How to Drown Out Diet Talk

It never fails. As soon as someone discovers I am a dietitian they want to know what set of dogmatic diet rules I live by. As if I were a Starbucks drink, they are expecting a description such as, “a non-GMO, soy free, Paleo pescatarian who alternates between Beach Body shakes and Whole30 every month.”

So you can imagine that when I say, “I eat all foods that brings me joy and satisfaction”, they look confused. How can such a simple answer bring so much confusion?

This type of rigid labeling keeps someone stuck from actually experiencing life. Ironically, done in the name of health, labeling the way you eat is a fancy way of promoting disordered eating behaviors. Obsessive behavior in pursuit of a healthy diet and having to label your eating patterns actually describes the term orthorexia, which can often can be the gateway to a pathological eating disorder.

I want to be really transparent and say, if this is you, i’m not judging or shaming. I too once thought I needed to make my plate as perfect as possible. I thought if I ate plates of steamed broccoli and skinny brownies I would look like a nutrition God and all my body image struggles would go away.

So i’m not superior for having no eating labels, i’m simply offering the idea that it’s ok to have options. I’m not saying my way is the only way to achieve health and happiness, but just to consider that it doesn’t have to be a strict linear approach.

An intuitive eating journey takes time. It takes compassion for your most disordered self and a lot of courage to become your healthiest self.

A critical component of having a healthy relationship with food is to be a confident eater among all of the diet-y talk. This means staying true to your values and questioning what’s triggering you when other people are constantly talking about their food rules.

Does someone's else's diet make you feel worse about yourself?

When you feel triggered by the restrictive food conversation around you, notice if it makes you feel better or worse about yourself. Feeling worse is a red flag that this food behavior probably doesn’t align with your nutrition values. Your nutrition values should reflect behaviors that make you a happier, healthier person who thrives in life. For me, this is the ability to feel free, spontaneous and flexible in my food choices.

Does their style of eating have rules?

As we know, rules equal more rigidity and restriction, and less flexibility and joy. A great question to contemplate is, what have eating rules done for your mental health in the past? When my clients reflect back on this time in their life, often they express how unhappy they were. Their brain space was completely preoccupied with food and experienced a lot of emotional pain. Therefore, could the restrictions actually be making you more symptomatic?

Are people searching for validation or justification through labeling the way they eat?

If you listen for it, you will notice that people often reflect their insecurities when they talk. Diet and exercise talk can have a hidden agenda hoping for praise, acceptance, a sense of control in a chaotic life, or validation from others that they are “healthy” enough. That being said, my question for clients is always, do you believe eating a specific way will make you a better, more valuable person?

A healthy relationship with food should not be influenced or defined by anyone else. Rather, food should be particular and personal. Think beyond needing to label the way you eat and focus on what your body needs the most each day.