Careless diet talk costs lives

I read the Beauty Redefined blog post “When ‘You look so skinny!’” does more harm than good” this week. This is a great article on the subject of when a friend loses weight and what impact commenting on this, especially complimentary comments, might have.

This is something I’ve thought about many times after talking to people about their weight history, be it someone “overweight” or “underweight” according to the BMI chart.  On so many occasions, the person can remember distinctly a comment or situation that happened in the past that they feel directly triggered the development of their difficult relationship with food and/or their body size.  An example such as: “One day, someone told me to ‘move my fat arse out the way’ – and I realised I was fat. I started cutting down my food after that”.

The comments that trigger can be complimentary or derogatory.  I remember, now with guilt, exclaiming to a friend who had lost weight through Weightwatchers: “Wow!  You look like a supermodel!”.  As far as I’m aware, my comment did not affect her long term, but it was just the sort of comment that could have done.

This worries me greatly.  Our media is saturated with stories of “the obesity crisis”, that “sugar is poison”, that women must now aspire to be “fit not thin”, and TV programmes such as “Supersize vs Superskinny”.  Each one of these tiny moments might be the trigger that starts off years of pain around food and weight for another individual.

That’s why I believe it is important to avoid diet talk when it inevitably crops up amongst friends and family, to point out inaccurate “health” information in the media regarding weight, and to highlight when a beauty brand or fitness business tries to sell their products based on our supposed physical imperfections.  Each time we change the conversation topic, refuse to allow food to be sensationalised to sell newspapers or reject the assertion that there is something wrong with our bodies that needs to be fixed (through buying yet another beauty item or fitness package), we may be protecting someone from experiencing “that” moment.  The one they would tell their Dietitian about, years in the future.