“…One of the ways that shifted for me to be more compassionate is, I kind of struggle with feeling perpetually disappointed in people a lot. Like, why aren’t they living up to their expectations, why aren’t they living up to my expectations, why are they making these self-destructive choices?” -Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
It can be hard to live in this diet- and weight-obsessed world on a daily basis when you are no longer participating in the BS. Hearing diet-talk or food-fear driven conversation can be infuriating at best, triggering at worst. When we’ve tasted the freedom of a restriction-free life, we want to grab the world by the lapels and shake it and yell, “WAKE UP AND SMELL THE CREAM-AND-SUGAR INFUSED COFFEE! THIS IS EFFING GREAT! STOP DIETING FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY!” After giving up dieting and a life of chasing fleeting goal weights, we no longer see the world the same way – and so we no longer understand why so many others still seem stuck in the current weight-loss-diet paradigm.
This was me immediately after having given up dieting (and up to pretty recently). Suddenly I was mystified that everyone was not aiming for non-diet nirvana like I now was, as though I had not spent the prior 16 years in ever-worsening diet-restriction oblivion. It’s easy to want to project our experience as the universal experience; after all, many of us came from the “if I can do it, everyone can do it” diet-mentality world. And it’s also easy to take the diet talk of others personally, and maybe even feel as though we are being judged for our non-diet choices.
Brené Brown explains how she dealt with these kinds of feelings in her book, Daring Greatly:
“One of the things that shifted for me, was this idea that maybe everyone – myself included – maybe everyone’s doing the best they can. But sometimes, that means that I don’t have to engage. …What I’ve learned for me, around boundaries and compassion, is that I don’t know whether people are doing the best they can or not, but my life is better when I work from the assumption that they are. … at the same time, that means that I need to have really clear boundaries. So instead of judging you, and feeling resentful, and feeling like you’re sucking me dry, or you’re taking advantage of me, I need to assume that you’re doing the best you can. And I need to set my boundaries, and not get involved to the degree where I lose control over how I feel about myself and what’s going on in that relationship.”
That’s where I’m trying to get with diet talk right now. I don’t always have to walk away or plug my ears and yell “LALALALALALALA,” but I don’t have to get emotionally involved, either. I can assume the dieter is trying the best she can. I don’t need to be angry or feel personally judged, especially because I feel good about the choices I’ve made around giving up dieting and embracing my body (aka, my boundaries) – and I can talk about that too, if that’s where the conversation is going. I don’t mind planting some non-diet seeds when appropriate, I just don’t need to get my knickers in a knot like I used to about “WHY DON’T THEY UNDERSTAND?”
This has actually come as a big relief. I spend plenty of time being angry at a society and diet industry that tells us we are not good enough as we are; I don’t need to be angry at the victims. I used to be one of them, after all.