Talking about diets is part of everyday life. It’s in the press, on TV with the Biggest Loser series and it’s in fitness magazines, largely disguised as the quest for better health. On one of my trainings, a delegate told me that she had spent a 5 hour train journey listening to a group of girls talking about nothing else but dieting and ways of losing weight. Talk about diets starts in primary school and women can talk about diets for the rest of their lives. Even 90 year olds talk about diets, those that worked, those that didn’t work, those that are in today’s paper. The new weight loss wonder of the day.
It seems like talking about diets makes you part of a club. Membership of this club is admitting that you don’t feel you look right and you are trying to do something about it. There is companionship in this kind of club; we are all in it together. People who are not in the club can feel like outsiders. If diets don’t interest you, you are in the minority. If you are slim, people will say “well, you don’t have to worry”. If you are fat, they will imagine that you are not looking after yourself.
The more we talk about diets, the fatter we are getting, so talking about diets is a waste of time unless you are stuck for something more interesting to say.
People with eating disorders have a hard time listening to talk about diets. It’s bad enough thinking about ways of controlling your weight all the time without having to hear about yet another miracle diet that is helping your best friend of colleague “lose loads of weight”. Perhaps you will panic and think “maybe I should be doing this”. Well hold that thought, because the chances are that the diet won’t work. Nearly 99% of all diets don’t work in the long run. And I mean ALL diets, including those which happen after Christmas or those which come stamped with a seal of medical approval.
If you are recovering from an eating disorder, the chances are that you have been helped to give up dieting and work on your relationship with food, and with yourself. This can feel very scary. People with anorexia who are trying to recover say “why am I being told to give up restricting food, look at all those people out there all obsessed with diets and all trying as hard as they can to lose some weight. Why, if they see me eating they will suppose I’m greedy. ” It’s enough to make you want to go right back to where you were.
If you have had bulimia, or binge eating problems, you will surely be helped to use food to re-nourish yourself. You will have to re-learn how to eat all the danger foods without going out of control. How difficult it is to hear people say that this or that food is fattening and forbidden. Perhaps your friends are boasting that they aren’t eating carbs, or that you should only eat protein after 4 o clock in the afternoon. Perhaps they are telling you that their latest diet is only organic food or that wheat will make you fat. You may think of yourself as a bad person if you don’t do what everyone else is doing. But what they are doing is usually crazy.
So, dieting talk is very hard to hear when someone is trying to recover from an eating problem. What then can we do about it? I suggest that we need to develop a different way of listening to this talk without reacting to the feelings about what we are hearing. Here are some solutions and doing them gets better with practice.
When you hear talk about diets
1 Say to yourself “diet talk is boring and a waste of time and energy.”
2 Tell yourself “I’m Ok and I am learning to do things differently now.”
3 Remind yourself “A life on diets is a life badly lived.”
4 Remind yourself “Diet books only make money for the author.”
5 Remember that people who lose weight on any diet usually put it all back on again.
When you feel anxious around diet talk and dieting friends
1 Give yourself a mental hug and repeat “I approve of myself” (even if you don’t).
2 Tell your friends (in your head if necessary) that it’s better to work on your relationship with food rather than go on another diet which will only make your relationship with food even worse.
3 Take a very deep breath and wait for the feelings to pass, they will pass.
4 Remind yourself of all the reasons why you are giving up the dieting hoax.
5 Seek out someone you trust to talk about your feelings before doing anything else.
If anything else has worked for you, email Deanne on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add this to our blog.