Diet culture is everywhere, and sometimes it’s right in front of our faces.
Dealing with a friend or family member who buys into diet culture can be extremely triggering for people in recovery from eating disorders. Sometimes, it’s not even friends or family, it’s strangers you hear at the grocery store, commercials you see on TV, or magazines in a waiting room.
If you’re like me, it can be hard to ignore these messages that are LITERALLY thrown in our faces. However, the older I get and the more firm I get in my own identity as a woman, it’s a lot easier for me to see how twisted and unhelpful these messages are.
In a way, I think our society is brainwashed. We believe “skinny” is healthy, we think that nobody should have cellulite, and we praise women for eating small amounts. This should raise alarm bells in your head as *huge* disordered eating habits!
I’d love to further investigate the ways these messages are perpetuated, born, and enabled in our society, but unfortunately, that would take YEARS of research and a lot more brain power than I have after an 8 hour day of grad school.
What I can say more about, though, is this: diet culture is extremely harmful to those in recovery. Diet culture hurts everyone, but navigating recovery in diet culture can feel like swimming upstream. People make food comments, weight comments, and body image comments all the time and are blatantly unaware of who they could be triggering.
I’m not saying it’s everyone else’s job to know who they’re triggering, but I *am* pointing out how rampant these ideas/topics are in our culture.
I try to live my life pretty simply: eat what I want, when I want it, and be mindful of fullness/hunger cues. Trust me, this doesn’t mean I’m immune from these crazy ideas about bodies and how they’re supposed to look, but trusting my body to ask for what it needs has freed up a whole section of my brain; one that can think about friends, my career, painting, music, and nature, not calories.
What can be the worst of this whole mess of media messages is navigating diet culture when you’re in recovery. Sometimes you might hear a person make a comment about food right when you’re about to eat lunch and it can set off a whole slew of disordered thoughts. Working hard to ignore those thoughts and continue on with your day (and your meal plan) is difficult but necessary.
So let me be clear when I say this: it’s okay to set limit with people who seem to engage in “dieting” behaviors. I’ve had to say to people countless times “I reeaaaalllllly don’t want to talk about your paleo diet, Natalie,” or even “why does it matter that you’ve lost x pounds, Lisa?”
Most times, when you say things like this to people, they look mildly alarmed and then a look of confusion spreads over their face as they realize it DOESN’T matter that they may have lost x pounds.
While it may be impossible to totally avoid diet culture and live a life free from any strange views about food and your body, it IS possible to live a life where you set healthy boundaries with people/places/things that trigger you.
As for me, I don’t want to hear about your gluten-free cauliflower crust pizza.