WithAll Blog


What is Diet Talk and Why is it harmful?

Nov 3, 2021

“Diet talk" includes any conversation about restricting certain foods or food groups, especially for the sake of wanting to change one's body weight, shape, or size. This includes such practices as harmful food labeling”, or assigning a “moral” value to foods. This causes us to value ourselves or others based on which foods we do/do not eat. Examples of this include labeling foods “good/bad”, “healthy/unhealthy”, “clean/junk”, or similar labels.

“NUTRITION MATTERS TO ME. But, you know what else matters to me? Not giving my kids a weird complex about food. I want to teach my kids that moderation is key and that even junk food has a place in our lives. Also I have a wicked sweet tooth and I want to have access to a million tiny Halloween Almond Joys.”  -Madison Mom, Let your kids eat halloween candy

Engaging in any conversation about restricting certain foods or labeling foods with any sort of value judgment—the same way we label children’s choices related to how to treat others, work ethic, etc.—sets kids up to feel a heavy burden when it comes to food.  They want to please the adults they admire—i.e. you—and therefore feel morally bad about wanting or preferring foods adults label as “bad” or “unhealthy.” The result? Children, now or in years to come, either consume the “bad” or “unhealthy” foods and feel poorly about themselves, or choose instead to diet, restrict, or engage in other unhealthy behaviors. For millions of kids, this is the start of eating disorders. In fact, dieting and restricting foods is the #1 predictor of a child going on to develop an eating disorder.

When we label foods, we create a false idea that there are certain foods that we should not eat, and we set ourselves and the kids in our lives up for failure. When kids hear these messages, they may enjoy a slice of birthday cake at a party or an ice cream cone after a tough soccer game and decide that they are “bad” for indulging. This can lead to disordered eating behaviors, such as severely restricting the foods they eat, or overindulging when they get the chance.

“I do not have any labels. I do not call foods “good foods”, “bad foods”, or “junk food”. None of the “all or none” labels…all things are okay in moderation. Even red dye number 40 or whatever else is in our foods, they all are ok in moderation. On the psychological side of it, it’s important that we have that mindset. It is not healthy to eat salads every day. It is not healthy to eat ice cream every day. Psychological health is being able to have all of it in moderation. And eating in a way that’s sustainable till you’re 90.” – Dr. Carlin Anderson, Ph.D, LP, CMPC

Eating disorders, often misunderstood or overlooked, are a serious health condition that will impact the lives of nearly 2.0 million children alive today who do not currently have an eating disorder but will develop one before adulthood. Eating disorder survivors and therapists can attest to the gut-wrenching harm diet-talk created. 

Dieting or restricting foods is the #1 predictor of a child going on to develop an eating disorder. But we can act. The time to diet talk for ourselves and the children in our lives is now.


Looking for more practical tips and information on how to focus on health and well-being with your kids? Check out our free Simple Guide for What to Say.

Download A Simple Guide for What to Say

Additional Resources on Diet Talk:

What to Say Coaches Challenge

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THE PLEDGE: I believe that words matter. I want to make a positive impact on the kids in my life by stopping harmful diet and weight talk. I am committed to making sure that every child gets a chance to develop healthy relationships with food and body.


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Shannon assists with the logistics of development and operations and making every day run as smoothly as possible. Her day-to-day focuses on our Recovery Support Program, budget management, events, and administrative support. She enjoys being part of the nonprofit world and finding ways to help enhance the organization. She has a heart for serving others and helping people succeed.

Shannon has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Health & Exercise Science from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from Walden University.

Outside of work, you can find Shannon chasing her two girls around, attending sporting events and finding the next brewery or winery to explore.

Lindsay leads our operations, programming, fundraising, and communications to better fulfill our mission. She enjoys engaging with our supporters and stakeholders to build stronger connections to our work. Outside the office, you can find her planning her next trip, exploring the Twin Cities, or reading her book club’s latest pick.

With ten years of experience in nonprofit and foundation administration, Lindsay is a creative project manager working to strengthen all our operations. She loves being a part of a team deeply dedicated to discovering innovative and effective strategies to end eating disorders and is excited to invite others into this important work. Efficient and collaborative, she executes activity across all operations, including fundraising, events, communications, and programming. Lindsay has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Northwestern, St. Paul, and a fundraising certificate from the University of St. Thomas. She and her family live in Richfield, MN.

As Executive Director, Lisa leads WithAll’s strategic growth as a sustainable social enterprise dedicated to the prevention of and healing from eating disorders.

Lisa has more than 20 years of experience in public affairs, community relations, and law, and nearly 15 years of experience in non-profit leadership, most recently at Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media. She is a graduate of Mitchell Hamline School of Law, a member of the Minnesota Bar, and a Minnesota Supreme Court appointee to Minnesota’s Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board. She volunteers with her daughter’s school and with youth sports.

Lisa does this work because she knows eating disorders are not a choice; they are deadly, and they are everywhere. She also knows kids are not born with harmful thoughts and actions around food or their body—and it’s our job as adults to keep it this way so they can focus their precious brains and time on things that matter.

Lisa finds laughter, all children, and the numerous variations of sparkling water to be delightful.