You sit down at the dinner table surrounded by family. The beautiful food makes your mouth water.
But then your stomach starts to churn.
Because you know what’s coming next; food and body judgment from the people you care about. They aren’t on board with your new non-diet journey.
You straighten your spine and brace yourself for diet talk.
Why is Diet Talk So Common During the Holidays?
You know diet talk happens around the holidays.
Frankly, you’ve experienced it every year as far back as you can remember. You used to participate but this year is different. Ditching diets is your focus.
Sadly, not everyone around you feels the same way.
Diet talk and diet culture are a part of your everyday life. So, of course, it is going to be a part of the holidays. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
Food is a major part of all holidays. But that can be scary. It is especially scary for people that are still on the diet rollercoaster.
Listen to this: people talk about what scares them. They talk about dieting and weight loss because they are afraid of gaining weight.
You can blame fatphobia and diet culture for ruining your holiday season.
Why Holidays Meals Are Important
Holidays meals are much more important than most people think.
- Holiday meals allow you to connect with your loved ones. Sharing a meal strengthens your bonds with others.1,2 When you shift the focus from developing these connections to fighting your hunger, you are missing out on a wonderful chance to reconnect.
- Holiday meals connect you with traditions. The foods at your holiday table are the ones you’ve had since your earliest memories. That’s a powerful thing. These foods have traveled from country to country and state to state with your family. Enjoying them each year reconnects you with your family traditions. (Switch out with a story.)
How Diet Talk Hurts Your Non-diet Journey
Diet talk can harm your relationship with food, self-confidence, and health. Holiday diet talk is no exception.
Why do I say that?
Because your loved ones have a huge impact on the way you eat. In fact, you eat differently when around other people than when you are alone.2
You hear this within diet culture frequently. Diet culture says this causes you to adopt unhealthy eating habits if the people around you have unhealthy eating habits.
Think about it this way. If the people sharing your table are voicing concerns over how many carbs are on the table, eating tiny amounts of food so they can at least “taste” their favorite foods, and already planning their post-meal workouts, you feel the need to do the same.
That is normal. Following the habits of others is part of human habits. Doing what everyone else is doing helps you be an accepted member of the group. You will have safety, comfort, and longer life.
However, it doesn’t mean that these holiday diet culture habits are serving you. You don’t have to participate in diet culture at the holidays to fit in. A happier and healthier you can be found if you continue on your non-diet journey.
Strategies to Manage Holiday Diet Talk
You may wonder how you can have a holiday with no diet culture participation. It can be difficult. Here are simple strategies to stop diet talk in its tracks.
- Avoid diet talk. Surprise! You don’t have to participate in diet talk. When people start discussing diets and weight loss, find something more interesting to do. Seek out conversation that aren’t going to focuse on holiday diet culture. This is a great time to catch up with that cousin you only see on social media.
- Redirect conversation. Can’t get away from diet culture? Change the conversation. Look for openings to naturally redirect talk to things that aren’t tied up in diet culture.
- Confront diet culture. Too much diet talk? Jump right in. Let people know that they don’t need to talk about dieting around the holidays. Be sure to use the non-judgment talk that you use to yourself. Nothing will spoil a family holiday faster than feeling judged.
Practice Empathy and Non-judgment
Before we go any further, let’s talk about empathy and non-judgment.
The people that you are spending holidays with won’t be ready for a non-diet journey.
How can I be so sure? Most people aren’t. And that is okay.
Remember how hard it was for you to realize dieting wasn’t good for you. Every now and then you still feel the pull of diet culture. When this happens, you give yourself understanding. Remember to give that to the people around you.
No, this doesn’t mean that you have to be silent about your journey. It definitely doesn’t mean that you need to participate.
Just remember that they are struggling.
Real-life Examples of Holiday Diet Talk and How to Manage it
Let’s dive into real examples of how you can manage holiday diet talk, stay empathetic, and keep your sanity during holiday meals.
1. “Bad” Foods
You hear it at the other end of the table. Your sister tells your aunt about her “bad” foods list. It’s as long as your arm.
Your sister is talking about good foods and bad foods again. Soon she will be sharing more of her diet culture food rules.
It is only a matter of time before they drag you into the conversation. You choose to avoid the situation entirely. You turn to your nephew and ask about their new favorite show. When your sister sees that you are already talking, she doesn’t ask you what you think of her food rules. And, bonus, you found a new show to check out.
2. Food Shaming
“Wow! You certainly have a healthy appetite. Do you really think you need another slice of pie?Aunt Gail
Ooof! Tough one. This one pulls you headfirst into diet culture, doesn’t it?
So, let’s try redirecting the conversation.
Look for the natural place in the statement to switch the topic.
You respond, “Yeah, isn’t Grandma’s pecan pie delicious?” You ask Grandma to give you her pecan pie-making highlights. By the time Grandma’s done, nosey Aunt Gail doesn’t even remember how the conversation started.
3. Body Judgment
“I wish I could eat whatever I want like you do. I just care too much about not getting fat. But I know you don’t worry about things like that.”Cousin Linda
This is a twofer. You have body judgment and food shaming in this example.
But there is a really interesting opportunity here. Lind has acknowledged that you are on a non-diet journey!
It is a great time to confront holiday diet talk.
Share with Linda that that one holiday meal is not going to have a significant impact on their weight. Encourage them to have more food if they really want it. Share a bit of what you know about how sharing food is about bonding with each other and traditions.
Also, remember to confront diet talk kindly. When people’s deeply held beliefs are challenged, many people react negatively. You know your friends and family. You decide which diet talk strategies to use with which people.
4. Unhealthy Exercise
“I have to hit the gym for two hours tomorrow to work off all these calories!”Sister-in-law June
You enjoy moving your body. The activities that you do are fun. There’s no mistaking the benefits of regular movement.
But you know the secret.
Exercise isn’t for “burning” calories, punishing your body for a holiday meal, or weight loss.
So what do you do?
You could avoid the conversation by leaving the room, becoming occupied with another activity, or staying silent.
Another option would be to redirect the conversation. Shift the conversation to diet culture-free activities other family members will do the next day.
Finally, you could confront diet talk. Ask your sister-in-law if they’ve heard about joyful movement, which means moving their body for pleasure rather than a way of controlling their weight.
Remind Yourself You Don’t Have to Participate
Remind yourself that you don’t have to participate in holiday diet culture. You’ve given yourself permission to stop.
You will full the pull to participate in holiday diet traditions. Let’s be honest. It is built into most families’ traditions and normal talk.
But listen, you can find joy and connection with your loved ones without participating in harmful talk. Use the tools in this article to help you.
You can make it through the holiday season without giving in to diet culture.
You can do this.
Imagine again that you are at the holiday meal table with your loved ones.
Fear stiffens your back when you think about the upcoming conversations. But you remember your new strategies to manage holiday diet talk.
A feeling of calm washes over you. You slowly feel your back muscles relax. Tension flows out of you. You are confident that you can manage any talk that comes your way.
You got this.
Need more support? Reach out. You can book a clarity call or connect with me through social media. I am here to support you and your goals during the holidays.
- Gregersen, S. C., & Gillath, O. (2020). How food brings us together: The ties between attachment and food behaviors. Appetite, 151, 104654. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.104654
- Herman, C. P., Polivy, J., Pliner, P., & Vartanian, L. R. (2019). Effects of social eating. Social Influences on Eating, 215–227. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-28817-4_13