, or that I don’t set limits. If anyone so much as hints that they are going to give me unwanted diet advice I stop them and say “I know you mean to be helpful, but let’s change the subject.”

I wonder, rather than mention your particular eating disorder history, if you might try saying something like “Eh, could we not talk about our diets today?  It always makes me feel really anxious and like I can’t enjoy my food, which is sad, because this sandwich is fucking delicious.”

(Maybe without the swears if you’re at work). There are a lot of variations you could use, and just own up to the feelings that diet talk is making you feel. That’s not jerky, that’s just taking care of yourself. Say it every day if you have to until the message sinks in and you’ve taught them that this is not a subject that you want to talk about, and they will not be rewarded with praise and pets and glory if they bring it up around you.

The other great thing is that you’re giving the other person permission NOT to engage in the weird shame spiral call-and-response. It will be weird at first, as your conversation partner figures out that, “Wait, I don’t have to hate on myself for a requisite number of minutes before I enjoy things? Why is she not hating herself with me?” but the awkwardness will ease up over time.

I’m positive more answers exist for you here at the Shapely Prose archive.  And as we go into the holidays, check out Twistie’s advice about how you shouldn’t cook awesome food for your family and then let them make you feel like crap for eating some of it over at Manolo for the Big Girl. You can also arm yourself with instructions for saying STFU when the FU is silent…and fantasies for when it is right out loud.

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78 comments
  1. One of my dear friends lost a bunch of weight on the proverbial weight watchers, and then proceeded to get measured for her wedding gown. It will surprise approximately no one to learn that by the time the gown arrived it no longer fit. With several weeks before her wedding she embarked on one of the least healthy diets I have ever encountered. I did my best to be understanding, after all, she paid good money for the dress and wanted it to fit.

    However, one day at lunch our conversation consisted entirely of her telling me what she had eaten throughout the course of her weekend. She said the words “And then I had 5 almonds” as if this was somehow 1. a valid amount of food to discuss 2. something gave a shit about. At the end I said with my usual sardonic tone “So, now can we talk about something other than every tiny thing you’ve eaten in the last three days?”

    A little good natured teasing followed. But since that day none of my friends in that circle have ever mentioned their diets in front of me again.

    • CheckeredFoxglove said:

      Talking about nothing but food is a side-effect of starvation. Sounds like a pretty darn unhealthy diet.

  2. So I’m pretty sure I’ve had this exact question in conversation with friends before, complete with the same history of ED. Luckily, I’ve already kind of settled onto your 3 responses on my own. Unluckily, I’m really fucking bad at it and sometimes just end up sputtering and/or looking down into my drink and/or walking away instead. Working on it.

    • Although even the sputtering/looking down/walking away as a far better response than complete asshole younger me who’d respond with something along the lines of “yes, you’re a goddamn cow, can we talk about something else now?” to the dieting friends who were smaller than me. Yep that wasn’t an unhealthy response at all.

      • Jake said:

        I don’t know. I mean obviously it’s not kind, but at the same time I believe in taking what people say at face value, right? So if someone’s moaning on about how they shouldn’t eat such and such because diet blah blah they’re playing a mind game where they’re making statement X hoping that you’ll respond with statement not-X. Don’t give them what they’re trying to manipulate you into giving them, but instead just agree with them. “Yeah, you shouldn’t eat cake. Here, I’ll have your piece.” And then they learn that moaning at you means they A) get shut down and B) don’t get cake.

        Naw, you’re right, it’s not a good response. I mean, what if you didn’t want their cake? But it’s nice to fantasize about.

      • Jake said:

        OH MY GOD THIS GAVE ME THE BEST IDEA FOR A POTLUCK!

        I’m going to bring a cake with a sign that says “Guilt-free cake” and when people ask me what makes it guilt free I’m going to say that people who talk about how they probably shouldn’t, bad for their diet, so naughty, yadda yadda aren’t allowed to have any.

        Sorry. Some of the people I eat lunch with spend a lot of time talking about “good” foods vs “bad” foods and how good/bad they are for eating them, and all my pent up eye-rolling is coming out on this thread.

        • Mercutia said:

          I personally think the guilt-free cake idea is awesome. I don’t know if I’d have the balls to do it, but it’s still cool.

        • Rei said:

          “It’s guilt-free cake!”
          “What makes it guilt-free?”
          “My attitude! EAT THE CAKE.”

