Is It Ok to Have Diet-Talk Free Spaces?

The jerk whispererTwo friends of mine had an altercation on their Facebook page today.  It started with someone posting a story about his wife’s weight loss.  He was told politely that this page was diet-talk free and that the page owner understood if he wanted to unfriend.  Then the original poster and his wife went what I can only describe as ape-shit – freaking out and making absolutely horrible, baseless accusations.

I see this all the time. Groups that have a “no diet talk” policy are accused of censorship and exclusion.  People insist that they should be able to talk about dieting everywhere because their story is just as valid as anyone else’s. I get reader comments asking how to deal with people who are being disrespectful to them on their own Facebook page.  On this blog people whose comments I choose not to approve because they are pro-weightloss claim everything from offense – how dare I ignore them? – to insisting that their right to free speech includes me being required to approve any type of nonsense that someone types in the comment box.

I think that it is absolutely ok to have exclusive spaces.  The fact that every story is not welcome on every space says nothing about the validity of the storyteller.  It’s ok to have a space that does not allow diet talk  – that does not suggest that dieters’ stories are any less valid, just that they are not welcome in this place.  Similarly, if people create a space exclusively for low-carb dieters I don’t think it’s in any way ok for me to insist that I should be allowed to post about why I don’t choose low-carb dieting.  I do not know what makes people think that they are the specialist special and so their story should be welcome anywhere, but I think it’s highly misguided.

I suggest the following:

Your Facebook page is yours – you are the complete boss of its underpants.  You are not required to let anyone post anything on your page.  You can make it an anything-you-want-free-zone and that is ok.

It is ok to have groups with rules that allow the group members to feel safe.  That includes groups that do not allow diet talk.

I think complaints against diet-talk free spaces are particularly ridiculous considering how pro-diet talk most of the world is.  There are a zillion places to go and talk about being on a diet.  It seems to me that people who feel the need to disrespect a diet-talk free space probably have an agenda or some issues to work out. Maybe they are part of the vast majority of people for whom dieting doesn’t work but, frustrated and unwilling to opt out, they are angry at those of us who have.  I know that when I refuse to post people’s pro-weightloss comments they often escalate to all-caps rage, name calling, etc. really fast.  Or maybe they are the kind of person who feels like the fact that other people make different decisions than they do is somehow an affront to their decisions, whether we actually care about their choices or not.

While it’s perhaps interesting to speculate, in the end I don’t think it really matters.  Our spaces our rules.  Don’t like it?  Please feel very free to go somewhere that is else.

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Published in: on February 9, 2013 at 10:32 am  Comments (44)  

44 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. As a teenager I lost 60 lbs. All of a sudden the taunts stopped, I was accepted into cliques, I was asked out by hot guys. Rather than embrace it I was angered at the injustice – I was exactly the same person and if they didn’t like me then they were not welcome to like me now. Although I kept the weight off until menopause it was only due to an eating disorder. Bless you for what you do, you beautiful, beautiful woman.

    • I have a similar but differnt story to yours.

      I was an outcast from 6th grade -Sophomore year due to living in a small town where my family was determined to be outcast. (Was it because my father had been the town drunk? My mother divorced him? We moved away then returned? We were poor? Who knows!)

      I was taunted and bullied all those years, though not for being fat. I then went foreign exchange my Junior year and had some of the best experiences of my young life. I wanted to stay in that country. Upon return, I was suddenly chatted up by all the popular folks and invited to all the popular things. I was also embarrased and angered at the injustice of it all. I continued the outcast friendships I’d had prior to going abroad.

      I’ve seen many experience what you experienced, and seen it touted in movies, further perpetuating the desire of many to become thin so that their problems melt away.

      I applaud you Ragen for continuing to fight the fight to help level the playing field. Educating people that it’s okay to be different. It’s also okay to conform to a particular group if you wish to. It’s okay for different groups to have their own space. But it’s not okay for people to demand different groups not exclude them if they don’t play by that group’s rules. It’s okay to be fat, thin, tall, short, at different levels of activity, eat different foods and have your own plan for your own health, fitness and life in general.

      • Yup, me too. Lost 45 pounds and all of a sudden I get served more quickly at the bar, I get invited to the front of the line, people hold more doors open for me. Pissed me off no end. I gained 145 or more pounds back. People don’t go out of their way to help me any more, and it takes forever to get a drink at a bar. I hope my kids never diet. I hope they just live. Get on with life and live.

