Things Not to Say When Your Friend Goes on a Diet

Photo Credit: brizmaker/Shutterstock

I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s that time of the year when I start counting calories with extra care. It may be because of social media trends or the need to look good in summer clothes; either way, I cut the snacks, eliminate carbs, and even start exercising to get rid of some inches.

This year, in particular, I feel under pressure to lose the extra pounds gained during months of pandemic cooking and eating.

Is the battle against the extra pounds superficial? Some may say it is, while others might turn it into the ultimate purpose. But it matters to many women; losing weight is likely to boost self-esteem, positively influence body image, reduce depressive symptoms, and improve health-related quality of life. As long as we’re working with a specialist and the diet doesn’t impact our health, we should be free to count calorie intake without judgment.

So, what should you say or not say when a friend confesses she’s been dieting or starting a diet? Here’s my list:

“You don’t need a diet!”

I always assume people want to be polite when they say this, but these words rarely have the good impact someone might think. Your friend might lose momentum following your advice and reward herself with a pizza to celebrate. Two days after, she would have canceled the effects of one week of struggle, feeling guilty and even going into too drastic measures to catch up. I know it because I’ve been there.  

“What size are you anyway?”

Size shaming is real, and many women don’t feel comfortable with sharing this number with friends. It’s the effect of years of dreaming of vanity sizing and trying to fit in impossible industry standards. You can ask this question when you’re shopping with your friend, and she needs your help.

“I thought you were on a diet!”

I wish I could make you hear the tone of this one. If your friend eats something that doesn’t go with your idea of diet, it doesn’t mean you can be sarcastic or judge her for her choices. Encouraging women to starve themselves to fit a piece of clothing is never what the doctor ordered.

“Do you want a bite of my lunch?”

At the opposite pole, there’s the friend who’s always ready to “save” you from your struggle and share some pizza, pasta, or chocolate cake. While I appreciate your generosity, I would appreciate it even more if you respect my decisions and support me while counting calories. Thank you.

“You should try this diet/book/challenge.”

For how good your intentions may be, try not to give unsolicited advice, especially if you don’t have a background in nutrition or health care. Instead of pushing your friend toward a diet that might do her more harm than good, you could talk to her about the benefits of seeing a doctor before making any drastic changes to her eating habits.

“I weigh more than you. There’s no need to lose weight.”

We’re different, and comparing our bodies or the way we think about our bodies makes no sense. Body image isn’t just about what we see in the mirror. Our experiences and beliefs significantly influence the way we feel about our physical appearance. You may have more self-confidence than your friend; by encouraging her to compare herself to others, you only push her to be even more vulnerable during this period.

“You’ll gain back the lost pounds.

I’m sure all families have that member who’s too honest. In my family, we have more than one, and they’re always telling me how my diet is just a waste of time. I got used to it, so their words don’t impact me as they used to, but it’s still rude.  

Building healthy eating habits is hard. Between working from home, house chores, and homeschooling, we’ve had too many excuses to have more snacks, eat more carbs, indulge in pastry, or trying Grandma’s old recipes. This year’s diet will be the most difficult in a long time, so I’ll need all the support I can get. And so will your friends who want to lose pounds. Just be kind and encourage them to take care of themselves all the time. 


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