        • Alberthe said:

          I would eat your guilt-free cake! But then I also take the last slice when everybody else refuses out of politeness.. *bad person*

          • Ethyl said:

            Hahaha! I do this too!

        • Lis said:

          I got quietly un-invited to a “healthy foods potluck” when I said I was bringing chocolate fudge cake, “because starving to death is the most unhealthy food choice of them all”.

          Ehh. I didn’t really want to go anyway.

  3. Stephanie said:

    I make part of my income in the weight loss industry, so you would probably suspect me of being guilty of such things, but really, whenever possible, I try to keep my food stylings under wraps.

    I’ve just returned to my desk after a department lunch meeting. It was FULL of people guilting themselves, policing each other, etc. And all I wanted to do was to yell at them to STFU. Goodness. I spend enough of my time trying to manage my food intake, I don’t need to spend my free time hearing about yours.

  4. Lesley said:

    Two things. First, maybe respond by casting doubt on the mantra that all people ought to diet. Not only for fat acceptance, but because it plays into a society of docile bodies, where we control ourselves and increase the power of the state by doing their work for us. Diets are NOT good for us, wholesale, even when it feels good because they create doubt in our minds and encourage us to hate ourselves. No good can come from that. You tell people that. NO GOOD CAN COME FROM THIS.

    Alternatively, I can’t really crap on the idea of eating more fruits and veg. Really, in general, moderation is key. (Anecdote alert!) I know some recovering eating disorder people who are vegan because it allows them to feel control over their lives without allowing starvation to be a part of it. That may or may not have anything to do with this question.

    But seriously, stop dieting. Cut that shit out. Eat what is good for you, enjoy yourself in moderation, remember that there are things outside of skinny thighs that make you valuable. Undermine the patriarchy. Raise hell!!

  5. swevene said:

    My parents have been on a healthy food kick for years. Unfortunately, I live with them and I have my own eating problems- it’s never really strayed into ED territory, but my eating is definitely not quite right and I mainly focus on eating enough calories so that I won’t lose catastrophic amounts of weight/can continue to function on a minimal level, since I also have depression and eating regularly helps.

    Trying to persuade my family that this is OKAY and they don’t need to police my eating habits has been a really long and hard haul. I know that they (mainly my mother) do it because they care about me and want me to be healthy, but as an adult I am damn well allowed to make my own diet decisions.

    Unfortunately, my main tactic up until recently was getting fed up and bursting into tears when she pushed it too far, which was perhaps not particularly persuasive on the ‘adult’ front. Lately I’ve been chatting with her about fat acceptance and my issues with food, which has helped more than the crying, and also doesn’t make me feel incredibly stupid/guilty afterwards.

  6. I hang out with a lot of Advanced White People and I recently hit my limit with talking about people’s diets. Now I carry a guitar with me everywhere and if someone starts talking about dieting I start playing “Skin and Bones” by the Kinks and singing as loud as I possibly can until they go away.

    Not the right solution for everyone but if you wanna do it the chords are here: it really works and yes, I really do this.

    http://www.kindakinks.net/discography/showsong.php?chord=358

    • I change “incredibly big” to “a beautiful girl” because I worry people won’t get the irony. Otherwise, I do it the regular way, although I do it in E. Enjoy

    • Copcher said:

      When you say everywhere, I really hope you mean everywhere, because I am picturing someone busting out a guitar and singing this in fancy restaurants, at family gatherings, on public transit, all over the place. It’s awesome.

      • Yes! In theory. Of course, there are limits. In practice I only had to do it a couple times. Now it doesn’t come up much.

  7. My theory is that people on diets are fucken starving, and so all they can think about is food, and all they want to talk about is food. But since they are on a diet, they can’t talk about eating awesome food–because they aren’t eating awesome food–so they talk about their diets instead.

    • Jake said:

      I think that’s probably true. I also think that maybe it comes out of conversational awkwardness? Like, I often find myself not really knowing how to fill a conversational lull during lunch so I’ll say to someone, “so, so&so, what do you have for lunch today?” or “mmm, my lunch is delicious today!” or something similar. It’s not talking about diets, but if I was the dietin’ type, I can see how talking about what I’m eating could easily lead into long, boring yammers about my diet.

    • Hanna said:

      Yeah, as a veteran of many a diet, I can confirm the constant thinking about food and the diet happens. Except I never talk about the diets, i just pretend they are not happening and change the subject if someone asks… Which might be kinda dysfunctional in its own way, I’m thinking, but diet talk is the blerst.

