Many people who enter their Intuitive Eating journey would like to receive some support from their friends and family. Given that we're surrounded by diet culture, it can be challenging for loved ones to know how to support our goal of making peace with food and our bodies.
Some clients would like for their family and friends to comprehend why they're on this Intuitive Eating journey. They would also like to avoid receiving unwanted comments about their food choices and bodies. If you
want to talk with someone that you're close to about your Intuitive Eating journey and needs, I'm sharing some strategies for navigating this - in addition to providing some ideas to obtain support outside of friends and family.
TIPS FOR COMMUNICATING WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Provide some details about Intuitive Eating. Share some information with your close family members or friends about Intuitive Eating. First, ask for permission to talk about something that's really important to you (How have you felt when someone has just started talking at you about something they believe in?). Then you might share something like, "I'm working on becoming an Intuitive Eater. Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based, flexible approach to eating that involves tuning into your body's internal cues - like hunger and fullness - letting go of dieting, and eating foods that you enjoy without judgement." If the people you're speaking with would like to know more, you could recommend that they read the amazing book, Intuitive Eating, in addition to sharing the official Intuitive Eating website where they can read the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating (If you don't feel like talking about them yourself). If the person is really into science and wants to learn more about the research behind Intuitive Eating, you could direct them to the multitude of Intuitive Eating studies that have been conducted - which are also available on the Intuitive Eating website.
Remember, the concept of Intuitive Eating might seem overwhelming to your loved ones. It might take a long time before they get it - if ever.
Explain to your loved ones that you do not want to hear about or engage in diet talk. Let them know exactly how they can help you when you request it. You might kindly say something like, "I have a favor to ask you. There are a few things I'd like to avoid talking about with you. I'm working on developing a healthier relationship with food, and on feeling more comfortable in the body I'm in now. Talking about dieting, clean eating, portion sizes, my weight - or how my body looks - makes it harder for me to accomplish this. When we're together, could you please support me by not talking about any of these things?"
While this might be difficult for a friend or family member to initially understand - or maybe ever understand - at the very least, you're expressing why this journey is so important to you, and some topics of conversation that are harmful for your well-being.
Plan on diet talk being initiated, and respond however feels best. Despite having shared with your loved ones how they can support your Intuitive Eating journey, plan on them forgetting - followed by initiating diet talk with you. Some loved ones are unaware of the fact that they're engaging in diet talk. We are all surrounded by diet culture, so it could take a while for this to change (Some family members and friends may be experiencing some issues with food and their body image as well). Try to maintain some compassion. If your family member or friend begins to initiate diet talk with you, there are multiple ways to handle this. Here are some examples of different approaches that you can take:
Challenging the diet talk of someone who you previously asked to support you on this journey: If you feel like speaking up, you might say, "I'm working on making peace with food, so I just can't talk about this. Talking about this makes me feel bad and anxious." You can do this so many different ways, but this is one example!
Change the subject: A good strategy is to think - ahead of time - of different topics that you can discuss with family and friends for those moments when they decide to engage in diet talk. Let's say one of your backup topics is careers. In the moment that the diet talk is initiated, you could say something like, "How about we switch gears. How's your job going?" As you continue to change the subject, there's a good chance that your point will eventually be received.
Stay silent or remove yourself from the conversation: Staying silent is an option. Do what feels right. Sometimes people realize that your silence means that you really don't want to talk about a certain topic. However, given that listening to the diet talk can be harmful to the progress you've made so far, it would be helpful to think about other things as the diet talk continues. You can also leave the conversation. Maybe you can excuse yourself to go to the bathroom - or to make a phone call to a close friend who will provide you with the support you're looking for. Or maybe you just need to remove yourself from the environment all together. Do what feels best.
WAYS TO OBTAIN SUPPORT OUTSIDE OF YOUR LOVED ONES
Regardless of the level of support that you receive from your family and friends, it can be very helpful to look for support outside of your loved ones. There's something powerful about feeling seen and heard by people who know what you're going through.
1) Follow people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. who make you feel good about yourself. Follow the social media accounts that make you feel good about yourself, and unfollow the social media accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Examples of feel-good support for the Intuitive Eating journey are accounts that promote diversity, self-compassion, and a flexible approach towards food, exercise, and bodies. If you want to read some Intuitive Eating-related blog posts that are written by health practitioners who specialize in this area, here are two group boards that I've created on Pinterest: Intuitive Eating RDs and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselors.
2) Listen to non-diet podcasts. Listening to these podcasts is a great way to hear about the experiences of others - that you can truly relate to - and reinforce the hard work that you've been dedicating to your non-diet journey. Here's a list of my 5 favorite non-diet podcasts.
3) Work with a health practitioner who specializes in Intuitive Eating and will partner with you throughout this journey. You deserve to be in a safe space where you can really let yourself be seen and heard without judgement. There are fabulous dietitians, therapists, etc. out there who would be honored to work with you throughout your Intuitive Eating journey.
The bottom line is that it can be incredibly empowering to determine what your needs are on this Intuitive Eating journey, establish your boundaries, and seek the type of support that feels right to you. You are not alone.
If you would like to work with me on making peace with food, or addressing general wellness concerns, click here to learn more about my private one-on-one sessions. Happy eating!