I was eating dinner at a restaurant when a teen at the next table ordered a hamburger and fries. An adult at her table said, "How do you eat like that and stay so thin?" And another adult chimed in, "She won't be thin for long!" And everyone laughed.
And all I wanted to do was pull these adults aside for an intervention. I know they meant no harm. They were just talking the way people talk in diet culture. But I think their words are risky.
They basically told this child that her body isn't supposed to get bigger and that if it does it's because she eats hamburgers and fries. But, of course, her body going to get bigger or change - she's going through puberty.
And I wonder, as she grows will words like these cause her to worry about weight, or feel that she can't enjoy her cultural foods with everyone else?
Diet talk doesn't foster health. It promotes uneasy relationships with food and weight that trigger eating disorders.
If you want to learn more about language that promotes health in the kids and teens around you check out some resources below.
Resources to help with Eating Disorder Prevention
Diet talk is the promotion of restrictive diets or food shaming, while fat talk is the negative discussion of body size and shape. Both of these forms of speech can be damaging to people's body perception, self-worth, and eating patterns.
Studies have shown that diet talk and fat talk can lead to disordered eating behaviors such as binge eating, purging, excessive exercising, and restricting food intake. This is because these types of conversations normalize unhealthy habits and create a culture where people feel pressure to conform to unrealistic standards of beauty. Additionally, they can lead to feelings of shame about one's body size or shape which can further fuel an individual's desire to engage in disordered eating behaviors.
It is important for parents and other adults in a child's life to be aware of how their words may affect young people. By avoiding diet talk and fat talk around children, adults can help create an environment where kids feel comfortable with their bodies and don't feel pressured into engaging in disordered eating behaviors.