It can feel very isolating to be in a space — especially a space that claims to be body positive! — and hear all about how someone in a body much, much smaller than yours “feels fat” or “needs to lose weight.” That’s just one example of diet talk, which is so woven into our culture that people in more privileged bodies might not even notice it happening.
Diet talk “includes any conversation around restricting foods/ food groups to lose weight or exercise for the sake of wanting to change our body weight, shape or size.”
As a business owner, you have the power, social capital and ability to set and hold boundaries in your space. You also have a responsibility to create a space that’s as safe as possible for the marginalized people who walk through your doors.
One excellent way to start setting this boundary is by posting one of Nalgona Positivity Pride’s Body-Positive Space posters in a visible spot right inside your door.
Then, check in on your employees, if you have any. What kind of language are they using with customers? What kind of language are they using with other employees? If an employee is, for example, telling a customer not to buy a dress they’ve tried on because it’s not “flattering,” they’re both losing a potential sale and reinforcing toxic beauty standards. People can wear whatever they want!
If you haven’t previously had rules around diet talk, changing can feel uncomfortable, but treat it the same as if you discovered an employee using sexist language. Ask them not to start or participate in diet talk, even if a customer starts that line of discussion, and hold firm with the same consequences you would have for sexist talk in your store. You have the power as an employer; use it.
When customers, clients or students initiate the diet talk, it may require a lighter touch. Depending on whether you know the person and the situation, you might feel comfortable introducing them to the concept of body acceptance. In some situations it will be easier to deflect or change the subject.
Here are some scripts you and your employees can use with customers, suppliers or other non-employees:
“We have a no-diet-talk rule here in the store, so let’s talk about something else! How about how amazing that dress is on you?”
“If the pose isn’t working for you, that’s fine! The problem is with the pose, not your body. The forward fold can also be done with your legs spread so that your belly goes right between them.”
“Yes, I can see your belly in that top, but it doesn’t make it any less cute! That color is great.”
“I don’t judge what other people are eating any more, and it’s amazing how much clearer my mind is when I’m not worried about it! In fact, the other day I had a [dessert of your choice] and just didn’t judge myself about it and it tasted so much better.”
“I feel like since I’ve started accepting my own body, I don’t care as much about what other people are doing with theirs. How about those [sports team]?”
“I AM going to have a second cupcake! They’re delicious.”