There are SO MANY things to talk about besides diets and food rules! Literally, anything other than those two topics and there’s still a wealth of conversation. But sometimes we get caught in a rut. Dieting and concern about body shape/size are a rite of passage for a lot of women (and increasingly, men). We are relational creatures which means that the things we’re most concerned about will often come out as conversation in order to relate to one another. For a lot of us, that means dieting is a hot topic of break room conversation, awkward visits with the in-laws, and dessert time during neighborhood potlucks.
Let me repeat: THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER THINGS TO TALK ABOUT! When you’ve decided to give up on diets and eating disorder behavior, hearing and talking about them can be triggering. It might feel weird at first, but try on these conversation starters and see how they go. Think of these as another recovery tool.
- What have you been thinking about most this summer?
- What new projects do you have coming up?
- What do you think about _______?
- What movies have you seen this summer? What would you like to see?
- What was your favorite show growing up?
- Tell me about a time you were successful and how that happened.
- What’s something about yourself you’re proud of [that’s not about your body or food]?
- Who are the people who have influenced you most in your life?
- When do you feel the most happy?
- What do you do when you feel anxious?
- Where do you feel most relaxed?
- How would you feel about doing something you’ve never tried before?
- Where do you get inspired?
- Which famous people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party? What would you want to talk about?
- What’s something you want to learn but have never given the time to?
If you notice people turn the conversation to other people’s bodies, diets, exercise, and food issues, then give yourself permission to leave the conversation. You can politely leave to use the restroom, say you’ve got a phone call, say you’d rather not talk about it, or leave the entire situation. Diets and diet talk can feel abusive when you’re healing. Set boundaries by protecting yourself and your space. Boundaries, saying “no” and self-preservation are critical for long-term recovery and self-trust.
At some point in your recovery when you feel stronger and more grounded, you’ll be able to hear these conversations and not feel so triggered. Know that it takes time. Know that there may be some days you feel stronger and other days when you don’t. (This wavering strength doesn’t mean you’re doing recovery wrong or getting worse. It just means you’re having up and down days, which is totally normal.)
It helps to find a support network of people or online community who can help you get stronger during your recovery. NEDA is an organization that has events around the country to spread awareness of eating disorders and support folks in all stages of recovery. Counselors, meal support groups, intuitive eating groups, and weight-neutral body image groups can also provide extra support and resources. Check out the resource list on my website for additional books and public figures who speak out about diet culture and eating disorders. Their words and stories can be helpful to learn more and know you’re not alone.
Changing the conversation can feel awkward at first, but it’s doable. Take time to practice and try on conversation topics that work for you. Good luck!