Like many people, I’ve spent large portions of my life trying to do something about my weight. But in this post, I don’t want to talk about how to lose weight, or how to work out, or how awesome it is to be X body type. Those posts are easy to find. I want to talk about how we talk about weight and food.
Let’s start with the most obvious point…
If it’s not your weight, don’t talk about it
People in your life are probably trying to lose weight, but just because they’ve told you that doesn’t make their weight loss your responsibility. Don’t be the douchebag who asks your coworker if they “really need another muffin,” or who tells your friend they’ll regret that pizza when they get to the gym. Unless they have specifically asked you to call them out on “bad” behavior, let them make their own choices.
Sneaky negative phrases
Everyday conversations about food usually involve negative phrases that we don’t even think about using. As a baker, my personal pet peeve is any variation of, “I’m going to have to spend an extra thirty minutes on the treadmill after eating this.” I want you to enjoy my baking, not feel guilty over it. I also don’t want you to make me feel guilty for providing you with baked goods or for choosing not to spend an extra thirty minutes on the treadmill.
“Guilty pleasure” is another phrase that bugs me. If a food gives you pleasure, then why should you feel guilty about eating it? There’s no overeating-confessional where you have to tell a food priest about your obsession with gummy bears. No one has the right to make you feel guilty for enjoying food, and you shouldn’t talk yourself into feeling guilty over it either.
“I should order an X, but I’m going to get a Y instead.” When we use phrases like this, we’re basically apologizing to our meal companions for how we eat. It makes us sound incapable of making good decisions for ourselves, and it also puts too much focus on what we’re eating. If you want a salad, order a salad. If you want a double burger with fries and a shake, order them without an apology.
You don’t have to justify your food choices to anyone. It’s your body.
Justifications should almost get their own category. “This is my cheat day,” or “I missed lunch,” or “I spent an extra ten minutes on the treadmill this morning.” Whatever variation you use, think about what you’re really saying. You’re saying, “I think you (whoever you are) are judging me for what I’m eating, so I’m giving you all the ‘facts’ to make that judgment with.” The person you’re eating with probably wasn’t judging you. They were probably too busy thinking about their own food to judge you. And even if they were judging you, that’s their problem, not yours. Don’t give people ammunition against you. You don’t have to justify your food choices to anyone. It’s your body.
Other people’s food issues and you
When you’re talking to people about food, especially people you don’t know well, remember that you don’t know their food issues. I’d feel pretty bad if I was talking to a recovering bulimic and I said something like, “I ate so much I think I’m going to puke.” Talk about unintentionally insensitive!
But your conversation may not even be that awkward. Maybe you’re just talking about how you ate too much cake at your birthday party. The person you’re talking to could then feel guilty because they ate as much cake as you did, or because they think they overate, too. I don’t mean that you should feel like you have to be overly-sensitive to other people’s issues, but it’s important to be aware that the negative things you say about yourself can affect how other people feel about themselves.
Giving others permission to judge you
Every time you talk about your weight or your struggles with your weight or your struggles with your perceptions of your weight, it’s almost as if you’re giving other people permission to judge you. Some people will judge you no matter what, but the majority of people who come into contact with your food don’t care what you eat. The clerk at the grocery store probably didn’t notice your three bags of candy and tub of whipped cream until you guiltily pointed them out. Your coworker probably didn’t care that you ate two doughnuts at the staff meeting until you said you were on a diet or hated that you couldn’t fit into your skinny jeans.
People love to give “helpful” advice, and telling them what you dislike about yourself is almost like a flashing neon sign that says “Butt in here!” If that’s what you want, then go for it. If not, then be careful whom you talk to about your body.
If you’re happy, be happy
If you’re happy with your weight, then be happy! Don’t talk yourself down. Embrace positive words and thoughts. Focus on how great you look in that outfit or how happy you are with your curves. Don’t apologize for being happy with your body. Too many people want what you have, and too many people will try to tell you that you’re wrong to be happy. Don’t help them out by saying it too!
Letting food consume you
Here’s the thing, y’all… Food is meant to keep us alive. Yes, it can be comforting and huge portions of society are built around eating rituals. But ultimately, food is meant to keep us from dying. It was never meant to be something we lived for. But between gluten-free diets, Weight Watchers, vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, Paleo, etc., we’re people who can’t stop talking about food restrictions. And I get it — I do. When we make major life changes, it becomes something we obsess over for a while. We deal with food multiple times a day, so when we make big changes to our diets, it affects us constantly. But if you find that you’re talking about food more than your new hobby, or baby, or job, then you should take a step back and make sure you’re really talking about the things you want to be talking about.
I want to hear your talking-about-food tips! Surely I’ve missed things that are important to you. How do you encourage people to speak positively about their bodies?