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The problem with diet talk

By Devrie Pettit, Contributor | Posted - Sep. 8, 2019 at 11:19 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Diet talk is a thread in almost every fabric of conversation. These discussions infiltrate the workplace, fitness classes, lunch dates and even the home.

Many individuals aren’t aware that they engage in diet talk because these conversations are normalized in society. Diet talk is any discussion involving how a body looks, moves or how one eats, especially in controlling a body’s size or shape. These conversations are full of morality, superiority, perfectionism, comparison, envy and insecurity.

Diet talk fuels the diet industry and tends to encourage a culture obsessed with food consumption and body types. Diet culture is a system of beliefs that places value on being thin and muscular while demonizing certain foods and elevating others. The diet industry thrives off diet talk and it is estimated to be worth $245 billion by 2020.

While men may engage in diet talk, it's often women that can’t escape it. Dieting is like a rite of passage for some women. Those women can’t get through a day without mentioning what they should or shouldn’t be eating to achieve "perfect health" or the "perfect body." These conversations are incredibly harmful because perfection in eating doesn’t exist, and an effort to achieve it can lead to disordered eating or full-blown eating disorders.

In an opinion article for the New York Times, Jessica Knoll stated, “I called this poisonous relationship between a body I was indoctrinated to hate and food I had been taught to fear ‘wellness.’ This was before I could recognize wellness culture for what it was — a dangerous con that seduces smart women with pseudoscientific claims of increasing energy, reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of cancer and healing skin, gut and fertility problems. But at its core, “wellness” is about weight loss. It demonizes calorically dense and delicious foods, preserving a vicious fallacy: Thin is healthy and healthy is thin.”

Weirdly enough, some people seem to bond over one another’s pursuit of thinness, muscularity and health. The constant onslaught of comments surrounding weight, food and exercise may not only be harmful, but it can also be uncomfortable for some people. Changing the conversation is vital to gain confidence in how you take care of your body.

There is so much to be done in the world and people need their energy when trying to achieve their goals. When so much focus is placed on diet talk, less attention can be given to accomplishing those goals. As Knoll mentioned in her article, women are "driven and ambitious and we need energy — not lightheaded, leafy-greens energy but real energy, the kind that comes from eating the hearty foods men eat.”

Freedom from hearing diet talk may be virtually impossible, but engaging in these conversations is something you can choose to opt-out of. Awareness is a powerful key to avoiding diet talk and the first step toward making a change.

Here are some suggestions on how you can opt-out of diet talk:

  • Ignore it. Be aware of the discussion, take note internally, and then choose not to participate.
  • Change the subject. Try steering the conversation away from diets and share a random story or nice memory.
  • Offer compassion. Sit with them and share something you feel may be helpful to the situation that doesn't have to do with diet talk.
  • Educate. Mention an article or book you've read about body positivity or intuitive eating.
As education regarding the harmful impact of dieting increases, the confidence to speak up will come too. And with that, a shift to more meaningful conversation and actions will take place.

Devrie Pettit

About the Author: Devrie Pettit

Devrie is a registered dietitian nutritionist. She provides nutrition therapy through her private practice. Find her on Instagram @happilyfed and

Editor’s Note: Anything in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended, nor should it be interpreted, to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition; Any opinions, statements, services, offers, or other information or content expressed or made available are those of the respective author(s) or distributor(s) and not of KSL. KSL does not endorse nor is it responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any opinion, information, or statement made in this article. KSL expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on the content of this article.


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