  8. Lesley said:

    Wow. Thank you captain awkward, LW & everyone who has posted a reply. It’s nice to meet other people in the world who also get really irritated by the constant conversation about weight, up until now I thought I was the only one. Like other reply-ers, I have also had close friends lose weight & whine on & on & on about it. Also up there is the “I’ve done sooooo much exercise this week, but I’m still unhappy with my thighs” conversation & the “I bought a dress size down this week” dribble. Seriously who the fuck cares? When my friends do this now, I loudly exclaim how hungry I am & make a point of finishing my lunch in front of them & telling them how good it was.
    If you know you do this, please give your friends a break & find something more interesting & important to talk about!!! If you need some ideas, why not read some world news?

  9. If I’m in an environment where I’m comfortable being blunt, I’ll just say flat out “Please, no diet talk.” I don’t usually give a reason. People can fill in their own from any number of perfectly logical conclusions: because it’s too personal, because it’s boring, because it’s not mentally healthy, whatever.

    I did have a job in which our boss was perpetually talking about the weight he needed to lose and the terrible food he had to eat to lose it. My coworkers and I discussed this at length; we didn’t feel comfortable confronting him directly, so over time most of us just practiced our own self-saving manuevers. I’d change the topic, or physically leave the conversation (which is pretty easy while you’re at work, because “I have to go do work now!” is always a legit excuse). Occasionally, when he spoke of being tired or sick, I’d say something like “You’re probably not getting enough nutrients, you know? You need more carbs to stay on your feet all day.” I didn’t like this, because I don’t want to cross the line into food policing, but I did want to inject the concept that food has positive value.

  10. Amy said:

    I am probably guilty of talking too much about a) the delicious things I am not eating out of pregnancy paranoia and b) the increasingly weird ways I am organizing my eating to manage the stupid heartburn, but I’d like to think there’s a clear context there that I’m only doing that shit because I have a giant abdominal parasite?

    … yeah, I should probably still knock it off.

    • roo said:

      My baby was a few weeks overdue, and we ended up sitting in maternity triage for a day waiting to see if the doctor wanted to induce. I couldn’t eat, because, well, they might have needed to induce. But I was very pregnant, and very, very hungry.

      I’m the sort of person who gets weepy and shaky if I haven’t eaten in too long, even when I’m not pregnant. So this was rough. I spent two hours describing to my husband in exquisite detail all the foods I could imagine eating. It was like verbal food porn.

      Which is exactly what I think diet talk is all about. Never mind the Irving Penn food photographs at the back end of every issue of Vogue.

      Anyway, good luck with your pregnancy!

      (And good luck to the OP, of course!)

    • If you’re pregnant you can complain all you want in my book. It’s a bit different than complaining all the time about how you can’t eat kiwis or else [nonspecific problem that you’re absolutely positive you cured by stopping eating kiwis.]

    • Letter Writer said:

      I totally understand the need to complain about not being able to eat something. For me, it’s different than dieting talk because it doesn’t really have anything to do with losing weight or body shaming (most people who talk about their diets with me are dieting because they want to look prettier).

      Your thing sounds more in the category of complaining about medical issues, which can of course get boring for other people too, but I for one would definitely prefer that. Also, I say all pregnant women get a free pass on complaining, because that seems really crappy.

  11. BadSack said:

    I would like to interject that talking about diets — whether it is a weight loss diet, vegan, raw, low-carb whatever is as controversial and as boring as politics or religion. This is a topic that that should be avoided at all costs in mixed company, at work, at social events — everywhere.
    It can be triggering, shaming, divisive, completely illogical, and supremely ego-centric. The only exception would be to have lists of ingredients written down on cards stuck in the food at potluck dinners — where it would be permissable to ask for clarification: ” Does this contain ground almonds or almond extract ?” End of subject.

    Low point in my life regarding this topic: former friend was an evangelical raw foodist, who dragged me to some raw food hangout so I could get a look at some guy she was interested in. The people there seemed to talk about nothing except raw food, and were happily discussing their personal results with cascara — a type of pod that grows on trees that is used as a laxative. Appalling.

    • Stephanie said:

      Exactly! At the lunch I mentioned above, one of my coworkers decided to ask me why I became a vegetarian (she works with me closely and thus knows this about me). Is a group lunch really the right time for me to use the phrase CAFO? Um, not really. I had to bob and weave to get out of that one!

