“Never ever let somebody stop you or shame you from being yourself.” – Lizzo

Our culture is steeped in dieting and while intuitive eating (IE) is gaining traction in main stream media and is now more recognized than it was in previous years, IE is still misunderstood and is not what the majority of people are doing when it comes to managing their food and health.

Question: Should you explain intuitive eating to a friend, your family or partner?

Answer: This depends. Not everyone gets to know your intimate struggles around food and body. Your journey of healing is private and sacred, so you get to be selective on whom to let in. Know your audience. Some of your closest friends are likely safe enough to share your truth. It could also be tremendously healing for you to ‘come out’ and disclose your struggles with them. You might also find that when you share your story, you grant permission for them to share theirs too.

Some friends might not be ready to hear what you are doing with intuitive eating. Maybe they are dieting themselves and are not yet ready to hear that “diet’s don’t work…” Remember back to when you first learned about intuitive eating. It may have felt impossible and overwhelming. Bring  that same openness and patience to the conversation. If they are still under the spell of dieting, talking about IE may insight judgement or even defensiveness. In this case, you may not want to talk about IE yet. You might need to set a boundary if they want to talk about their weight and or their diet.

It’s hard to explain IE to most folks because dieting is so insidious in our culture. And, sadly it’s considered “normal” to talk about dieting and weight. At some point, you will want to have a few key phrases and basic explanations when diet talk occurs.

Here’s some key points to help explain intuitive eating to anyone who asks:

  • I’m listening to my body and trying to eat when I’m hungry. I found dieting was too restrictive and not sustainable. It feels good to not be so restrictive with my eating and I’m beginning to trust myself more around food.
  • Dieting leads to deprivation, deprivation causes increased cravings, and cravings often lead to out-of-control eating.
  • When I give myself permission to eat whatever I want when I’m hungry, I find it’s much easier to stop when I’m full.
  • When I feel satisfied with what I eat, I eat just what my body needs.
  • I’m learning to find new ways of coping with emotions instead of relying on food as my only outlet for stress etc.

Question: What do I do when someone makes a comment about my weight or what I am eating?

Or, if someone keeps talking about their diet and weight?

Answer: First off, it’s no one’s business to make comments about what you’re eating, how much you’re eating or your body size/weight. And, it never feels good to be on the receiving end in these situations, and it’s bound to happen even with well intentioned folks. Most of the time, they don’t mean harm and are unaware of the impact these comments have. It’s important to let them know that the comments are bothersome. You have a right and deserve to feel safe and respected. There are a few ways to navigate these situations.

  1. If what they say is not super triggering, you might use this as a teaching opportunity. You could say: I know you mean well but taking about what I’m eating or commenting on my body size/weight isn’t helpful. Could we please talk about something else? OR, I’m working on moving away from diet talk. Would it be okay if we didn’t discuss diet/weight/etc.? It’s not helpful for me to talk about diets anymore.
  2. If what someone says is triggering and you haven’t set any boundaries with them, you can either change the subject (this might feel abrupt in the moment) or, you can excuse yourself and leave the room. Go to the bathroom or get outside for some fresh air.
  3. If someone keeps making comments about your food, weight/body or their food, weight/body, and it’s a pattern that is triggering, it’s a  good idea to let them know and to set a boundary. You deserve and have a right to feel safe and boundaries help you feel protected. Tell them that talking about dieting and weight issues bothers you and then set a boundary. You can say something like this:
    • “I know we once talked about dieting together in the past, but right now, I’m working on moving away from talking about these things and instead would rather talk about something else. Would that be okay with you?”
    • “I’m working on listening to my body and feeling good in my body and those comments don’t help me. Can we talk about something else?”
    • “My body and my food are not up for discussion anymore. There are so many more interesting things to talk about. I just don’t talk about food/body/diets anymore.”

Even if you explain and set a boundary, some situations and friendships are more challenging. In this case, it’s a good idea to meet with a trained/licensed therapist. If some relationships continue to be harmful in spite of setting boundaries, it might be a good idea to take a break, create distance and reevaluate the relationship altogether.

 

Again, you deserve to feel safe and respected in your relationships.

 

Also, give yourself patience in this process. Intuitive eating is a life long journey and it will get easier to explain what you are doing to those around you. You might even notice people mention that your energy feels lighter as a side effect of practicing intuitive eating. The peace and joy that comes with freedom around food and body concerns has an energetic effect that is quite contagious.

Get your guide here!

Karen Louise Scheuner, MA, RDN

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