Do Not Talk To Me About Your Diet // Being Mindful Of Eating Disorder Sufferers In Conversation

I feel as though I spend my life listening to people talk about their diets. Or their weight loss. Or how many calories are in their food. Or how their clothes now look better on them. Or about their dream body. Or about their fitness regimes. Or about their meal plans. Or about their fear of being overweight. Or about their dislike for fat people. Or about their rush to get beach body ready. Or about their envy of thin people. Or some other nonsense to do with their bodies or food. And it's exhausting.
Living in a diet culture is draining enough when you're actively trying your best to recover from an eating disorder, but being around people who reinforce diet culture ideas and shove its beliefs down your throat constantly is even more so. I don't blame the people around me who are pursuing thinness as a route to acceptance and self love, and I don't think they're at fault for wanting to diet or for being envious of people in smaller bodies, because they too have lived their lives absorbing toxic messages from diet culture and believing that their purpose is to be small, especially the women in my life. They too have been hurt by diet culture. And I doubt it'll ever be possible to exist without diet culture existing in some form around me. But, as often as I can, I want to try and block out the noise of diet talk and focus on just living my life without my body or food being at the forefront of my mind.

Diet talk is triggering, it’s uncomfortable and it has potential to bring back old toxic behaviours, feelings of anxiety and a sense of being trapped for those struggling with eating disorders or body image issues. I know that, every time someone mentions Weight Watchers around me, I physically want to vomit and whenever I'm in a room of people complimenting one another on their weight loss or how their clothes are now practically hanging off them, I get... itchy. I can't stay still. I need to get out of there, because it feels like my skin is crawling. 
Diet talk brings those nasty demons back out to torment us and places obstacles on the path towards recovery and, quite frankly, I don't want that. There was a time when diet talk still made me as uneasy as it does now, but I would use it as ammunition to continue starving myself and hating my body. Now, as I'm battling with my eating disorder recovery every day and trying hard to overcome the challenges that come with it, talk of diets makes me angry, and I want that shit as far away from me as possible so I can minimise the triggers, because I want to get better, I'm tired of being sick.
But calling out diet culture in conversation isn't as easy as it sounds, and I'll willingly admit that it's something I need to get better at instead of just forcing myself to sit in uncomfortable situations that trigger my eating disorder. I definitely find it easier to argue with my grandad about politics than to ever tell anyone that I don't care about how many calories are in their sandwich, but calling that kind of stuff out comes with time, and as you recover from an eating disorder and become more aware of the forces at the root of it, I guess you just become more determined to shut diet culture down to protect yourself and to educate others on the harm it is also doing to them.

If you’re someone who also finds it hard to set boundaries when diet culture enters the conversation, try to be a little more assertive and tell people that you DO NOT CARE for what they’re saying. Don’t feel guilty for shutting things DOWN, even if they come from loved ones.
Or, if being vocal doesn’t feel possible, don’t be afraid to take yourself OUT of a situation and go listen to Lizzo.

But I think it's also important to remember that, whilst setting boundaries and protecting yourself is important, the burden of calling out diet talk shouldn't always be on you, but in fact, other people ought to be more mindful of what they're discussing, especially if they're aware that you struggle with an eating disorder. I understand that we live in a society that completely normalises disordered eating. We are constantly told we have an “obesity epidemic” when, actually, we have a disordered eating epidemic. We live in a world where everyone is trying to lecture you on what you “should” be eating and reinforce their ideas on beauty. But we also live in a world where people are having to fight so bravely every day to just survive and try their hardest to eat meals that feel like the devil in disguise, and obsessing over your calories, your size or your health in front of people, even when you think there's nothing wrong with it or it's coming from a place of concern, can be so damaging.

The next time you're considering giving someone advice from you diet, or complimenting them on losing weight, or asking how they're so thin, change the topic of conversation. Ask someone how their day has been, ask what their plans are for the weekend and, if they don't have any, offer to spend time with them, ask about an event or holiday they have lined up, ask what projects they're working on or how their job is going, ask about their dreams or aspirations, their loved ones, ask where they bought their jacket from or if they'd like something to drink, ask if you can stroke their dog or share a new song you're loving... you'll find that your relationships with those around you instantly become stronger, more genuine and more exciting when you talk about things that actually hold value, things that are going to connect you to that person and learn more about them, rather than things that are superficial like appearances or bonding over how much you hate yourselves. You'll also find that your own life will become so much more vibrant when the first thing you go to mention when you meet up with someone isn't their weight.

So don’t talk about your new diet but, instead, be mindful of those around you just trying to get through the day protecting their peace.

And, if you ever find yourself in a position where you feel affected by the talk of diets, remember you are under no moral obligation to sit in that seat and listen to it, and any talk of things that make you uncomfortable isn't what you deserve to hear. Oh, and if you're going to talk to me about your diet, know that I won't be listening, so save your breath and let's rejoice over our mutual love for Harry Styles or chocolate cake rather than detox teas, weight loss programs, calorie restriction, weighing ourselves, sucking in our stomachs in photos to appear slimmer or buying jeans three sizes too small with the hope of, one day, being able to fit into them.

Love, Emily

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