Your Diet Talk Isn’t Helping People With Eating Disorders
If you are in a body that benefits from thin privilege, your fat friends are probably not the right audience for your diet talk. To be clear, thin privilege doesn’t mean you don’t have trouble loving your body, and it doesn’t even mean that you fit every definition of the word thin. It just means that you live in a body that is within society’s range of normal or acceptable, therefore you live in a world that accommodates your size pretty much one hundred percent of the time. You face obstacles in your life, but the size of your body is not one of them.
If that’s you, it’s time for you to start thinking about what audience you are choosing when you discuss your intentional weight loss attempts.
I know from experience that when fat people ask for basic respect from thin people, folks tend to have FEELINGS. I already know some people are going to push back against this idea.
That doesn’t make me wrong. Before you start blathering on for 20 minutes about the 14 pounds you lost by eating nothing but peanuts and exercising like an ancient Roman centurion or some shit, take a beat and consider whether the person you are talking to really has any interest in hearing about it. Especially if they’re fat.
The feelings that accompany life in a fat body are incredibly complicated. If you have gained some weight you want to lose, but you have never truly been a fat person living with all the biases and mistreatment that come with that, you just can’t fully understand how it feels.
That’s why I’m here. I am not trying to make some kind of arbitrary rule or silence you. I just want to point out some things you might not have considered before.
First of all, diet culture is bullshit.
There’s a good chance that you are dieting because the world has made you feel unworthy if your body is anything but very thin. Even if you aren’t fat, every pound you put on has the potential to make you feel like a failure. That’s by design. A multi-billion-dollar diet industry depends on it, and they spend big money to keep you feeling bad.
For those of us in fat bodies, the pressure can feel like too much to bear. For our own mental health and wellbeing, some of us have had to take a step outside of all the thin-centric messages we hear every single day and find a way to see our bodies — and therefore ourselves — as beautiful, healthy and worthy of care. (Whether we are seeking to change them or not.)
Diet talk is boring when you have decided to take a step back from intentional weight loss, and eat and move for health and happiness, without focusing on the scale.
Hearing about your diet makes fat people acutely aware of your perception of our bodies.
Going up to a fat person to talk about how much you hate fatness (even your own) makes about as much sense as complaining about your husband’s extended business trip to the widow at a funeral. You can have feelings, and you can talk about them, but, like, read the room. I am probably not the one.
I already know just from living my life that the world thinks I’m lazy, unattractive and unhealthy based solely on my body size, regardless of the fact that they know nothing else about me. It’s been drilled into my brain since birth that fat is bad. All of us carry that bias because that’s the culture we live in. Thinness lives on a pedestal. Fatness is always regarded as less than ideal.
When I’m with people who love me, I can sometimes escape the discomfort that comes with that understanding. I can just be me instead of being “the fat girl.” My people are my respite from the crushing weight of society’s perpetual and cruel disgust with me.
While you’re talking about carbs and macros and goal pants and intermittent starving and whatever else, I am hearing, “I love you, but I will go to great lengths to avoid ever looking like you.” (Shoutout to author and fat activist Aubrey Gordon for putting that into words so succintly.)
Maybe that’s not what you’re thinking. It’s possible you are okay with every body being fat except your own. But your intentions don’t lessen my discomfort. As adults, we should be prepared to accept that the impact of our actions carries more weight than our intentions.
Your diet talk isn’t good news for people with eating disorders.
Another big problem with diet talk is that a lot of people in fat bodies have struggled with disordered eating patterns at one point or another, and it can be very easy to slip back into those unhealthy patterns. Disordered eating is disordered eating, whether a person is in a fat body or not. You don’t have to be painfully thin to damage your body by eating incorrectly. I don’t know a single fat person who hasn’t felt proud to go to bed with the feeling of painful hunger in the pit of their stomach, convinced by diet culture that hunger will lead to shrinking, and shrinking will increase their worth. The pressure of society’s expectations is a million times heavier than my body could ever grow to be.
Our Tuesday afternoon coffee date or your kid’s birthday party isn’t always the place where I want to confront those deep-rooted issues or feel all the pain and struggle that goes with them.
It’s not going to hurt you to just not discuss your weight loss plans with your fat friends.
Not discussing your intentional weight loss attempts won’t hurt you, but discussing them without asking first could hurt your fat friends. Make sure you ask if someone would like to hear about your diet before you just rush into it.
Of course, some fat people will be fine with it, and that’s cool. If someone wants to talk about your diet with you, then you’re free to talk about it all day long. It’s not that you’re not entitled to talk about your diet at all. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be proud if you work to change your body and feel good about the way you look.
I’m just trying to tell you that, especially if your body is smaller than the person you are talking about it with, a fat person is not always going to be comfortable engaging in a conversation about your diet.
Whether you understand why or not, if you’re a kind person with a good heart, you should want to respect your fat friends if they set that boundary.