My patients often express difficulty being around enthusiastic friends, who incessantly talk about their new weight loss diet.  The friends are usually well meaning, with no intent to harm.  Yet, this diet talk stirs up a bunch of mixed feelings, such as:

  • Envy of the quick weight loss
  • Fantasies of embarking on just one more diet (get the weight off, and then deal with “the issues”)
  • Triggering for patients with eating disorders
  • Worry about the dieting consequence for the friend

And so I tell this story. When I first got started in my career, I naively got baited into cocktail party conversations, where someone would ask me: What do you think of _________ (fill in the blank with the latest diet craze). I would give careful thought and describe the latest research, only to discover that the person asking the question really didn’t want to hear what I had to say!

I started to see a pattern. The person usually asked the question as a means to convince me that they just discovered the greatest diet ever.  I started to realize that their passion and blind enthusiasm, was really a belief system. And anything I might offer, would offend their “religion”.

So, then I ask my patient—if you are at a party, and have a friend who is of a different religion or faith, do you try to convert them? (No, of course not, is the usual reply). How do you tolerate this difference in belief systems with your friends?  Therein lies the solution.

Often, just the change in perspective helps—viewing dieting as a religion for some people. But every situation is different.  You might need to set boundaries around “diet talk”. Or you might decide you doesn’t want to spend energy on any discussion—and might choose to exit the conversation.

You might also find it helpful to just watch and observe your dieting friends, without judgment. How does their dieting saga really unfold—six-months from now, one-year from now?  

And most importantly—what has your own dieting experience shown you—after the euphoric honeymoon stage? The answer to that question will likely keep you grounded.

“The Religion of Dieting: How to Tolerate Friends & Evangelists of the Latest, Greatest Diet” written by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD

Copyright © 2011 by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD Published at

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Categories: Nutrition

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN is an award-winning registered dietitian, with a nutrition counseling practice in Newport Beach, California. She has written nine books including the bestsellers Healthy Homestyle Cooking and Intuitive Eating(co-author). Her newest book is the Intuitive Eating Workbook:Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy Relationship with Food.