  2. Maybe those people get upset so quickly because it’s so personal (as it is to all of us), and they feel like we’re discounting their hard work. We all know how damn hard it is to lose weight–next to impossible a lot of the time–and when someone achieves their weightloss, they expect praise. If we don’t give it to them it’s like we’re not acknowledging the fact that they undoubtedly suffered a LOT to get there, and we’re denying them the worship they’re looking for after the fact. Does that make sense? So even though we don’t intend to insult them, they feel insulted just because we have different viewpoints and we don’t want to hear about their success (and certainly don’t want the methods pushed on to us).
    It’s a tricky situation and not really one that can leave all parties involved unhurt. But such is life. They’ll get over it.

  3. I don’t go on football forums to tell the readers that I find their favorite sport highly unpleasant.

    I don’t go on religious forums and expect to convert the readers to atheism.

    I don’t go on forums for TV shows I dislike and tell everyone they’re wasting their time on loving their favorite shows.

    I don’t go on diet forums and give them a dose of reality about actual results of real scientific studies that prove dieting is a mostly futile effort in the longrun.

    I don’t see why anyone should come piss in my sandbox, either.

    Is that really so hard to understand?

    • Apparently the concept of “respect” is lost in some circles… Because, I’m with you, this shouldn’t be that hard to understand.

      • (goes wide-eyed)

        But… but… you mean ‘respect’ isn’t a synonym for ‘agree?’

        Funny how many people seem to honestly believe it is.

        • THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS!

        • Whoops. That was just supposed to be a big “THIIIIIIIS!!”

    • I know–seems like basic common sense, doesn’t it?

  4. There is a time and a place for everything. Simple.

  5. Safe spaces certainly have the possibility of being problematic (like a women’s festival that excludes trans*women, for example), but on a whole I think safe spaces are a necessity. People only become angry about safe spaces if they do not understand the concept of triggering– and sadly, even people who suffer from PTSD somethings think throwing up a simple trigger warning is a form of “censorship.” It’s not, it’s common courtesy.

    The world is filled with a lot of bullshit and most of it is produced with the intention of tearing down your self-esteem so you can then be sold a product to repair it. Everyone and anyone living as part of a minority group needs a safe space where you know you’re not going to be constantly assaulted for just being you. Diet talk and weight shame are no different. Saying, “I practice HAES and I need my page to be free of diet-talk” is no less valid than saying, “I’m a survivor and I need my page to be free of rape jokes.”

    We are not only allowed to define our spaces, we MUST define our spaces! Especially when what we are so often criticized for is taking up space! Anyone who goes “ape-shit” over this concept is either entirely too self-involved or completely devoid of empathy. Or perhaps both.

    • Safe spaces certainly have the possibility of being problematic (like a women’s festival that excludes trans*women, for example), but on a whole I think safe spaces are a necessity.

      In light of that — and I’m not disagreeing with you at all, just adding in where my own thoughts have led me — I think it’s always worth considering whether the types of comments being off limits for a space are privileged voices or marginalized voices. And I think in terms of diet talk, society at large privileges people who participate in diet culture over people who opt out of it.

  6. I have a no diet talk policy. In person and on Facebook. People probably think that’s why I’m overweight – lol.

  7. I love this blog precisely because it is a safe and probably wouldn’t read it if diet talk were allowed.

  8. Why would this dude even bring up the diet talk in a space where no diet talk is allowed? Sorry, but what a dumb donkey! Sounds like Dude and Wife had an agenda.

  9. Someone made a post yesterday on the Rolls not Trolls page that included a recipe of some sort. When I suggested that food talk could be triggering, she immediately took it down and was very nice about it. She understood that that was not the place for it. She didn’t get defensive and worked up. She recognized that not every space is for every thing.

  10. Interesting. I JUST had this conversation with my Mom about boundries and verbal vomit. JUST SAY NO!

    • When I try to do this with my mother, she just keeps on talking over the top of me. The other day I finally had to get rude about it. It wasn’t about weight loss–this time–but she kept on with her same pattern of continuing to make her point known. I finally said to her “I do not want to dance this dance. I want to go back to bed.” (I work nights.) At that point she reluctantly gave up. Unfortunately, I was so pissed off that I didn’t get back to sleep until nearly 4 in the afternoon!

      • Gah! Isn’t that frustrating? To anyone who goes too far, I tell them this topic is NOT open for discussion, topic is off limits, we’re not going there. I either hang up on them if they keep going or leave the area all together. I refuse to allow them to bring me down. Not their sandbox, not their rules! It’s hard when it’s family but if you remain consistant with your response usually it sinks in. Good luck and stick to your guns! Xoxo

  11. Thank you for once again being spot – on!

  12. Another reason it’s important to have safe spaces is because you need to be able to count on something. I could just be going along cleaning with the TV in the background and all of a sudden I’m hearing about “guilt free snacks” and how “eating less is a beautiful thing”-how offensive is that-and it puts me in a more negative frame of mind than I was before. And you just never know when something like that is coming, so having a stable, safe space to go to is all the more important to maintaining sanity. I actively believe that the diet culture makes the world a worse place, and blogs like this and other fat accepting, no diet talk tolerating, make it a better one.

