When someone is trying to adjust their eating habits and make lifestyle changes in order to lose weight, there are certain things you shouldn’t say to them. This goes for any time of year, but it’s especially true at large gatherings with family and friends where multi-course meals are being served. Registered dietitian Lauren Cadillac, RD, CLT, recognizes this, and, in the Instagram graphic seen here, she lists some of the phrases you should refrain from using around people you know are dieting, struggling with their body image, or both.
“Let’s face it — the holidays are stressful,” Lauren wrote in the Instagram caption. “Then add on the different food experiences and family time; for people struggling with their eating, the holidays can be a nightmare.” The phrases to avoid include: “Why don’t you just eat the cookie?” and “Have you tried [insert tip or diet here]?” such as keto, “drinking water when you’re hungry,” intermittent fasting, etc. She continued, “In reality this is a list of phrases no one should say to anyone (#foodpolice), but for those actively pursuing a diet change, they have 100% tried or considered whatever recommendation you are giving them. . . . Eating behaviors are complex and simple suggestions like these are hurtful and offensive.”
When asked if there’s any positive way to talk to family or friends about their diet or their appearance in relation to that diet, Lauren told POPSUGAR, “Honestly I don’t think it should be brought up at all. Our eating habits are really no one else’s business. We live in a diet-obsessed culture, and continuously talking about new diets only perpetuates things.” Saying something along the lines of, “You lost so much weight! You look great!” reinforces that smaller is better, Lauren explained, and might insinuate that the person needs to continue on that path in order “to be noticed and celebrated.”
Phrases you could consider saying instead have nothing to do with body size or dieting, she pointed out. For instance, you could comment, “You look so happy!” or “Your energy is amazing!” She noted, “If you sense a friend or family member is struggling or has struggled in the past and you want to be supportive, perhaps suggest that you’d love to spend some one-on-one time together to catch up. You can show you are there for support and interested in how they are doing, but a massive family gathering is not the time nor place to discuss this.”
Lauren calls herself the “Feel Good Dietitian” and is a proponent of intuitive eating and honoring hunger/fullness cues, as she discussed with us in a previous interview. This time around, when asked what people dieting should do during the holidays and/or when they’re confronted with big meals, she echoed the fact that intuitive eating is always a great answer. She said, “When we eat intuitively, there is no stress around food, even if there is more of it or a different type of it around. Intuitive eaters don’t feel like they have to eat as much as possible because they won’t get to eat it for another year. Intuitive eaters give themselves full permission to eat what they want all year long, so stuffing, cookies, and pie are always an option if they choose.” The idea is that if you eat what you crave, you won’t overeat.
Lauren went on to say that honoring your hunger is especially important this time of year. “Many people attempt to diet because they know there is extra food around. The problem is, this leads them to get to a dangerous level of hunger, which leads to overeating and possibly binging,” she explained, suggesting the hunger/fullness scale as a helpful guide. For this, start eating at about a three or a four on the one-to-10 scale. One means you’re extremely hungry and 10 means you’re overly stuffed to the point where you’re sick to your stomach. Stop eating around a six or a seven when you’re comfortably full.
Lauren concluded, “If you are someone who needs to follow a specific diet for medical reasons — gluten-free for celiac or allergen-free for allergies — of course you should stick to this during the holidays. However, a diet for weight-loss purposes only during the holidays will likely backfire.”