Difficult conversations come up every day. This can be particularly true during the holiday season, especially if you find yourself and others entrenched in diet culture that permeates our media and society whether sought after or not. When we are faced with diet culture mentality from statements or questions from our friends and family, it can be helpful to be prepared with a few simple responses rather than feeling unprepared and caught off guard. Navigating conversations around food and body image around the holidays is tough and takes practice! Try some of these strategies next time you’re faced with questions regarding your personal food experience.

  • Know and set your own boundaries. Before dealing with friends and family, decide for yourself what feels good to talk about or what you might want to avoid. This might look like creating a list for yourself or discussing with your partner or close friends. Setting good boundaries is always helpful, but can be difficult and scary. For example, you could decide beforehand that if you feel uncomfortable, either you utilize a pre-planned statement, or maybe you leave the room or situation. Boundary setting takes practice! Be kind to yourself as you navigate this newfound autonomy. Consider setting these boundaries before you spend time with friends and family, telling loved ones something like: “I don’t want to talk about my food choices or body during the holidays, and I’d like it if you respect my choices.”
  • Shut down diet talk, kindly. For generations that have run on diet culture talk, commenting on food choices, body shape and size might seem normal. In reality, we can recognize that making such comments is often not healthy or helpful to anyone. When diet talk comes up, try to gently reroute the conversation, or hold a boundary such as: “I don’t want to discuss my food choices with you, I’d rather enjoy this meal together.” “I’d rather not talk about what’s on my plate.” Holding a boundary of saying “No, thank you” to diet culture is difficult at first especially when others are not used to it, but it gets easier with practice for everyone.
  • Shift the focus of conversations. While it’s appropriate to commend the cooks and appreciate the food prepared, it can be helpful to shift conversations to gratitude, thankfulness and togetherness during the holiday season. Alternatively, small talk such as discussing movies, TV shows, new hobbies and more can be an effective way to avoid diet talk. Try a phrase such as: “I’m only discussing my food choices with my Registered Dietitian/Doctor at this time. Let’s talk about (my/your work, our dog, the weather, etc.)!”
  • Decide when it’s appropriate to leave. This goes along with setting personal boundaries. Everyone feels differently about leaving a difficult situation, so explore this idea with gentle curiosity. Explore how it might feel to leave the room while loved ones are discussing food and diet. Maybe this means you excuse yourself for a walk, or simply leave the room. Consider telling loved ones: “I don’t feel comfortable discussing this, I’m going to excuse myself for a minute.” to allow yourself space from the discussion.
  • Practice self-care. As always, take time for yourself and remember your needs. Emotions are likely to come up during this time, take time to notice these emotions and remember that they are valid and important. Consider discussing whatever is coming up for you with close loved ones or professionals. Consider sharing these resources with loved ones to help them better understand as well!

Written by Rosalia Park, RDN, LDN