2009, Magazine: The Oprah Magazine

Seven Diet Dialogues Decoded

We’ve all been there when a friend bellows; “I’m so fat!” Or, “OMG, I’m such a pig, I can’t believe I ate all the chocolate pralines!” We often fall into the trap of badmouthing our bodies and eating habits when in the company of other women. It’s easy for us to get swept up in this self-loathing and fuel it by our response. Charlene Yared explores easy ways to diffuse the situation instead, and explains why reacting this way benefits you both.

“Negative self-talk may be a ploy to elicit encouragement from others, while it could also be a sign of low self-esteem, which may be related to weight and size issues,” says clinical psychologist, Gerard Erasmus. Women measure how they should look according to what they think others expect, and so feel like a failure when they cannot reach that level of perceived perfection. These feelings are often manifested in conversations about food and weight issues.


According to Dr. Pieter Ackermann, co-author of Fat Loss For Life, support from family and friends is paramount to success. “Constant, subtle and loving advice can motivate your friend to reach her goals and help her towards a change in lifestyle.”


So, when your girlfriend starts beating herself up, here are some clever ways to keep the tête-à-tête positive and help your friendship thrive.

Seven Diet Dialogues Decoded

1. She says: I must be thin by Valentine’s Day or else…

You say: Else what? You’ll still be your gorgeous self. Try relaxing a little!

Even though it’s good to set time goals, it puts too much pressure on you to succeed. Any special occasion is just one day en route to your ultimate goal, so don’t be intimidated by days of the calendar, says Dr. Ackermann.


2. She says: It is impossible to diet!
You say: Take one day at time with the goal of being healthy. You’re not helpless!

Thinking you’re doomed to failure takes away your power. Remind your friend that losing weight doesn’t happen overnight and that being healthy is a lifelong aim that can be broken down into smaller steps.


3. She says: I can’t believe I ate that entire tub of ice-cream! I feel disgusting.
You say: I’m sure it was delicious! Everyone needs to indulge sometimes.

Being on a diet does not mean that you need to be compulsive or rigid about losing weight, and starving yourself from the pleasures of eating, or imposing a concentration camp mentality on yourself will only make you binge on unhealthy things later, says Erasmus. Tell your friend that there’s nothing wrong with a treat now and then – everything in moderation.

4. She says: I am so fat and hate how huge I look. I feel so ugly.
You say: Your worth is not dependent on your looks! How’s the volunteer work going?

When she starts bashing herself, emphasise some of her positive attributes that have nothing to do with her body, says Dr. Ackermann. Remind her that size is not the only thing that counts and that she has other qualities as a person that mean much more.


5. She says: Why are you always such a health-nut? One pizza slice won’t kill you.
You say: I am sure it won’t, but I feel like having a salad.

Creating a healthy lifestyle and losing weight is your own responsibility and does not happen without effort, Erasmus says. Don’t let your friend make decisions about what you eat, just so that she feels less guilty about chomping on pizza. Peer pressure is for children!


6. She says: Life’s so unfair, you have a perfect body.
You say: Thanks! But nobody’s perfect – me included!

Don’t fob off a compliment by giving into negative self-talk about some other part of your body, instead, politely accept it and then chat about something else. Doing this shows her that there is more to life than having a size 6 figure.


7. She says: Please, don’t let me order the nachos with extra guacamole!
You say: Sorry, I’m only your friend, not the snack police.

Avoid becoming your friend’s personal diet moderator. You are not responsible for what she eats; only she can make that choice. Support each other by hanging out in healthy food eateries, instead of fast-food restaurants, to help with making good food choices.

Author: Charlene Yared-West. Published in The Oprah Magazine, April 2009, Vol. 8, No. 4, p106.(Please note that the copy posted above is the unedited version of what was published in the magazine and will differ slightly. To read the edited version of the article, please click on the images for an expanded view.)

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