“Boundaries are not about telling someone else what they can or cannot do,” says Urban. “A boundary is not designed to control someone else. A boundary is designed to let other people know what actions we are going to take to keep ourselves safe and healthy.” For example, let’s say you’d like to set boundaries with family members around diet culture conversations. “The boundary in this situation is not to tell your family, ‘You can’t talk about your diets anymore,'” says Urban. Rather, frame the boundary around how you participate in those conversations and offer an actionable solution.
You could say, “Just so you know, it makes me really uncomfortable when we talk about the food that’s on our plate while we are eating. Can we not bring that subject of conversation up?” Or perhaps, “I’m not in a great place with my mental health when it comes to my body, so it would really be helpful for me if we chose not to talk about our bodies or our weight when we get together. Is that something you’re willing to do?”
If that person is unwilling to respect the boundary after that, then you may need to set stricter boundaries in place. For example, if a family member keeps talking about diet culture, you could say, “It seems like we just can’t eat together without this being a subject of conversation. So I’ll come by after dinner.” As Urban reminds us, “You’re always focused on the actions that you are going to take on behalf of yourself (and perhaps your younger children) to keep you safe and healthy.”