There are few things more personal in this world than the food that we put in our bodies. Everything from our upbringing, religion, culture, and society impacts our personal relationship to food, which explains why we all hold such differing opinions. Any casual Google search related to the word “diet” will bring up a plethora of results: there’s keto, low-carb, paleo, vegan, Atkins, low-fat and so on. It’s the perfect storm for strong opinions; still, even though you have an opinion on something, it doesn’t mean it’s always appropriate to share it, especially when it comes to something as personal as what we choose to eat.
Regardless, diet-talk is rampant and often treated with the same flippant seriousness as asking someone what shows they’ve watched lately. Between two or more people who enjoy the topic, that’s well enough, but what about those who find it upsetting? Sadly, this topic of discussion is not always brought up with the same level of care as some better-understood triggers, and even well-meaning diet-talk can impart damage.
In this diet-obsessed landscape where food and body image is a struggle for so many, it’s increasingly necessary to learn how to pump the breaks on topics of discussion that do you no good. We’ve outlined a few exit strategies for these particular instances.
Here are five tips to help you navigate triggering diet talk
Examine your relationship with food
If you find yourself getting a bit uneasy in conversations relating to food, an essential first step is to determine what might be causing it. Understanding the underlying issue will better prepare you to swerve in instances when the topic begins to bubble up. It’s possible that there are specific subtopics of the greater discussion that you’d rather avoid rather than the entire discussion itself; listening to yourself is one of the best, most reliable ways to determine what you’re okay with and what you’re not.
Set immovable boundaries
After you’ve determined your triggers, what’ll help you most during unsolicited conversations is your boundaries. It’s easy to slip into nice-mode and want to appease the person who you’re talking to by pretending all is well, but that does you no good. If you find a topic of conversation particularly upsetting, it’s okay to opt-out. It is all of our jobs to respect each other’s boundaries, and it’s as Dr. Seuss once famously said: those who matter won’t mind.
Excuse yourself from the conversation
It might feel a little awkward to do so, but it’s well within your rights to simply walk away. No, it doesn’t have to be a dramatic exit if you don’t want it to be one; simply excusing yourself to go to the washroom would suffice. Instead of powering through a conversation that you’d rather not be having, take the liberty to cut the tête-à-tête short and give yourself a breather. Try to forgo the feelings of awkwardness and do what feels most natural for you and your mental health.
Request a change of subject
It takes two to tango! If one party is not enjoying the topic of conversation and, quite frankly, can see no need to continue, it’s perfectly reasonable to request a change in subject. This can be achieved through a subtle segue or a straightforward and abrupt refusal to venture down this road; do whichever speaks more to your style.
Decide whether or not it’s worth it to you to explain your position
Again, our relationship to food is personal. You have no obligation to disclose what you might be struggling with to get someone to lay off, but if you wanted to, the option is there. If you find yourself in a constant loop with a particular person, where every time you speak with them, they delve into diet-talk, you might find it advantageous to explain why you’re uncomfortable. This can help ease up on future triggering conversations and provide people with a perspective that they might not have thought about. Of course, this is entirely at your discretion; you don’t need to reveal intimate parts of yourself if you don’t want to.
Diet talk is all around us: it’s at our jobs, in our entertainment and at rendezvous with our friends and family. If you’ve grown tired by all of the unsolicited, shoehorned advice thrown your way, you’re not alone. We hope that the next time you’re faced with a conversation that is doing you no good, any of the above tips will help you form your own shield of protection. You’ve got this!