The problem: How to deal with people who talk constantly about weight, weight loss, and/or dieting.
What this problem can be:
-Any or all of the above
A lot of the time this person in question is someone you love, respect, or call a friend. So it gets tricky. And sticky. And well, downright icky.
I tend to suggest the 3 Hs.
The 3 Hs:
-Heart to Heart
Let me explain. Let’s say the person in question says, “I can’t believe I gained 5 pounds.”
You could laugh and say, “You probably just need to go to the bathroom,” and soften the situation with a little humor, making light of it, and therefore letting the person know it’s OKAY, but at the same time not getting into it with them if it would make you uncomfortable or be triggering.
Let’s say the person in question says, “I am so fat.”
You could respond with, “Of course you’re not fat. You are beautiful just the way you are. That’s one of the reasons I love you.” It’s honesty. And people sometimes shrink away from it because it feels so serious and so open. And because people without eating disorders don’t always put it out there like that. But if you DO care about the person saying this, then combat her negative comment with something REAL.
Another example is this: Let’s say the person in question says, “I need to go on a diet.”
Your response could be, “No you don’t. A diet isn’t necessary to make you feel better. It isn’t the answer.” There’s some more honesty for you. People don’t usually talk frankly and poignantly like this with one another. But sometimes, it’s the best thing. Sometimes the person with whom you’re having a conversation needs to hear it. You might feel strange giving so bold a reply to their comment, but it takes the conversation in a different direction—a non-triggering direction, an empowering direction, a GOOD direction.
On to the last H. Let’s say the person in question says, “I’m trying to lose weight. I only ate a salad and a diet Coke last night,” and goes on to detail their food intake or their pride in dieting—even if it’s NOT unhealthy.
You’ll be doing yourself a favor if you have a little heart to heart and say, “I don’t want to blow off what you’re saying because I am listening. And I want you to feel like you can talk to me about things, but it’s really hard for me to hear details about food and dieting. I want to be honest with you about this for my own good. I don’t have a problem with you, I just have a problem that I’m working on. I hope you can understand.”
You’re not apologizing. You’re being truthful. You’re worrying about yourself first, as you should. And you’re still being a good friend. And you can be as vague or as open as you feel you need to be when having the little heart to heart. If the person knows about your eating disorder history, it might be easier, but even if the person doesn’t, there are still plenty of ways you can say what’s written above without revealing more information than you’re comfortable with. If the person asks something you’re not happy answering, you have simply to say, “I hope you won’t mind, but I don’t really want to talk about that right now. But let’s keep talking.” These kinds of things are difficult, but once you learn to do them, you’ll be much better off and much better equipped to handle what gets thrown at you in this life.
After all, using the 3 Hs is better than just sitting or standing there quietly, listening to comments like these, feeling triggered and trapped. Am I right? You might be surprised how much your own voice thrown into the mix makes a difference. You also might be surprised about how easy it really is when you start saying something back. These weight/weight loss/dieting conversations happen far more often than you might like, so learning how to handle them is a definite must.