Withall Resource

What to Say Instead

If I Shouldn’t Talk About Diet and Weight, What Should I Say?

Avoiding diet and weight talk doesn’t have to be hard. The key is to focus on simple adjustments to create safe, positive conversations around food and body.

Below, you’ll see common phrases and alternative options for talking about food and body. For more swaps like this, download one of our many resources and we’ll email you monthly tips and tricks!

*If you’re worried about a kid in your life and their relationship with food or body, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. Early intervention is proven to reduce eating disorders and eating disorder severity.

Check out these resources for help.

"How many calories are in that?"


Instead of asking for calorie counts, if you don’t want a certain food, just say no. It’s ok to decline food that doesn’t fit with our preferences, we don’t have to get into the reasons why. By declining without explanation, we avoid placing unnecessary labels on food.

"You can have an ice cream treat but only after you finish your carrots."


While this may seem like a neutral statement that promotes nourishment, it actually positions certain foods as a treat instead of making them a part of a normal, balanced diet. Instead, you can say, “Ice cream comes at the end of the meal, so let’s eat what’s in front of us for now.”

"You shouldn’t eat that, it’s bad for you."


Sometimes kids want to eat ice cream all day. And, their desire for that isn’t bad! But, it’s important to help guide children when making food choices, so they can feel their best.

If you are struggling with how to help a child maintain a balanced diet because of picky eating, food insecurity, or any other reason, we recommend reaching out to a healthcare provider or support network. For quick options, check out The Feeding Doctor or The Ellyn Satter Institute.

"If you get all A’s on your report card, we’ll take you out for pizza."


When you set up food as a reward or punishment, it can undermine the healthy habits you want to instill in kids. It can also interfere with their natural ability to regulate their eating and it may teach them to eat when they aren’t hungry or to restrict when they aren’t full. This can lead to emotion-based food choices, self-punishment with food, and more.

Instead, use non-food motivators. Some examples of what to say are, “Great job working hard at school! I’m very proud of you. How do you want to celebrate?” Or, “I’m so proud of your work! Do you want to have a friend come over to celebrate this weekend?”

"I’m definitely going to have to work out if I eat this."


Exercise can be healthy, but the idea that you can “cancel out” certain foods with exercise is not only ineffective, but it can be a dangerous message to tell kids. Plus, it kills the joy of exercise/movement when we position it as a must-do chore. Instead, focus on finding balance and showing kids they can enjoy all foods, without shame or guilt. If you truly don’t want a certain food, you can say no. Or, you can say, “This food is so delicious. I would love a small serving.”

"You look great! Did you lose weight?"


Commenting specifically on someone’s weight, especially to or around a child can be very harmful. Unintentionally, you may be reinforcing very unhealthy behaviors that caused the weight loss. There are so many wonderful things about people. There’s no need to focus on using weight as an indicator of beauty, health, or anything else. Instead of commenting on how someone looks, comment on their character. You can say, “I love your energy!” or “You look so happy today!”

"I hate the way my stomach looks in this shirt."


Sometimes the best option is to say nothing. We all have days where we don’t feel like our best selves, and that’s okay! Instead of criticizing yourself, try giving yourself some extra love and self-care.

If your child says this, redirect the conversation away from your child. Try saying, “Ugh, clothing sizes are so inconsistent. I can exchange this fora new option.” Or, “That outfit doesn’t look very comfortable and our bodies are way too awesome to be uncomfortable. Let’s pick another outfit!”

"You look like you’re getting a little heavier. We should get you off that couch and start eating healthier so you can lose a few pounds."


If your concern is that the child is too sedentary, do not comment about weight or size. Focus on finding joyful activities that include movement.

If your concern is about your child’s health or weight, raise this concern with your child’s healthcare professional. If you do so, we strongly recommend you talk with the doctor privately, and ask that the doctor not talk with your child about their weight, BMI, or growth chart. Instead, request the conversation be focused on all-around health, not appearance. If your doctor recommends lifestyle changes, it is important that the child is not singled out as the one needing to make changes. Instead, incorporate the changes as part of your entire family’s health.

If the child isn’t yours, say nothing. Even seemingly harmless comments can have a lasting impact on a child’s life.

"Let’s exercise so we don’t gain weight."


At Withall, we are huge fans of finding movement and exercise that is joyful. Kids and teens have energy to burn! Sometimes, they can get into a state of inertia, so you may have to nudge them a bit by getting involved yourself and telling them, “We’re doing this now.” A quick Google search will give you tons of ideas to get kids moving.

While exercise and movement are healthy parts of life, connecting exercise with weight loss sends the wrong message to kids. It tells them that the only purpose of exercising is to maintain or lose weight. Instead, help kids develop a love of movement because it helps them nurture their bodies. Say, “Let’s play soccer, it’s so fun to get outside and move!” Or, “Do you want to go on a walk with me? We’ve been stuck inside all day and our bodies would appreciate some time to move around.”

What to Say Coaches Challenge

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Take The Pledge

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.


Coming Soon!

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.