The Etiquette of Dieting

I’ve been on a constant diet for the last two decades.  I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds.  By all accounts, I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.  ~Erma Bombeck

I’m aware that the title of this entry is practically asking people to tell me that dieting is old school.  I get it.  We shouldn’t be dieting.  We should be changing our lifestyle to make dieting unnecessary.  If the term diet gets your healthy-living goat, please replace diet with lifestyle change throughout today’s entry – I’m going to stick with diet because it has fewer letters.  

Children’s parties, moms’ nights out, weddings, family celebrations, ladies who lunch, office functions, dinner parties, poker nights, date nights – almost all of our social gatherings revolve around food.  So when a pencil, paper, journal, reference book, and calculator are involved in taking a bite it can create awkward social situations.  However, it is possible to watch your waistline without removing yourself from your social scene – or making your friends wish that you would!

Rules for the dieter:

  1.  Whether you are counting calories or have adopted a strict all-organic, non-processed, whole food diet – it should NOT be the subject of every conversation.  Consider those around you who would like to enjoy their serving of birthday cake without the side of guilt.  No one wants to socialize with a diet evangelist.
  2. Don’t criticize other’s food choices.  “Do you have any idea how many calories there are in that?” “I used to eat like that too …” “I wish I could still eat like I was 13.” “Ordering a burger?  I’ve got a book you should read.”  Unless you’re talking to a child you’re raising, do not comment on other’s food choices.   Ever.
  3. Restaurants sometimes serve huge portions.  It’s okay to make ONE comment about the portion size; it is not okay to deliver a monologue in which you express your over-the-top shock, outrage, or disapproval at the gigantic proportions on your plate.  No need to tell the entire table several times that there’s “no way you could EVER finish ALL THIS FOOD.”  You can be creating an awkward moment for the other person at the table who also ordered that dish.
  4. Invited to dinner at someone’s house?  Do NOT call the host or hostess ahead of time to put in special dietary requests!  (The only exception to this rule is if you have a food allergy.  Survival trumps etiquette every time.) 
  5. Offer to bring something to a dinner party.  You can make something yummy that you can eat without blowing your diet.  Just be sure you bring what the host suggests – don’t show up with your organic, whole wheat, milled flax seed spaghetti (just like grandma used to make) if your host asked you to bring bread. 
  6. Try everything made at a dinner party – it’s rude to skip out on the food your host has spent time preparing for you.  Portion control is your most polite option.
  7. Don’t bring your own food to a dinner party unless asked. 
  8. Children should hear adults discussing healthy eating and smart choices – not diets and jean sizes.  They are listening to every word you say, especially the ones you don’t want them to hear!
  9. Dress for the body you have today.  Wear clothes that fit and make you feel good.

Rules for those around the dieter:

  1. Don’t be a food pusher.  A dieter’s will power is busy enough without having to deflect comments like “come on, is that ALL you’re going to eat?” or “life is too short not to eat cheesecake.” 
  2. If you think a friend looks like he or she has lost weight – tell them!
  3. A person’s diet is personal.  Practice social sensitivity.  If questioning them about their diet is making them feel awkward – stop.
  4. Encouraging and supporting does not mean becoming the diet police. 
  5. Spouses: If your significant other asks if they need to go on a diet, or asks if you can tell they’ve lost weight – the answer is that they look great.
  6. Spouses: It is not your job to suggest a diet for your spouse.  Deciding to go on a diet is an individual choice.  It can definitely be something a couple does together but if you need to lose 5 pounds and your spouse 50 you may want to avoid even that suggestion.  Protect your marriage by being supportive and focusing on the health of your family – not the weight of your spouse.

In the end, it all comes down to respect.  Have respect for the person trying to make healthy changes.  Have respect for the people who spend time around this person who is, quite frankly, a grumpier version of their normal selves.  Ultimately, the number on a scale only measures your weight – not your intelligence, self-worth, parenting skills, or all around wonderfulness.  I’ll end this post with a quote from my sweet, eight-year old David:

David:  “Mom, remember that dance stuff that makes you smaller?”

Me:  “Yes, David, I think you mean Zumba.”

David:  “I think you should do some more of that.”

5 thoughts on “The Etiquette of Dieting

  1. You really are a terrific writer, Amy. Always very fluent and pleasing to the ear. My dad needed a combination of this etiquette lesson with your pregnancy post. He was always pushing food on my wife when she was with child (which was pretty much a continuous five-year stretch), saying things like, “You’re eating for two now, you’d better have some more.” It was sort of funny the first time, but not as much the fiftieth.

    Does Zumba now rule the world?

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with nearly everything in this post! It is always nice (and often helpful!) to ask if your host would like you to bring anything while RSVPing.

    Thank you for bringing up the matter of e-mailing your diet specifications to the host. Just this week, I received this not-so-nice RSVP the morning of a dinner party:
    “[…] Not to be a bad guest, but I don’t eat seafood. Just thought I’d avoid a potential awkward moment. PS, can I bring a friend?” Guess what, you just made 2 faux pas!

    This other RSVP I found to be much more charming and polite:
    “[…] Please feel free to cook whatever you were planning on making, but I am a pescatarian. But don’t change your menu according to me! Also, would you like me to bring something over?” Much nicer!

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