    • C said:

      I used to work with someone who was really into some diet involving only eating fruit and then only eating raw/natural stuff. Also really into proselytizing about it. But she would talk about warm water colon irrigation over LUNCH. Being the first one to say “I’m eating here!” was awkward, but the resounding support meant she didn’t talk about it there again!

  12. Capt'n Fitness said:

    I would like to add quickly that the definition of diet is anything you eat. Period. That is my diet, the good I consume. That being said, if a person spends too much time thinking about food, then eother a basic need is not bring met, or they are focused on food to the point of obsession. This will cause them to have it on their mind all the time and will counter their work subconsciously. So, changing the subject is the best thing possible for these people. I mean, food is a drive that you bring back to homeostasis, then stop worrying about it. I for one would rather like to worry about other “drives” than food.

  13. I still remember a food-related conversation with coworkers in which I mentioned that my breakfast always included a banana. They informed me that this was bad, as bananas have lots of sugar, or something.

    I didn’t say anything at the time, but seriously. It’s a fucking banana. If improving my diet means I have to feel guilty about fruit, I want no part of it.

    Good luck, LW. You don’t have to be recovering from an eating disorder to find other people’s diet fixations annoying.

  14. Letter Writer said:

    Thank you Captain Awkward and everyone who commented! It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who gets bothered by endless diet talk. I’ll definitely try some of the advice.

    Honestly, I kind of just want to scream “just eat the bloody cookie, we all love you the same anyway”, but I know that’s rude and my friends and family are adults who can make their own decision. So yeah.

    • JenniferP said:

      Ha, now I’m picturing some kind of Hamlety monologue where your friends and family are holding a cookie up and really, really wrestling with whether to eat it.

      Exhausting.

      • Alberthe said:

        My in-laws actually do this. They are incapable of eating food without commenting on how they shouldn’t eat this, or eat so much, or how they CAN eat this today because they’re so good most of the time or have been swimming today so it’s ok, etc. etc. (interestingly all this agonising is accompanied by my mother-in-law’s pressing us to eat just one more portion of dinner or take just the one more slice of cake, because of course she has to feed us when we’re visiting!) It annoys the hell out of me because a) when they judge people’s worth based on their size, they imply that their feelings for me would change with my size, and that is a sore point for me, as my size goes up and down, so it makes me feel unsafe, and b) it bores me to death. It’s the same with people going on about wanting to quit smoking: either quit, or don’t. You don’t have to justify your smoking or your eating to me (and I don’t want to listen to it).

        I have a lot of issues with food and weight, and it really, really bothers me when people talk about their (or even worse, other people’s) weight or diet. I do it myself, but only to my husband, and only at home. If we had children, I would never want them to overhear this. And I have no idea what to do about my in-laws if we do have children, because if I hear them fat-shame my child even once, the fallout will be terrible to behold:S

        • This was my first boundary which eventually proved insufficient (hence the guitar.)

          No Diet Talk at the Table.

  15. bellacoker said:

    In these situations, I find myself repeating, “You’re an adult, and adults get to eat what they want.” over and over again either out loud or in my head.

    And also modelling, but not saying, that food should taste good and we should eat what we want and then stop, so there is a conspicuous lack of plate cleaning. I don’t know if it helps the situation, but it does help me feel like I am consciously living what I believe in regards to food. Then I can frame other people’s diet talk as them living what *they* believe or searching for a system of food belief.

  16. RQbrain said:

    When people start food-policing themselves, I say, “I don’t care what you eat or do not eat, that’s up to you.”

    When people are food-policing me, which isn’t often anymore, I have the perfect excuse, “XYZ makes me sick.” or “I have to eat ABC, doctor’s orders.” Probably the first isn’t good for everybody (literally everything makes me some level of sick) but the second should go for whatever, whether its eating disorder recovery, diabetes, general depression, or whatever. The doctor says take care of yourself, so making your own choices and ignoring crazy weight-obsessed culture is doctor’s orders.

    And if people tell me they’ve lost weight, I play dumb and ask if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. If they say it’s a good thing, then I say I’m happy for them. If they’re confused I tell them that losing weight is a sign of illness so I wasn’t sure.

    And if people ASK my opinion about losing weight or whatever, I tell them I think they are great the way they are and I want them to do whatever makes them happy.

