How To Avoid Diet Culture Talk On Thanksgiving So You Can Eat In Peace

Thanksgiving can sometimes feel like Groundhog Day. You’ll probably get asked why you’re single. Aunt Karmen will most likely talk about the latest diet she’s on, while Cousin Lacey will fiddle with the food on her plate and exclaim how she’s eaten way too much. 

Because while it’s a holiday dedicated to gratitude, there’s bound to be somebody talking about food restriction or exercise in relation to their desire to lose weight. This can be triggering for people with eating disorders, or anyone who wants to enjoy their meal in goddamn peace without hearing how many calories are in their turkey stuffing!

But, with the help of some experts, there are ways of trying to avoid it altogether and quick responses to stop diet talk in its tracks. Thank gawd!

Skip Thanksgiving Altogether

If you want to tell your family that you’re forgoing the holiday in order to take care of your mental health, then do it bitch! Of course, this is something you should speak about with your therapist first. 

“There are people with eating disorders who would love this excuse to be an ‘out’ from Thanksgiving and restrict, which is not at all what we want,” Christy Harrison, the author of Anti-Diet: Reclaim Your Time, Money, Well-Being and Happiness Through Intuitive Eating, says. 

But, if you hear people calorie counting or food policing, you can always choose to walk away, she adds. 

Set Boundaries

Tell your family ahead of time that hearing diet talk will not be tolerated. “Let’s enjoy our food this year. Can we make Thanksgiving a guilt-free zone experience?” suggests Caroline Dooner, author of The F*ck It Diet. But if that doesn’t work out, there’s plan B. 

According to Harrison, you’re going to need to provide consequences if your boundaries are violated. “If they keep doing it — whether they’re oblivious or don’t realize what they’re doing is diet talk — you might want to say that you’re going to leave the conversation or go for a walk.”

Redirect The Conversation 

Change the subject and look like a good person all in one go! Like, how thankful you are for your health this year. Ask your host which spices were used in your favorite dish, or verbally acknowledge your gratitude for health and family during a tough year. (Aw! What a saint!)

Your Fat Friend suggests other ways to intervene, like saying, “Can we talk about something else?” or “I’ve been working really hard at accepting my body, and this feels like a setback. Let’s talk about something else.”

Harrison says that if you’re comfortable, you can even start a discussion about how diet talk and diet culture are harmful to people. “It’s helpful to lead with your own experience: Here’s what I’m working on. Here’s what I need. Not making them feel policed or shamed on how they’re relating to food and their bodies.” 

Find A Support System 

Tell a friend or close family member who knows you struggle with diet talk and can help you redirect the conversation or be on send you funny memes if you need them. 

You may not be able to control what people talk about on Thanksgiving, but at least you have control over how you respond or react. Worst case scenario, skip the turkey talk and find a 24/7 McDonalds. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has resources available including a 24/7 helpline at (800) 931-2237For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741 or use its click-to-chat help messaging system.

Bonnie Azoulay
Bonnie Azoulay
Bonnie is a Brooklyn-based writer with works published on Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Coveteur, Man Repeller, Elite Daily and more.