Dealing with Weight Loss-Obsessed Friends
“My friends are obsessed with weight loss and dieting! I’m starting to become an intuitive eater, but they’re constantly talking about their latest diet or how they need to lose weight. What can I do or say to get them to stop?” I’ve gotten variations of this question 3 times in the past 24 hours! So I’m sharing my best tips for how to handle these moments in today’s blog post.
Shielding Yourself from Conversations about Weight Loss as a New Intuitive Eater
As a new intuitive eater, you’re starting to realize how diet culture and fatphobia is every. freaking. where. It’s both hidden in subtle microaggressions. And blatant, in-your-face, “lose weight or be unhealthy” messaging. It’s exhausting enough with the amount of superhero-level battling you have to take to shield yourself from it in the media. But it can feel especially difficult when fatphobia rears its ugly head amid an in-person conversation with your close friends.
In the past 24 hours, two clients and one friend have asked me how to deal with weight loss-obsessed friends. Two of them were anxiously anticipating conversations about diets to come up prior to the event. And one was less than thrilled with her say-nothing responses to a friend who constantly shares extreme diets and self-criticisms. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to find yourself trapped in an exchange that’s dripping in diet culture. Especially, if like me, you’re previously known to have been the “good, healthy” friend who willingly engaged in this type of conversation! Here are 3 of my best tips for what you can do to prepare and protect yourself from the non-stop “I need to lose weight” chatter.
1. Shift your mindset & energy beforehand.
While you can’t control whether or not your friends will bring up weight loss and dieting. You can control your mindset and energy before you meet up with them. It takes a lot of energy to anxiously anticipate someone making a comment about their diet or fat loss goals. And it also takes a lot of energy to think about how the people you’ll be seeing may be so much thinner, prettier, more put together, <fill in the blank> than you.
But those anticipating thoughts fuel a negative energy of anxiety, nervousness, defeat, comparison and defensiveness.
And, not only that, it’s negative energy that isn’t even warranted. Because it hasn’t happened yet. And might not even happen at all! Instead, rechannel this energy into a more positive energy. Shift your thoughts to things like:
- Why are you going?
- Why do you love spending time with them?
- What will you get to do together?
- Why do you value your friendship with them?
I’m 99.99% sure your friends aren’t your friends because of your body size. They want to spend time with you because of WHO you are as a human. This series of questions can help ground you in positive truth, instead of nervous anticipation.
2. Prepare your response to weight loss & diet talk.
This is completely based on your personality and comfort level. If you’re like me, it changes by who you’re talking to as well. Planning a few go-to responses when the topics of weight loss and dieting come up can help you tame anxiety.
Here are some responses—ranging from subtle to very direct:
Smile & nod. Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom.
This might seem like a cop out, but your recovery is the priority here. No harm, no foul. Just focus on the escape. This is your best, most subtle bet when speaking up will just cause more anxiety.
“OH MY GOSH! I totally forgot to tell you guys!”
This is more theatrical but incredibly effective. As soon as the topic of dieting and weight loss comes up, bust in with a great story. Essentially saving up a predetermined true story. You want to tell them anyway, but be strategic with timing the delivery. If you’re like me and known to naturally just burst out with a declaration like this anyway, it will be seamless.
“I apologize for interrupting, but I just can’t hear any more diet or weight loss-obsessed talk. It’s bad enough with all the ads I get on Instagram! Let’s talk about something else.”
This response makes it clear you don’t want to talk about it, but puts the blame on the media. I recommend this if you want to be clear without having to get into personal details about your wellness journey.
“I recently realized years of dieting has hurt my relationship with food and my body. Let’s talk about something else.”
This response is more personalized but intentionally doesn’t open the door for conversation. I know how difficult it can be to describe Intuitive Eating in the beginning. Especially when you haven’t been through the 10 principles on your own yet. You are 100% entitled to your privacy and owe no explanation or details of what you’re doing to heal.
“Personally, I’m done with diet culture’s ever-changing beauty standards. I just want to FEEL good in my body!”
This can open the conversation up to actual health and wellness. Depending on your crowd, this may spark a great conversation on things you’ve been doing lately to feel your best. Or how social media is creating more and more issues with their face-altering filters. It takes the emphasis off looks. Your weight loss-obsessed friends might not take the bait though and will continue to talk about how <insert diet method> truly does make them feel better though. Be prepared to pivot with a more direct response if it just extends the conversation further into diet and weight loss.
“Actually, I don’t diet or focus on weight loss anymore. I destroyed my relationship with food, fitness and body image by dieting all these years. Now I’m learning to trust my body and prioritize my mental health through Intuitive Eating. It’s been the healthiest thing I’ve done for myself in a really long time. I’d love to tell you more about it, if you’re interested.”
This response is the vulnerable truth and opening yourself up to questions. While this is typically a response you’ll feel more comfortable with further along your intuitive eating journey. You might be ready if it’s a trusted confidante. Or someone who you think might genuinely be interested in intuitive eating as well. if your friends still seem weight loss-obsessed, they’re likely not ready to hear about it though. When we enter the territory of talking about intuitive eating, we want to make sure we do it with compassion and empathy. Being anti-diet is not self-righteous or dismissive of others who are still dieting. Everyone has authority of their OWN body. And if that includes a diet for your friends, you can be supportive without having to hear about their methods.
3. Reflect after the conversation.
So much about healing from years of dieting is learning to have curiosity—instead of judgement—about your thoughts and actions. After an encounter with someone who makes comments about weight loss and dieting, it can be very helpful to reflect on the event. I also encourage you to reflect when you were anticipating these topics to come up, but they never did.
Some questions that I find incredibly helpful to ask myself include:
- How did my response make me feel?
- What may have contributed to those feelings?
- Why do I care how others are eating or what they’re doing to lose weight?
- And…if it was anticipated, but never came up…why was I nervous about the mention of weight loss?
Confidence comes from building self-trust.
In a society that constantly tells us our bodies aren’t small enough, it can feel isolating to be the only friend who is doing something “radically” different like eating intuitively. Remember that YOU are the authority of your body. You have decided that dieting has hurt you over the years. You are now prioritizing your mental health. And sometimes we need to reevaluate who we allow in our circle in order to keep it a priority. Especially when we’re in the first few precious months of recovering from dieting.
If you’re in need of a stronger support system, I can help. I offer 1:1 nutrition counseling and group coaching via Diet-Free Academy where we learn to prioritize our mental health and reclaim self-trust and confidence through diet-free living. Schedule a free 20-minute phone call with me to learn more.
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