    Reading lots of fat acceptance has helped me to strengthen this position. And even if I have different personal opinions because I have my own whacked out body image issues, I can keep those to myself and just tell people what I WANT to feel, which is that each individual is great the way they are, and I just want them to be happy. I don’t much like to rock the boat so I’m not as blunt as some other commenters.

    • JenniferP said:

      I love that question: “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

      I love this comment, pretty much.

    • wondering said:

      “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

      That’s exactly what I say when someone tells me she is pregnant! Happy to extend that to weight loss. 😀

    • “And if people tell me they’ve lost weight, I play dumb and ask if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. If they say it’s a good thing, then I say I’m happy for them. If they’re confused I tell them that losing weight is a sign of illness so I wasn’t sure.”

      This, so much. I think this internally whenever someone says they’ve lost weight but somehow never thought to just ask it directly! I officially stopped congratulating people for weight loss when a doctor congratulated me on mine and told me to keep up whatever I was doing. I was shaking in anger too hard to tell her I lost weight because I’d been sick for the last month and vomitting almost everything I tried to eat… the reason for my visit to her.

      Related question and sorry if this is off-topic, but how do you all respond to people who comment on your own weight loss? It flusters me to no end since I’m not trying to lose weight, I just fluctuate, or sometimes get sick, or am adjusting to a new medication and I don’t take it as a compliment.

      • JenniferP said:

        Yeeeeeaaaaaah, the old “You’ve lost weight!” as compliment thing.

        Try “Yeah, I’ve been shitting constantly lately, it’s the worst. Oh wait…did you mean that as a compliment?”

          • JenniferP said:

            I think you cannot go into enough detail. Refer to it as “The Black Speech of Mordor.”

        • I counsel all humans to replace all the shit they think is a compliment about someone’s appearance with “Wow, you look fantastic!” I particularly recommend this to MRA’s, who are often really confused as to why “Holy shit, your tits are ENORMOUS” is not actually well-received even by women in properly fitted clothing, but it could easily extend to “Wow, you’ve lost weight-ers,”

          I especially like the people who INSIST I’ve lost weight even though I’ve been EXACTLY this fat for about the last 12 years.

          Them: Wow, have you lost weight?
          Me: No.
          Them: Yes, you have. I can tell.
          Me: No, I’ve been 5’11”, 210 since I was 23 years old.
          Them: Wow, you’re over 200 pounds? Well, you look great!
          Me: Um… thanks?

          • Letter Writer said:

            Some of my relatives used to do that. It’s rather annoying.

          • Jake said:

            I’ve been getting this a lot lately too. My body shape has been changing recently, although my weight has stayed the same, and a few of my relatives like to inform me that I’ve lost weight every time I see them. They even consult with each other about whether I’ve lost weight, you know:

            “You’ve lost weight!”
            “No I haven’t”
            “Yes you have! $OtherRelative, doesn’t Jake look like she’s lost weight?”

          • Occasionally, someone will tell me that I’ve lost weight– one person said, you’ve lost “an enormous amount” of weight. When in fact, I have not. My weight has been stable for many, many years. I couldn’t hide my annoyance at hearing this.

            These acquaintances (no friend of mine would say this) think they are paying me a huge compliment, and are puzzled when I don’t respond all aglow in the knowledge that (for whatever reason) I look thinner. What I really think is, did I look that awful to you to begin with? Why do you think I look better today just because you perceive my body size to be smaller?

            I never comment about people’s size, height and weight included. I do say things like, “you look amazing, it’s wonderful to see you” or “love your hair color” or “that’s a fabulous coat you have on.” I’d love it if others could get out of the habit of commenting on weight as well. It’s insulting, really, not complimentary, to hear- in essence– “you look so much better than you did before.” Yick.

          • Nomie said:

            “I didn’t lose weight, I got a new bra!”

            Stops ’em in their tracks, let me tell you what.

      • Ace said:

        I get people telling me I’ve lost weight sometimes, sometimes they’re right, sometimes not. Every time I shrug and say ‘oh, maybe. I don’t really pay attention to that’ If they push, I mention that I don’t own a scale and they get so weirded out by that I get left alone. Most of the time, though, they just go straight to ‘well, you look great’ which is a nicer compliment in my mind.