  13. Not knowing the entire situation, I have to wonder… Was the problem because the offending person posted on someone else’s page – or group – or was it because they posted on their own wall and the other person didn’t want to see it show up on their friends page?

    I only ask because, having been in similar situations (though, mine was regarding politics) I have to say that, while it’s certainly disrespectful for someone to post about an off-limits topic directly on another person’s page or group, it’s a whole other issue if they were posting on their own page, which the other person follows for whatever reason, and if that’s the case, I can totally understand the weight-loss couple being offended.

    I’ve seen way too many social media fights where, if people just followed the underpants rule, there would be no problem – do what you will with your own underpants/facebook page, and let me do what I want with my own. And if you don’t want to read something I wrote on my own, nobody is requiring you to read it. I’m sure, back before I quit Facebook over things like this, I was getting on people’s nerves a bit with all the body positive, HAES talk – including links to this blog. But I kept it to my own page, and never took it to anyone else’s – and expected them to do the same to mine.

    On the other hand, if this person did go on someone else’s page and post there… Well… I have a three strike rule, but that might be something that transcends that rule and would welcome an automatic unfriending.

    • I also was wondering if the post was put directly on a diet-talk-free page, or if it simply showed up there in a feed.

      • It could have been both. I am not part of any religious group yet I have religious stuff all over my news feed thanks to my religious friends. Now I have asked them nicely that if they are going to post anything religious could they please exclude me from it, it is simple to do you click the button by “Post” and edit who can see that post and who can’t. Did they need to get pissy with me? No, it was a simple request, and an easy one to do, now if it is a group, you have no control at all over who can and can’t see your post.

        • I feel like you’re asking your friends to censor themselves for you. It’s not their responsibility to determine what you see and don’t see. They are allowed to say what they want and if you don’t want to hear it, it’s your responsibility either to remove them from your feed or to block them if you feel you have reason to do so.

          • Agree. Depending on how many friends one has, it could be a real pain to go through and decide who can or cannot see a specific post. For example, if I’m posting something political should i have to sit and remember where all my friends fall on the political spectrum so I can decide who should or shouldn’t see the post? Or should my friends simply remove my post from their wall if they don’t like it?

            I have friends who post things I’m not in agreement with all the time. I have one friend who is very anti-military, another who says a lot of triggering things about fat people, another who parents so opposite of me that his posts on parenting make me grind my teeth. I’ve never once told them to stop posting or to make sure they edit who can see it. I simply “hide” the posts when they come across. If they post these things too frequently then I block them. It isn’t there job to make sure I’m not offended.

            • I disagree. It is *everyone’s* job to make sure they are not saying things that are offensive in a way that supports oppressive systems and harms already marginalised people. It is true that there are things my friends post that I find annoying or boring and they have every right to post those things – I can and do skip them or hide them. But if someone on my feed is making blatantly fat hating statements – like the “friend” who referred to a woman in a news article as “a dying fatass of a human” and “disgusting” – then I am damn well going to call them out on it. If their response isn’t one of recognition and apology, then I’ll block them, but sometimes that kind of calling out can educate people who didn’t realise they were being horrible. I’ll especially make an effort to educate them if I have to see them regularly in the offline world, because I don’t want those kinds of toxic attitudes around me and online is often a safer and less dramatic place to confront those beliefs.

              • I’m not disagreeing that you have the right to call them out on it; in fact I’m all for that. But you indicated that you thought it was their responsibility not to say those things in your presence (as it were). While you can make that request of them, they have no obligation to comply. It’s not their responsibility to determine what you should see. It’s your own responsibility to set boundaries for yourself.

          • Exactly my thoughts. If you don’t like what someone has to say, just don’t follow them, or skip a post if it looks like it’s going to wind up being something you don’t want to see. Don’t ask them to go through a long list of who is allowed and not allowed to see each post – that’s not their job. If you don’t want to read it, nobody is holding you down and making you do so… But if you demand that, in order to keep you as a friend, the person censor themselves on their own wall, you may very well wind up with one less friend.

            (And, if they’re posting things that are hurtful, maybe it’s time to reconsider having them as a “friend” in the first place…)

          • The thing is, I have had plenty of the people I asked, say they don’t wanna see so many pictures of my cats. Being kittens they so silly things all the time and I have an album to document them growing up. So I edited my posts so people who don’t want to see them can’t. It is a simple fix. That is why Facebook has those options, to exclude people from seeing post X, Y or Z. So I see no problem asking them to do the same when they have asked me before, and I have no problem excluding them when it comes to posting about my cats. It after all is just literally a click of one button.

