How to Handle a Diet Bully

Featured Article,News and Advice,Weight Loss
March 30, 2011

Expert advice for dealing with inappropriate comments.

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Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes—and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.

QUESTION: What do you say when you order a salad and someone says, "Oh, you're being good," as she glances at her fries? I hear that a lot.—Steffi

DEAR STEFFI: Oh, that one. I’ve heard it too, many times, along with “Are you sure that’s all you’re having?” or “Have another helping. You know you want it.”

And there you sit, using all the inner strength you have to resist those fries, the double cheeseburger, the second heap of mashed potatoes and gravy. The last thing you need is for someone chip away at your willpower, even unintentionally.

“Oh, you’re being good,” is an interesting one because the implication is “And I’m not.” You don’t want to make your dining companions feel bad for their choices, but you also shouldn’t put their feelings over your need to stick to your healthy eating plan. Those are your options, aren’t they? To stick to your plan and risk making your fries-eating friend feel guilty, or give in and indulge with her, knowing you’ll beat yourself up for it later. Well, here’s the thing: Your friend is responsible for her choices, and you are responsible for yours. Whether she chooses to applaud and support your commitment to good health or turn it into some kind of competition is up to her. YOU don’t have to play along.

So, what’s your best response? Maybe something like “I had a big breakfast (or lunch) and I just want something light.” Or “They have the best Chicken Caesar ever!” Or–the all-purpose response—just smile and laugh. If you say much more, you risk getting into a conversation about your diet plans and workout regimen, and from my experience, those conversations are never productive. When I got myself entangled in those kinds of exchanges, they inevitably spiraled into the other person questioning my methods and goals, leaving me doubting my own ability to be successful. Now, know that most people don’t intend to sabotage your plans to get healthy with these comments and conversations—but even so, that’s the effect they can have. If you continue to find yourself in situations like this, you might have to find another non-food-focused activity to share with your friend (a walk at the park, maybe?).