As someone with eating-disordered thinking and habits, comments on my weight are hit or miss.
When they hit, like someone telling me how thin I look, the serotonin rush is massive.
But when a man commented that I was “thicc,” it really missed — what some may consider a compliment sent me on a crying jag and a restrictive eating pattern for a month.
You know how all this can be avoided? By keeping your mouth shut and never ever commenting on someone’s weight — good or bad.
We all know that’s never going to happen, so we found some helpful tips on how to react to comments on your body.
Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD is an anti-diet dietician who believes that “Eating intuitively and caring for your body without trying to intentionally lose weight is the best way to have a peaceful, positive relationship with food and to be your healthiest self, both physically and psychologically.”
Rumsey also says that no one is entitled to comment on your weight or your body.
We wholeheartedly agree!
Drawing boundaries with friends, family or strangers about this topic can be hard to do, as with most boundaries.
“But no matter the reason for the diet culture talk (and whether you find it annoying, hurtful or downright rude) if you don’t want to engage in it, you shouldn’t have to,” she says.
“Whatever your boundaries are, it’s okay (and important) to assert them.”
What To Do When Talk Gets Diet-y
All examples listed below are courtesy of and attributed to Alissa Rumsey.
Example: At a party, a person at the finger foods table starts talking about their diet or exercise routine, and you don’t want to go there.
What to do: You can change the subject, or excuse yourself to say hi to someone else. If you feel like being more direct, you can say something like, “I actually made a New Year’s resolution to always talk about something new at parties – don’t you feel like we always talk about diets?! Have you read any good books recently?”
Why it protects you: Diet culture is so pervasive that it’s become a way for people to bond, and you’re pointing out that there are other ways, which can feel empowering. Simply not engaging in it also saves you the brain fatigue.
Reacting To “Good Food/Bad Food” Convos
Example: An Uber driver, cashier, or anyone you only see briefly comments, “Ooh, you’re being bad!” when you’re eating candy. You want to roll your eyes, and maybe you do.
What to do: Put it back on them by asking what’s “bad” about candy. You can point out that you didn’t break the law by shoplifting the candy, so you’re not being “bad.” Or you can say something like, “Hey, there’s no problem with eating things that taste good!” If you’re feeling more confrontational, you can tell them that what they said made you uncomfortable.
Why it works: It points out the absurdity of the idea we are “good” or “bad” based on what we choose to eat. Again, they may not get it, but you do, and it reinforces in your own mind that you get to eat what you like.
Rando Men Comments
Example: A guy at the gym or someone on a bench when you’re out exercising, says some version of, “Making up for those weekend cheat meals, huh?”
What to do: Exercise isn’t and shouldn’t be seen as a counterbalance to what you eat. Exercise has a zillion benefits and doing it can make you feel fantastic, but thinking of it as only about weight loss or as a way to “make up for” being “bad” with your diet fuels disordered eating. Plus, it’s rude. Here, I’d go straight to, “Please don’t comment on my body or the way I exercise.”
You can also simply ignore him, keep going and remind yourself of all the other excellent reasons you’re out there. If the speaker is a misguided friend and you feel like being helpful, tell him that bodies don’t work that way — you’re exercising because it makes you feel good, is good for you and it has nothing to do with food or what you’ve eaten.
Why it works: It says loud and clear that your body and food consumption is not up for discussion.
Diet Culture In Professional Settings
Example: Your doctor mentions that you’ve gained a few pounds and casually tells you to “watch your weight.” However you feel about your weight, odds are you’re aware of your own body, so this isn’t helpful advice.
And obviously, it can sting — if you’ve tried to lose weight in the past it might feel discouraging or patronizing; if you’re rejecting diet culture and working to accept your body, at a minimum it might make you feel unseen by your doctor.
What to do: You can respond with, “I actually don’t weigh myself, because I feel much better physically and mentally when I don’t keep track of that number.” If you like your doctor and think they might be laboring under the same misconceptions many in the medical community do (i.e., that being in a bigger body always and automatically means you’re unhealthy), you can tell them that experts say stress caused by weight stigma actually contributes to health problems, and offer to share more information on the Health at Every Size movement.
Then, the next time a provider asks you to step on the scale, tell them that you’d prefer not to be weighed unless it’s medically necessary. It is well within your rights as a patient to request this.
Why it works: Dreading doctors’ visits because you don’t want to climb on the scale or deal with judgment about your weight (intended or not) isn’t something you should have to contend with. Being armed with talking points will help you feel more in control of the situation.
For more on the anti-diet dietician and other tips on navigating harmful diet culture, click here.
How do you handle people commenting on your body or weight? Tell us in the comments!
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