How to Deal with Diet Talk (How to Respond to Triggering Comments)

Diet talk and negative food/body conversations are PERVASIVE in our culture. Sure, we can believe differently and I really hope you do, but it is still so hard to deal with. How do you deal with it? Here are 5 tangible tips for combating our culture’s negativity.

As someone who pursued disordered eating (AKA according to culture - “healthy”, “motivated”, “goals”, “skinny”, “fit”, “dedicated”) and recovery/peace with my body and food for the last half of college, I can tell you that, yes, it usually feels harder to pursue recovery and what truly is best for your body than what is so damaging AKA disordered eating. Going with the flow is easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s what is right.

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  1. Reject the diet mentality. This is also the first principle of intuitive eating. I think it’s a primary step in terms of dealing with triggering conversations because it reminds you of what you truly stand for. When you hear a comment, remember what you stand for and remember that you CAN reject the triggering comment. In your head say, “That is disordered. That is not healthy for me. That is not going to benefit me at all. I know what is best for me and it is not that.” Say it over and over again if you have to.

  2. However, instead. Go through the “However, instead” train of thought. So, for example, let’s say some classmates are talking about how they need to cut out a food group. You can respond in your head reminding yourself of, first, that you reject that (make it funny if you want which can help like, “Um, it’s a no from me!”) and then tell yourself, “I could do what they are doing and cut out this food group and I could make myself feel guilty for eating that food group, but that would not benefit me at all. I would be in an unhealthy mindset, I would be unsatisfied physically, lacking important nutrition, and going against what is best for me. It’s too bad these girls/guys don’t know that but I do. Maybe I can share it with them if I want to but I don’t have to. So, instead of freaking out and self-sabotaging, I will decide to reject that idea and pursue what is best for me.

  3. Create boundaries (even when it’s hard which it often is). You may have to limit the time you spend with people who tend to make very triggering comments often. I had to do this a lot in college and sometimes do still. It’s hard because often I would LOVE the person but it was just that one part (triggering comments) that really made it hard. So, I would limit the time I spent with the person. Know that it is okay and healthy to do. You are not being mean, you are simply making the best decision so that you can be a better friend to everyone around you. If you aren’t in a good mental space, that isn’t going to be a fun time for anyone, right?

  4. Prepare yourself before spending time with people you think might be triggering. Obviously, we can’t avoid any conversation and I am not saying we should. Sometimes you’re literally minding your own business and a complete stranger decides to blare diet culture crap out of nowhere. It sucks, but don’t let it suck you in. If you are going into a situation where people may be triggering, remind yourself of what you know to be true and what is best for you. Go back to the basics of what you know deep down. Is skipping a meal or snack REALLY good just because everyone else seems to? Nope! You know what you need to do for you. Keep your eyes focused on YOUR road and not theirs. Tailgating while driving is never a safe idea. The same goes for your recovery and road to food freedom. When you’re focused on someone else so much, that’s where you get into trouble.

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5. Reach out to people who understand and will encourage you. If you can’t think of anyone who would, reach out to me! I would love to encourage you. I found it so helpful to speak what was bugging me or triggering me so that it wasn’t rolling around in my head tempting me all the time. Another way to do this that was and is SOO helpful is journaling. Sometimes you can’t talk to people like maybe it’s 3 am or you just don’t feel up to it. Journal your thoughts, annoyances, and keep asking questions and dig deeper into why the comment bugs you and what you can say to yourself to encourage yourself of what you know to be true and best for you. If you can’t think of anything, I hope this blog and my social media is a source of encouragement and reminder for you.

Dealing with triggering comments is so hard and exhausting and annoying. Trust me, I have been surrounded by it in college and it’s so prevalent still, BUT YOU CAN get through it. So many people have and you are strong. I believe in you. Keep going. Remember what you know to be true. Keep your eyes on YOUR lane. :) XOXO, Sarah.