Today I wanted to talk about the challenges of trying to recover in a disordered society. I want to explore how we can overcome triggers such as those imposed by diet culture, as well as touching on how we can resist the urge to compare ourselves to others.
Unfortunately, we live in a world whereby the message that “thin” bodies are the most desirable, valuable and healthy is imposed upon us by diet culture everyday. We have this thrown in our faces by the likes of weight loss products and their associated adverts, as well as by Instagram influencers and the fashion industry, despite the latter’s more recent attempts to become more inclusive. This is of course where the problem stems from, but personally I have found that through fully committing to recovery, I have been able to minimise my exposure to these things through filtering the media I consume to the best of my ability. Of course it is nearly impossible to hide away from it entirely, and we cannot learn to tolerate it through ignoring it. That said, when we are trying to heal we do not need to make it any harder than it already is by absorbing this toxic content.
There are many wonderful humans dedicating themselves to creating more body positive movements, and despite the controversy that some of these cause, I believe their value is immense. It is thanks to these that I have faith in one day learning to accept and maybe even love my body, but as I am not quite there yet, I will leave it up to them to populate this amazing corner of the internet.
Therefore, what I want to discuss is how due to diet culture being ingrained into so many of us, even recovering around those you love can be hard. By this I mean that almost everyone will have been affected by the messages it sends, be it that they view weight loss as a goal, or that they assign moral value to foods or believe they have to earn the right to eat through exercise. Consequently, I have personally found that just being around people can be triggering. This is because even if others are aware of your ED, it is almost second nature to comment on the above topics, and whilst I have found those who truly care to become more aware of it, I have also had to accept that it is not intentional if they slip up. I don’t think it is necessary to provide examples here, as I’m sure you can think of many of your own, but for the sake of clarity, I am referring to conversations about how much better such-a-body looks after trying intermittent fasting, or how so and so will be treating themselves to a beer or two tonight having earned it following their however many mile run.
In recovery, one of the strange things is that we are likely to come out the other end actually having a healthier relationship with our bodies, food and exercise than the average person. This is because through healing our relationships with our own, we are able to better see through the lies we are fed by diet culture. I think that knowing this can help us learn to deal with the triggers I mentioned above, as we can identify the beliefs held by others as being faulty, and through this actively choose not to subscribe to them. Of course it is not that straight forward, as especially when your ED voice is still strong, it will cling to them and even seek them out. Furthermore, our enhanced ability to spot the toxicity is only the first step, as we then have to challenge ignoring the temptation to follow it anyway, as well as battling the comparison issues that come with watching others engage with it.
So how do we do this?
I wish I had all the answers for you, but it is something that albeit in a much smaller way, I do still struggle with. Comparison has been a substantial problem I’ve had to work on throughout my recovery, as despite following the mantra “different bodies, different paths”, and reminding myself that what someone else eats or does does not impact me, the urge to believe otherwise has been strong at times. I have had to work to overcome the likes of basing my own hunger off that of others as well as the compulsion to always have to eat less or exercise more. Whilst these are issues that need tackling independently, they are enhanced by the disordered attitudes of society, and are harder to battle as a result. Purely through repetitive exposure to these triggering comments and behaviours though, I have become much better at implementing different coping mechanisms to let them wash over me. For example I am able to practice mindfulness such as engaging in breathing activities to help ground me to the present moment and prevent my thoughts from spiralling or allowing my ED to surface. Furthermore, alongside weight I have also gained perspective and so I am now more able than ever to see that what other people do does not impact me or my body.
In this post I have promoted rising above the triggers which I think is often crucial in order to prevent them from derailing your recovery. I do however feel that once doing so becomes instinctive and we no longer find ourselves affected by them, we should feel able to call people out on it. I don’t mean that we should do so in a confrontational manner (although I know that I have wanted to at times) but that we can, if we choose, take the opportunity to educate people as to why their beliefs are disordered. Personally I have found doing so to be beneficial, especially if the person triggering you is a loved one. This is because previously I would try my best in the moment not to react, but this would result in pent up anger that I would later take out on them but that I was unable to explain. Therefore, by educating those around me we have been able to minimise this conflict as well as helping them to support me. Besides this, I think it is good that we can use what we learn in recovery to help improve others' relationships with their own bodies, food and exercise.
Recovering in a disordered society is hard, but we cannot let it stop us.
I may in a later post go into more detail on how we can constructively start conversations on why certain ideas and behaviours can be dangerous and triggering if this is something you would be interested in? For the sake of not rambling though, I shall leave it here for today!
More from me soon,
Mais// the Recovery Bean <3