  14. I appreciate your work very much! I am still confused why you don’t approve my comments. I am grateful for your blog and your work. Thank you!

    • Oh I am actually approved now. Thank you for your great work!

  15. I think part of this comes down to a lack of understanding of what the First Amendment actually says (since so many of the people who complain about this stuff seem to invoke it). The First Amendment states that the GOVERNMENT cannot infringe on your right to free speech (and actually even that is an oversimplification). Most websites like Facebook are not government-run, they are privately owned, which means they get to set rules about what content is and isn’t allowed. I would extend that to people’s facebook pages and blogs. It’s not a publically-funded, government-run space, so the First Amendment isn’t a thing here.
    Around the start of the Iraq War, some people were asked to leave a shopping mall because they were wearing anti-war t-shirts. I have no interest in getting political about Iraq or starting a debate about it in any way, but my personal feeling is that although I wish the mall had allowed them to stay, they had the right to kick those people out. Because your constitutional rights are guaranteed in public spaces, not on private property.
    (And I’m by no means a lawyer, so if I got any of this wrong please correct me. And I’m sure I’m oversimplifying. But I’m pretty sure this is how it works.)

    • you’re right about the legal issues, though I’d say we have problems in many cities with formerly-public spaces (streets with public sidewalks, for instance) being replaced with fully-private ones (malls where everything from the edge of the street to the edge of the next street is private parking lot & building). Combined with “nuisance” laws against using city streets, and permitting/parade laws for plazas and parks, a lot of municipalities have effectively left no free speech zones at all.

  16. I work at a school, and if I go to the cafeteria for lunch, I have a choice between the mostly-men’s faculty/staff table and the mostly-women’s faculty/staff table. I always choose the mostly-men’s table because the women at the mostly-women’s table just will not shut up about dieting.

  17. I am glad there are spaces free of diet talk. I am bombarded with it enough in the healthcare organization for which I work. Then there are the glut of TV ads, even on cable channels that are primarily aimed toward men. Add to that all the magazine ads hawking this diet or that, and you pretty much need to live under a rock to avoid diet talk. So, I for one, am quite happy to see this spaces that are free of diet talk.

    Ironically, I just got an email notice in a group dedicated to the artwork of someone who celebrates the curves of fat women. Someone in the group decided to announce today was the first day of her diet and that if folks were offended by it, that was just tough. She went on to say that she is still for fat acceptance, size acceptance, etc., just that she is going on a diet for her health. I do not wish to leave the group because I love the artwork, but I am trying to decide if it’s worth PRIVATELY emailing the person to say that she could have worded her post better, in a way that isn’t going to automatically alienate people who are diet-free. *sigh* I hate the prevalence of diet-talk and the continual distortion of facts that are forced upon us daily.

  18. I have had to amend my desire for ‘no diet talk’ to ‘no weight loss diet talk’. I’ve been living with a wheat allergy and lost of my co-workers are curious to see what I’m eating and what I’m cooking to manage dropping wheat from my menus. Actually, I love talking food and nutrition, but I try hard to avoid weight-loss diet discussions. When it creeps in, I just say ‘I’m more focused on making sure what I consume doesn’t make me feel bad and finding new ways to enjoy the things I do eat’.
    I guess I’ve been a big help to our school food service by helping them find items to keep on hand for the kids who cannot eat wheat or other glultenous foods.

    Maybe it is just my local area, but I hear more about excercise plans and workouts that food plans.

    • I’m with you in being gluten intolerant, so I want to be able to talk about that without it being weight loss talk. Yes, I know there are gluten free forums but I want to hang around the pro HAES sites.

  19. I don’t have this problem as much on my Fat Acceptance Blog (http://bigbodiesinmotion.wordpress.com/), with the exceptional troll here and there, but I have this problem on my facebook constantly.

    As someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder I confront people about diet talk and thinspo and I can’t keep certain people in my feed because of it. womp womp.

  20. If I am reading the first paragraph of this article correctly, the diet post went on a page that didn’t belong to the poster. If that is the case, the poster is in the wrong and the owner of the page has a right to choose what goes onto the page.

    • I took the first paragraph to say the diet story was posted on the no-diet person’s page. You can post on any of your friend’s walls (personal page) on Facebook.

    • rereading, I think I misread *your* comment. If I just violently agreed with you, I’m sorry.

      • LOL! I think we are in agreement that the dieter posted on the non-dieter’s page/wall. Yes, you can post on your friends’ pages/walls, but I think the owner of the wall/page has the right to delete it.


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