How To Escape Diet Talk This Holiday Season

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The holiday season has already begun and we anticipate the joy of spending time with friends and family and having some time off work.

For a lot of people this doesn’t provoke just a positive feeling, but a lot of dread and negativity, especially with respect to food. And this could be amplified if you’re recovering from an eating disorder, or have some disordered eating patterns.

Diet talk is all around. And it can be one of the most triggering things – it sometimes provokes returning to restrictive dieting practices or induces binges. Both are not happy and desirable outcomes. So, if you want to survive this holiday season, learn how to deflect the diet talk.

Here, I’ll present some advice on doing just that.

First, it’s important to acknowledge that diet talk is inescapable. Even if you and everyone you know is not engaging in it, you’ll be exposed to other people talking about their weight and calories. You can overhear it in cafes, restaurants, gyms and almost everywhere else. So, you’ll have to build your resilience.

Dealing with yourself

If you’re the person, who needs to engage in this type of talk, ask yourself, what purpose it is serving? Why are you doing it? Why not just focus on the people, and things that bring you joy? Why do you need to put yourself or others down based on your food choices? Aren’t you going to enjoy yourself more, if you eat your food without moral judgment?

It’s not easy to refrain from talking about weight, calories, fats, and carbs if it has become habitual. But you have an idea of the damage that it’s doing to you. So, the only thing you can do is to be more mindful and observe what you think and say.

Only after you realize what is going on you can take steps to change it, and to distance yourself from this nasty habit.

Dealing with strangers

At least for me, not taking seriously what random people are talking about is much easier than dealing with my close ones. So, if you’re alone outside trying to enjoy your cup of coffee, and people on the next table are discussing their diets, I would simply suggest to put on your headphones, read a book, or distract yourself, in any way you can. Don’t engage – even in listening.

Dealing with friends

When the person doing the diet talk is close to you and they are trying to involve you in it, things are a bit harder. But still, the rule is the same – avoid it at all costs.

You can set a clear boundary with everyone. If they start talking about their food choices, calories and weight, don’t get hooked. Politely explain that diet and calories are not topics that you want to talk about. That the reason for you to meet was different and you would like to talk about your lives and not food.

Most people get the hint, and even if they slip up and start talking about how “bad” they have been with their food, they understand your reluctance to continue the conversation.

For the people who start telling you what a mistake you are making and how important diet is and so on, you can politely say that you understand that, but you are just not interested in a conversation on the topic. If they insist, try to change the subject. If they just don’t get it, I would suggest rethinking the relationship.

I know this sounds too drastic, but what good are people who can’t accept such a simple boundary?

Dealing with family

If this describes your family, the only thing I can suggest agreeing with the person attacking you (even if you don’t agree). Statements like “you might be right”, work wonders. Repeated enough times they make the other person want to change the subject because you’re not playing your part of the game. If this is too painful for you, try changing the subject – ask the person about something that is important to them.

The main point here is – avoid fat talk at all cost. It’s never beneficial. And it usually ruins everyone’s mood, especially if things get heated.

Happy holidays everyone!

Written by: Vania Nikolova, PhD, is the head of health research at She uses her academic knowledge and experience with an eating disorder to shed light on why dieting is bad news.