When diet culture and your ED collide

I’ve written posts in the past about certain diet foods and how I *hate* them, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about WHY we do certain things we do in recovery.

I think a lot of people hold on to certain diet foods (halo top, fat free *insert anything here*, or low sugar options) because it’s a socially acceptable way to use a behavior.

That’s what is so dang tricky about eating disorders. Sometimes, they’re smarter than we are, meaning we don’t even realize that something is a behavior.

I used to do this thing where I would try to eat as few carbs as possible, because diet culture has successfully told so many of us that carbs are what we should avoid if we want to be *skinny.*

I see a lot of people on instagram preaching about how much they love halo top and how much they love their low fat yogurt. Listen, y’all, if you REALLY like the taste, be my guest, but I’m not stupid enough to really believe that that stuff tastes better than the normal version.

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 8.41.55 PM.png

You guys realize that this ice cream has all the same ingredients as regular ice cream, right? It’s just a socially acceptable binge because it’s low calorie. If you ate a regular serving of normal ice cream it would be the same exact amount of calories.

I think this type of *clean* eating is one of the last crutches many people with EDs have in recovery: if people know about your ED and you’re in recovery, you can’t get away with the more obvious behaviors. So what do our EDs convince us to do? Cut back in more subtle ways. It’s basically like the ED is saying “well, if you’re going to have to eat X, at least have the low fat, low sugar, low everything version.”

We get convinced that this half-assed version is safe and we cling to it like it’s the best thing we’ve ever eaten.

I’ve made it very clear that I’m not a fan of halo top. I think it’s a super gimmicky attempt by diet culture to convince us that eating a pint of ice cream is normal, and then they give us a low calorie attempt so you don’t feel as “guilty.”

Melissa Fabello has a great tweet thread about halo top that I will link here so y’all know what I mean.

When we deny our body of regular foods, we start to crave them more, and then we need a larger amount to satisfy our cravings. Ice cream was something I avoided in my ED, but now I try to keep it in the house so I can work on my relationship with it. I’ll have ice cream when I want it and I don’t feel guilty, because I know I can have it again tomorrow if I’m craving it.

The idea of eating a whole carton of something inherently sounds disordered, it’s basically an “approved by society” binge with the catch that “at least it’s low cal!!!!!”


But I digress. I’ve been seeing a lot of people posting things on instagram lately that lead me to question why they eat certain things. I see people post their meals every day and it’s the SAME THING.

And look, I know that people in this community are at different stages of recovery, and I understand that after 4 years of recovery, I’ve worked through a lot of these things that YES, I USED TO DO AS WELL.

But when I see people calling a fruit bowl dessert, I hurt for their soul because I know that they’d probably really enjoy a cookie or some chips or a nice slice of cake. (No hate on fruit, I just know I would get sick of that real quick).

I think it’s important that we question our intentions in recovery.

That being said, recovery is meant to be challenging. If we don’t challenge ourselves to let go of behaviors, we’ll be stuck in an endless cycle of pseudo-recovery. Are we really in recovery if we refuse to eat certain foods? Are we really in recovery if we still have lists of good and bad foods–even if they’re just in our brains?

The answer is not really. Yes, we may be improved from where we were before, but ideally, recovery should be the absence of all rules and all behaviors.

I know this might sounds terrifying and scary to some people, and if that’s the case, I urge you to take a look at your recovery. Do you still avoid certain foods? Do you still limit your amount of “sweets” in a day? Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 8.37.56 PM.png

Most people in my life know about my eating disorder and my recovery, so when I say something like that, they normally get the *not so subtle* hint that they’ve said something that might have bothered me. Luckily, I’m in a really good spot in my recovery and these things don’t really bother me (don’t get me wrong, they piss me off, but they’re not triggering anymore.)And I get it, this is a hard part of recovery because it’s so ingrained in our culture. Diet culture has told us all for years that certain foods are “good” and certain foods are “bad,” but in reality, those notions from diet culture fuel our EDs.

When diet culture collides right the heck into your ED, it can be an impossibly tricky situation to get out of. Eating disorders can easily convince you that your behavior is “normal” because other people do it, too.

A lot of people only eat halo top because it has less calories. If that’s not disordered, I don’t know what is! It’s the same thing with people who order salads because they’re “healthy.” Order a damn salad because your body is craving some veggies, not because you feel guilty if you eat a burger.

And listen, I’m not trying to call anyone out here. Everyone is at a different point in their recovery, and like I said, I’ve been there too. EDs can often convince us that we don’t like certain foods that we actually DO like because they’re “bad.” (Spoiler alert: these foods are not bad. They’re actually extremely delightful.)

The reality of the matter is that we live in a culture that is obsessed with body image and dieting. This can make recovery REEEAAALLLLLY hard. What I’ve found to be helpful, however, is realizing that other people struggle with this too. They might not have an ED, per se, but a lot of people struggle with some disordered thoughts and behaviors because of the messages that diet culture promotes.

It can be hard to work towards recovery when everyone around you is trying the newest and trendiest diet.

To me it seems clear that disordered eating is everywhere, and I think the key to staying the HECK away from it is recognizing it as disordered. When I hear someone make a disordered comment, I sometimes call it out.

I try to respond with something like: “If you’re craving dessert or if you are still hungry, you should eat! Your body will make sense of all the food you ate.”

How do you guys handle these diet culture comments? Do you have any sneaky ED behaviors that try to sneak in under the guise of “it’s normal?”

Let me know in the comments!!




2 thoughts on “When diet culture and your ED collide

  1. recoveryetc says:

    “When we deny our body of regular foods, we start to crave them more, and then we need a larger amount to satisfy our cravings.” Yes, this! I was talking to someone one day and said that I would never deny my children, if I had any, any sort of food. They said “what if they binge all the time and become obese?” I then had to explain that binging doesn’t occur when you allow your body to have what it wants and needs when it wants and need it. People really don’t get this and it’s a shame because that is what has helped me stop my binge-restrict cycle.


    • feedmerecovery says:

      Yessss! I feel the same way about raising children. They’re born with an innate knowledge of what they need and when, and diet culture strips them of that. I hope to raise children who are in touch with their bodies and who love all foods!

      Liked by 1 person

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