        • lm said:

          I had someone argue with me one time about that. I hadn’t seen her in about a year and she decided that I’d lost a lot of weight. I was about the same, or a little heavier. She wouldn’t let it drop and insisted that no, I was much thinner. This probably went on for a few minutes and only ended when I said something like, “well, I guess it’s possible, I don’t really know.” After the “you don’t keep track?!” pearl-clutching, it was dropped.

          Yeah, a simple “you look great!” would’ve been a lot nicer.

      • If people say, “Oh, have you lost weight?” I just say “No, don’t worry. I’m fine.” Kinda the converse of RQBrain’s response.

        • Jake said:

          That is a brilliant response. I’m stealing it.

    • Anya said:

      This. Totally, this.

      I’m in a field of the performing arts where there’s a ton of job pressure to be skinny. (Not, like, dance-level pressure, but still.) So diet talk happens a lot. When someone is obviously happy about it, my enactment of Captain’s steps 1 – 3 is as follows:

      [neutrally] “Cool.”
      [awkward pause]
      [new topic]

      When someone isn’t obviously happy about it, it’s more like:

      [above] “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
      [“answer, usually mixed feelings”]
      “Yeah, all this pressure to be skinny totally blows.”
      [“answer, always in the affirmative”]

      • Copcher said:

        I have a similar reaction when people mention they’ve lost weight, but I tend to replace “Cool” with “Oh”. Then I pause awkwardly and try to start a new topic. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I think it’s a good thing that they’ve lost weight.

  17. KM said:

    Wow, the skill of being able to non-jerkily tell people not to talk about their diets is massively important. For me it’s not even about getting triggered, it’s more like “It’s making me uncomfortable that you’re talking about your obviously unhealthy diet that you think is really awesome, and you clearly think that I think it’s awesome too, and I don’t know how to deal with that.” I’ll definitely be using the advice in this thread.

  18. Virginia said:

    I think a cleansing broth make of leeks could be *delicious*.

    • bellacoker said:

      Mmmmm . . . . soup.

    • Ace said:

      It’s French, of course it’s delicious. 🙂

    • Jake said:

      dammit now I want leek soup.

      • Virginia said:

        I put leeks on my weekly grocery list.

      • JenniferP said:

        May I recommend cooking some leeks and a few cloves of garlic in some olive oil until soft, adding some chicken or vegetable broth, cooking for about 15 more minutes, then puree and stir in a little bit of heavy cream? Salt and black pepper to taste. Cream of Leek soup.

        The French Lady is more about sad leek water.

  19. Ensign Perception said:

    LW, I just wanted to say, I feel you on this.

    My tactic is to try and change discussions about diets into recipe sharing time, because talking about delicious food is the opposite of triggering for me!

    • Letter Writer said:

      Does that work? Because it seems like it could easily turn into “Oh, I can’t eat that because of the [forbidden food/nutrient of choice]”.

      I like exchanging recipes, so that might be a good idea.

      • Ensign Perception said:

        It actually kinda does? But then again I cook for people who are vegans, gluten intolerant etc. all the time, so the recipe talk includes a lot of brainstorming on what could be substituted for the hated potatoes, or cucumbers, or whatever food is totally forbidden at the moment.

  20. lynn said:

    I just want to say that i am so glad i found this site, via Salon. I love Cary Tennis but this site goes further, deeper in some interesting ways.

    About all the food and diet talk. I guess in the spirit of ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ I talked about WeightWatchers with some folks at work. It was a way to share something not very private or painful, and bond a bit with some new co-workers. I don’t think it was a bad thing. I can shut it off if I want to, and sometimes I do. I was surprised by the freedom people thought they had to police me, ‘should you really be eating that?’ , though. Reminded me of pregnant friends who say that total strangers thought it was ok to put a hand on their swollen belly. but hey, people are assholes, right? Women’s bodies. Public domain. Bizarre, really.

  21. I stopped dieting 15 years ago and have never looked back. Although I did not have a full blown eating disorder during my early adult years I believe the practice of dieting harmed me greatly. It has taken me many years to relearn eating in response to internal rather than external cues, accepting my body as it is, and moving for pleasure rather than always associating exercise with weight loss.

    When I hear others talking about their diet behavior, I usually listen for a short while. Then if the topic seems like it’s going to drag on and on, I say something like:

    “Well, I don’t believe in assigning moral value to food. I used to do that and it got me nowhere.”

    I say this in as neutral and casual a tone as possible. If the dieter asks me questions about my statement I will answer them. If not, I will change the subject as quickly as possible.

