“You look so thin! How much weight have you lost?” “I’m addicted to sugar, I could never look like that.” “I ate so bad this weekend, I’m not eating any carbs today. Clean foods only!”
Chances are, you have either heard or expressed some phrases similar to these.
But if I’m giving compliments, what’s the problem? Girl, let me tell you.
Diet and weight related words are common in casual conversations. We are so used to hearing them that the words themselves begin to lose value. We hear them at work, at home, at the grocery store, at the mall, you get it.
These phrases are so common that we begin to wrap our own value around them.
Diet culture tells us to value thinner bodies over larger ones, value external beauty over internal, and that weight-loss will always lead to “happiness.”
If you want to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on an industry that fools you with false promises and ridicules your natural body shape, then be my guest.
If not, let’s focus on how we can eradicate diet culture for good.
An important step in this process is to change your vocabulary. Stop letting diets and weight-loss run your conversations and start giving out kindness, compassion, and thoughtful words.
To make it easier for you, here’s a list of diet-words you need to quit using:
1. “Good” and “Bad”
Using these two words implies morality, which is problematic because food itself is a neutral entity, meaning it holds no moral value.
Donuts do not rob banks, hamburger buns do not murder children, and kale does not donate millions to charity. None of these foods are either good or bad.
Donuts, hamburger buns, and kale are all foods that provide unique energy, nutrients, comfort (if kale is comforting to you – I’m talking to you Andy), and, if they are accompanied with friends or family, social connections. In short, food is so much more than just “fuel.”
Using morality to describe food creates an environment where your own personal morality is called into question. If you eat a “good” food, then you feel good about yourself and might even brag to friends or on social media. If you eat a “bad” food, you then feel guilty and may try to punish yourself by either skipping a meal or exercising excessively. Both of these behaviors are unhealthy and may lead to disordered eating.
Do not lessen the value of food to only “good” or “bad” because of your fear of gaining weight or losing your health status. Utilize these foods for their unique and beneficial properties they provide.
Valid examples of “bad” foods:
- Foods that are past expiration and/or have mold
- Foods you are allergic to
- Foods that have been contaminated with harmful bacteria, like E. coli
2. “Clean” and “Cheat”
Clean eating and cheat meals: the notorious phrases EVERY dieter has uttered.
These words are just another way to add morality to the context of food. One is good and the other is bad.
Eliminating these phrases from your vocabulary eliminates the power you give your food. Take that power back and allow yourself the unlimited freedom to eat, resulting in less binge eating, less guilt, and more satisfaction from your meals.
3. Any number attached to body size or dieting
This could be your actual weight, weight you’ve lost or gained, macro-nutrient or calorie counting, dress size, etc. etc. etc.
Unhealthy behaviors like obsessive calorie counting (or point counting) is a common characteristic of an eating disorder.
Avoid attaching numerical value to yourself. You are much more than a number on the scale or a pant size. You do not need to tell people how much you weigh or how much weight you lost in order to be valuable. You are valuable because of your heart, not your waist.
To read more about this topic specifically, click here.
4. Body Compliments and Comments
“Have you lost weight?”
“You look so skinny!” “Wow, you must work out a lot.”
Whether it’s a compliment or not, it is never helpful to point out someone’s body changes or appearance because you never know how someone feels about that particular thing.
If someone loses weight, do not compliment them on the weight loss. Their weight loss may be a result of an eating disorder, a specific health condition, or another involuntary reason.
Complimenting weight loss could lead that person into valuing their weight loss, even if they did not intentionally lose weight, which can then be a slippery slope into unhealthy behaviors in order to either lose more weight or maintain their weight loss. Again, if someone loses weight unintentionally, such as a result of a health condition or an eating disorder, this could be very dangerous.
Even if they lost weight intentionally, you never know when body comments could catapult into unhealthy behaviors (if they have not already).
Instead of complimenting someone’s body, give compliments on their personality and work ethic. Learn to see value in someone’s internal characteristics instead of external.
5. “Addiction” to Food or Sugar
I get a lot of heat from this one but it’s an important one because so many people assume that food (sugar specifically) is addictive. The fact is, we do not have sufficient evidence to determine that food is addictive.
Any research that implies it is addictive is based mostly on animal studies and/or the methods are flawed (such as self-reported questionnaires or the fact that these diagnostics are seen through the lens of diet culture to begin with).
The basis for “food addiction” is that the reward system of our brain is activated, through the reception of dopamine neurons, when we eat certain, delicious foods. Like, duh.
You crave that good feeling you get after eating sugary foods in the same way you want to be physically intimate again with your partner. Your brain knows it will bring you pleasure, so you desire it.
I’ll say it again for the guy in the back, food is so much more than just fuel. Food is meant to be comforting to us, it’s meant to be delicious, and we are meant to eat it.
I would love to expand on this topic, so if you’re interested leave a comment below!
If you encounter conversations where these buzz words pop up, you can either change the subject or politely tell the other person that you aren’t comfortable talking about your body or diet choices.
Do not let people judge you for your body size or food choices. It is okay to stand up for yourself because your body is your business. Have your cake and eat it too, girl.
If your friends or coworkers are talking about their diets, you can politely provide them with resources (like thegivennutriton.com) to educate them on why diets don’t work and are not sustainable. (More resources here.) If you don’t feel comfortable with that then try not to engage in the diet conversation or even walk away to avoid the frustration of the exchange of misinformation.
Eradicating diet culture from your own life is a long and complicated process. Don’t expect to fully understand Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating in one day. The more you learn about the harmful ramifications of diet culture, the more you will be able to live freely from it.
Thank you for reading this post! If you enjoyed it, please share with friends and family and don’t be shy in the comments. Until next time.