I don't know what to do about a friend of mine who keeps using their social media to sell diet products. First it was weight loss shakes, then it was waist trainers, now it's food subscription boxes. As someone who previously struggled with eating disorders and now sees how harmful diet culture is, I get so angry when I see the posts, but I also don't want to lose a friend. What should I do?
I recently saw a tweet by Adam J. Kurtz that went like this:
in 2019 it is OK to mute a friend whose social posts are slowly making
you like them less... let's preserve relationships that we care about
and accept that some people are performing for audiences that aren't
us and it's part of their job but we don't need to visit them at work
Whew, tweets are long nowadays. I think in this case, if you really do care about keeping the friendship alive then muting the person's posts is a viable option. The thing is, this person isn't just posting too many Spongebob memes or performing online in a bit of an inauthentic way. They're doing something that you morally object to on a deeply personal level.
And of course you're right to object! Selling shit online that requires the manipulation of people's insecurities to make a sale is diet culture 101! And it hurts to accept that someone you care about is knowingly participating in that.
So I guess the first thing you need to ask is: are they doing it knowingly? Do they realise that the products they're selling contribute to a culture of body hatred and dangerous crash diet regimes? Or do they really think it's harmless?
If they don't know (and if it won't harm you to do so), maybe step one is starting some non-judgemental conversations with them about diet culture and body positivity. And it's possible to have those talks in a way that's feels like you're both exploring the topic together, rather than you giving a lecture. Some starting points could be:
“Have you ever thought that it would be better if we could embrace our bodies and not feel like we always have to change? Imagine how different our lives would have been without all the messages that our bodies are wrong...”
“I've been following some people online lately who talk about body positivity and they've really made me think about all this time we spend at war with our bodies and food, do you ever feel like the pressure to look a certain way is just too much?”
“Have you ever wondered why we spend so much time obsessing over our bodies when we're so much more than how we look?”
If you need a springboard for these topics then why not suggest a movie night? Then instead of another Hollywood rom-com set in a world where fat people apparently don't exist, put on a documentary like Embrace or Fatitude, or for some less obvious indoctrination try Dumplin', or a few episodes of Dietland.
Hopefully you can plant some seeds that get them thinking about what they're selling, and if they bring it up you can let them know that you understand how hard it is to make a living and you're not trying to shame them for that, but maybe there are other options that cause less harm? You know your friend better than I do, so maybe you can go into that conversation with some alternative ideas based on their passions, interests and strengths.
If the seeds don't plant, it's time to get serious about how much you value the friendship. Personally? If someone I considered to be a friend continued to knowingly participate in something that nearly destroyed me (and wrecks countless people's mental wellbeing every day), I would have to call time on that relationship. Sometimes we just grow into people with different values, and that's painful as hell to accept, but doesn't mean you can't still be thankful for the part they played in your life.
Oh and if this person is literally someone you met once at a friend's cousin's llama-themed birthday party and never spoke to again then I'm grateful you read this far but for real it's time to get more ruthless with that unfriend button. You don't owe anyone access to you on social media. Even if they did compliment your llama costume one time.
Love & bopo,
P.S. If you like this column and want more advice like this, I wrote a whole book of it! You can find Body Positive Power here.