If we try to pay attention, we will notice that during the day there are many times when it can happen to us to listen or to make comments on food. On many of these occasions, however, these are not about enthusiastic judgments about a dish we are eating, but rather, how many abs or miles of running we will have to do precisely because of that caloric plate or how many pounds we will gain due to the amount of carbohydrates that we ingested in one meal.
On first listen, these will sound like ironic phrases, which will capture a laugh among those present, inaugurating an endless series of other “funny” jokes on the subject.
In reality, this is a far from harmless and funny attitude, child of the diet culture, or diet culture, on which our society has been based for decades, which continues to promote the idea according to which thinness both a value to be sustained and a mission to be married, at all costs. But the consequences of an attitude that, even unconsciously, continues to legitimize and perpetuate the dogmas of one grassophobic society that does not accept what does not conform to its rules, are many and rather risky, but too often go unnoticed. This is why it is important to pay attention to the subject and help make this culture based on the myth of the balance and the counting of calories harmless.
What is diet talk?
From the opening words, you will have guessed that for diet talk we mean speaking in a way obsessive of diet and calories, referring to food as an entity that is dangerous for our physical form so as to judge it morally, almost coming to believe that our value depends on food choices that we accomplish or by our weight.
We show you some examples of diet talks, reporting below a small excerpt from the book of activists Chiara Meloni is Mara Mibelli entitled “Beautiful in the face: Techniques to rebel against a grassophobic world”:
I was not supposed to eat this pizza. From Monday fasting and purifying herbal teas. I am a sow, I did an encore! These two pasta dishes will all go to me here (indicating butt, hips, belly, or whatever is usually considered too big). From tomorrow I have to be good, no dessert for a month.
The words of the two activists and writers, who in 2018 gave life to the Instagram project Beautiful in the face, committed to spreading the message of body positivity and to support the movement of fat acceptance, are some of the classic morbid phrases about food and obsession with physical fitness, which we can happen to hear or pronounce in our daily life and to which, unfortunately, we have ended up getting used to, pushed by the pressures of society and by the messages, subliminal and explicit, that conveys vehemently.
But the examples that we could give in this article are endless: they also concern, for example, the need to apologize or justify for having ordered a particular dish or for having consumed an excessive amount of food: “I’m sorry, but I didn’t have breakfast …”, the tendency to address not exactly lenient judgments on eating habits of others: “But how much sugar do you put in your coffee?”, Up to the bad and very dangerous fashion of considering certain types of food with higher calories as a prize that he deserves after an adequate physical effort or on the contrary from which it is necessary to stay away to balance a period that is not exactly rigorous from the food point of view: “With all the effort I have made, I deserve a brioche” or still: “Now I’m good with sweets for at least a month ”. In short, all the speeches, comments and behaviors that demonize food and show a continuous judgmental and moralistic attitude towards it.
These are just a few of the many ways the diet culture it manifests itself in our daily life and that we have internalized to the point of making it the norm.
Why diet talk is bad
As we have mentioned, diet talk is far from harmless and without consequences. First of all, it hurts the person who pronounces it and shares the thought: judging oneself on the basis of the quantity or type of food ingested, the ratio of calories consumed and physical efforts carried out, living with the constant need to monitor yourself, depriving oneself of some foods considered “dangerous” to adhere to a model imposed from the outside, creates discomfort and frustration and causes a significant impact on one’s safety and self esteem, which is often compromised due to the impossibility of adhering to unrealistic canons proposed by the company.
With this attitude, moreover, we convey our own through food and our obsession with it aversion to fat, an almost forbidden word, which today’s society, from advertising to the media, has abolished from its vocabulary and which it has transformed into a stigma, a taboo, something to escape from and not consider tolerable.
But not only. By espousing this belief and expressing ourselves through diet talk, we can offend or create discomfort in the people who listen to us and surround us, or, even worse, trigger negative thoughts in them and dangerous mechanisms regarding the approach to food. Very often, in fact, we indulge in some of the aforementioned statements right in front of fat people who may feel offended and humiliate, people for whom weight is not a problem but who must come to terms with the fact that it is for the people around them, who never stop reminding them. These comments can then reach people who suffer from food disorders, who have been struggling for years to find a balance or who have come out with difficulty and live with the fear of relapsing, so a simple sentence can turn into a painful memory and trigger new crises.
This does not mean that it is forbidden to choose to do diets or that it is necessary to omit it, it is simply good that we start spreading a awareness new and greater sensitivity on the subject, that we understand the consequences of diet culture and the still too underestimated risks it entails, so that no one is forced to warn pressures, to feel humiliated, derided and socially excluded because of a physicality that does not conform to conventional norms or habits considered anomalous by a society that has promoted behavior and dysfunctional cultural models and harmful.
Once again we rely on words by Chiara Meloni and Mara Mibelli, contained in their book quoted at the beginning:
We cannot force brands to more inclusive campaigns and policies, we cannot stop diet culture overnight, but we can change the way we talk about ourselves and others, making a difference already in our personal sphere. By ceasing to be severe in the way we look at our body, we have rediscovered ourselves more lenient also towards other people, and we have stopped less and less to comment on the physique of others until we have excluded the body from the topics of conversation and partly free ourselves from ‘ influence that concerns about physical appearance had on our life.
How to respond to the diet talk
There are several methods that we have available to address the diet talks. Here are some of the most effective.
- Change conversation trying to divert the conversation to more interesting topics: even very simply about how good that coffee you are drinking is, a comment on the last TV series you saw or a question relating to the life of your interlocutor so that he can engage in another topic .
- Be silent. This second attitude can also be particularly eloquent and useful: it does not indulge a less than virtuous habit that can create problems for other people who listen to the speech.
- If the atmosphere that is created is very heavy and annoying, and you don’t know how to get out of it but you don’t have the energy to face an argument, you could also choose to abandon the room or move away from the situation with a specific reason: for example, take time off to go to the bathroom, and then come back and take the opportunity to change the subject or hope that it has already been done by those present.
- If the comments and considerations are made by a stranger, you can respond assertively, through phrases that clearly and politely show your opinion about it. For example, you can use one of these: “I believe that our eating behavior does not define us, nor should it be a matter of judgment”, “I think it is much healthier to talk about how good or bad a food is, rather than concentrating on how much it is appropriate to eat it “,” Each person chooses to approach food as they prefer, and it is right that they do so in complete freedom, without being blamed for it “.
- Especially with people with whom you have a greater confidence, you can explain your idea with sincerity, engage in a constructive discussion and induce our interlocutors to develop one increased sensitivity towards the issue.
The goal is not to convince others, but to express our opinion without being overwhelmed by the situation, showing a point of view which can provide our interlocutors with a new angle from which to see things and give them useful reflections, which could induce them not to re-enact these behaviors in the future with excessive lightness.
It is good, however, that, whether you choose to listen to the discussion in silence, or if you become one active partBy trying to express our beliefs about it, we remind ourselves not to let ourselves be influenced by the opinions of others that could hurt us, put us in crisis or create inconvenience.
Original article published on March 8, 2021