    One semi funny story related to this topic:A year or so ago. I ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant near my office with a co-worker who had recently lost a lot of weight. The server, oohing and ahhhhing, asked him how much weight he had lost and he told her, then she went on and on about how great he looks now, then turned to me and said, “why don’t YOU try?” I was taken aback but managed to smile and say, “oh, I don’t diet anymore, it’s not good for me.” And let it go at that.

  22. JenniferP said:

    I deleted a couple comments that went too far into the commenter’s own body issues or made assumptions about which foods are ok to eat vs. which are not okay (Food has no moral value!). Nobody was terribly out of line, just, it was stuff the LW and readers don’t need to hear. Please come back some other time!

    • Annie said:

      Thank you for making this such an awesome space! 🙂 I can’t say how much I appreciate this blog, and this post in particular – it’s pretty timely for me right now since I’ve been dealing with my (otherwise lovely) coworker going on and on about her pre-wedding diet for nearly a month now.

  23. roo said:

    Yeah, that should’ve been a post on my blog, not a comment here. Sorry!

  24. AnthroK8 said:

    Person Whose Business It Isn’t: Are you sure you should be eating that?

    Diabetic Me: Yes. Would you like some?

    After sitting through some appallingly upsetting diet talk and body shaming, I have established a No Negative Body In My House/Car/At My Table Rule. It started when two women were saying things like “I am soooo fat” “no, *I* am sooo fat” “I felt too fat to leave the house today” in my car.

    I finally just said “if fatness was a reason to not leave the house, I would never leave, because I am fat every day. And now you need to drop this topic.”

    They did. By this time in my life people know not to go to those places at my dinner table, because I just tell them to take it outside until they are done with the topic.

    • Letter Writer said:

      It seems incredibly rude to complain about being fat around someone who actually is fat (I assume they weren’t, given your response). Good boundary setting!

      • JenniferP said:

        It happens ALL THE TIME, which is both incredibly annoying (and boring) but in a backhanded way helpful to me (as a fat person) in realizing that “Whoa, everyone has body issues and really they can only see themselves and aren’t even thinking about me at all and maybe I have fewer issues than a lot of people even though I am indeed very, very, very fat.”

        Not so “helpful” that I’m not thinking “Shut the fuck up, you’re pretty!” when they do it.

      • AnthroK8 said:

        Mmm, noooo, I don’t really mind the rudeness, or find it offensive. It’s the *blammity* *blam* cultural badness of it I mind. But this is because I personally do not have a problem with being a person of fatness. So I know it’s all them and their issues when that kind of talk gets trotted out. The No Negative Body Talk rule is because:

        1) Talking about diets is boring as fuck.

        2) Patriarchy, ridiculous body policing, and badness. I am sick to death of how women’s bodies are the currency by which their value is measured, and I am not going to help that perniciousness any more.

        3) I work really hard to maintain the attitude that fatness is not a problem, food is morally neutral, and diets are a con. My world is much more pleasant because I do that, and I don’t need my mellow being harshed by other people’s dysfunction.

        • Letter Writer said:

          Well, I guess you’re a calmer and more understanding person than me, because I’m kind of pissed on your behalf. Although that might just be because I’m not fat and have the privilege of rarely hearing people imply that it’s a bad thing to have my body size.

          • AnthroK8 said:

            I love that you wrote this comment reply thing to my comment reply thing. You can totally be welcome to be pissed on my behalf.

            What strikes me as funny about this is, *I* am kind of pissed on *your* behalf. Like, people who are recovered/ing from EDs do not need diet “help,” which is one reason I don’t need to have it around my table. No one should have to deal with that when they are my guests.

            Also, I have what someone once called an “India-rubber ego” and it is fairly freaking hard to hurt my feelings/embarrass me over something I think doesn’t merit embarrassment/hurt feelings. But boy do I ever get *angry* about this stuff.

            Solidarity!

          • Letter Writer said:

            Solidarity is great!

            I think it’s great of you to ban diet talk from your table – I think rules like that can be a huge relief for anyone who struggles with an eating disorder or disordered eating.

  25. buzzingbee said:

    My sister is a particularly bad diet-talker, after struggling with ED and losing a ton of weight in a really unhealthy way. Her favorite compliment to me (5 feet even, 210 pounds) is “you’ve lost weight, haven’t you?”

    I always respond with “nope, fat and happy!” and it seems to change the subject.

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