Hi Rachel! I have a family member who won’t stop making comments and jokes about diet and food. I told her to stop, but she believes that I am being too sensitive. Any advice?
For those progressing along the journey towards food freedom, this is an all-too-familiar scenario. As we learn how to build confidence in our ability to eat using a non-restrictive and mindful approach, our newfound decisions around food can spark unsolicited criticism.
To an extent, we cannot blame those who evoke criticism. First, if you come from a history of restrictive eating, then such comments may stem from a relative’s love and concern. Second, we are all drenched in a culture that emphasizes “wellness” as a product of “clean” eating and dieting. Enjoying a sundae for dessert, because you’re listening to your cravings, instead of fruit, might raise an eyebrow to those only familiar with the stereotypical “dancer’s diet.” On the contrary, eating fruit for dessert, because you’re listening to your cravings, instead of the sundae, might open the gates to the “you’re so healthy!” comments.
These conversations aren’t always easy, especially if you’re just beginning to feel confident in your newfound tools of intuitive eating. Furthermore, family dynamics can make this especially difficult if a family member or a close friend is commenting on your body and/or your food choices.
Once you understand the trickery of diet culture, conversations about dieting can trigger confusion and self-doubt. Self-confidence and autonomy, however, are two major outcomes of building trust with your body’s needs. Since we cannot control or prevent all instances of criticism, it helps to equip yourself with the tools to educate and set boundaries as needed.
But how? The first step is to decide if it’s worth the energy to educate others about your lifestyle decisions. Refer to the following two instances to determine your plan of action.
If food- and/or body- talk overwhelms you:
Sometimes, we’re not up for the conversation. First, realize that this is okay! Your learning how to prioritize your energy so that you can feel good throughout the day. If conversations about food and body weight strike anxiety, then it may not be the time to partake in such discussion. Planning an “exit strategy” is a helpful tool for when instances become too hard to handle. A few examples include:
- Change the topic of conversation. If a friend wants to discuss his or her diet, respond with a transitional comment like, “speaking of new trends, I recently started watching this new TV series about….”
- Set a boundary. This can be tough in family settings, but it’s worth a try. Remind your loved ones that your “working on building a better relationship with food and therefore, would appreciate all body- and/or food-related comments be left at the door.”
- Opt-out with honesty. try a simple statement like, “diet talk is all around us… I bet we can find something more refreshing to discuss!”
- Exit. If that doesn’t work, step away for fresh air or do a quick phone check. Though this might not be a long term solution, it will help you to navigate as you build self-confidence. Remember, self-care is a large part of this journey. This is your reason to opt-out of triggering conversations.
If you’re up for the convo:
The journey towards building a sustainable lifestyle makes you the expert of your body and your mind. If you feel up to it, explain your decisions. Phrase your response to best reflect your personal choice. Here are a few examples:
- I’m learning how to make food choices that best serve my body. I choose foods that nourish and energize my body. I also choose foods based on how I’m feeling and what I’m craving at the moment.
- I’m learning how to build confidence around all foods, whether that be more indulgent foods like desserts or fried foods, or whether that be stereotypical “healthy” foods like veggies. The point is to make choices that satisfy me while listening to my internal cues of hunger and fullness. It’s intriguing, you should try it!
Educating your critics can help to plant the seeds of a non-diet lifestyle. However, remember that your main goal is to continue your journey without letting criticism impact your path. Realize that although we can express our opinions and our reasons for our decisions, we cannot control the opinions and decisions of others. The best we can do is stay confident and educate.
Have you experiences a situation like this? If so, let me know in the comments!