Last Christmas, I talked about things that you should avoid saying over the holidays, especially to people suffering or in recovery from an eating disorder/disordered eating. As awesome as it would be if everyone read similar advice and followed it, unfortunately, that’s not the case. With Easter fast approaching, there will be a lot of time spent with family, friends, and food, and people run the risk of feeling triggered or challenged when people comment on their body, appearance, or food choices. So today, I wanted to talk strategies of how to deal with this.
Eating disorders are tricky beasts, in the sense that they can take literally anything and turn it into an insult or a ‘fat’ comment. For example, is someone in recovery from an eating disorder is told that they “look so healthy!” the disordered mind can turn it into “you look healthy. Healthy = fat. God, you let yourself go.” Hell, eating disorders can even turn a comment like “your teeth are so white!” into “she commented on my teeth. Why did she comment on my teeth rather than comment on my weight? No one thinks I’m skinny anymore. I let myself go. I’m getting fat.”
See what I mean? It’s hard to avoid being triggered or challenged in these situations.
you’re in ED recovery, and someone tells you “you look healthy!” Your mind reads that as “you look fat!”
Try to see the comment for what it really is. You’ve been working at getting your health back, and someone noticed – that’s a great thing! Remember that healthy does not equal ‘fat’ or ‘letting yourself go’. Be proud of the progress you’ve made. But since this is triggering, smile, say “thank you” and redirect the conversation to something that has nothing to do with food, weight, or fitness.
You’re in ED recovery or trying to build a better relationship with food, and you decide to challenge yourself with a fear food. Someone comments: “I thought you didn’t eat that sort of thing!” BAM. Motivation to challenge yourself gone.
Tell the person “I’m eating it today!” and go through with your challenge. Clearly, this individual does not understand how hard it is to challenge yourself with a fear food if you have a restrictive mindset. Remember why you’re challenging yourself in the first place – you want a healthy, normal relationship with what you eat. If it helps, move to an area way from this person to complete your challenge.
Something I’ve noticed over the years – people are more interested in how other people eat/exercise/other people’s weights more when they are preoccupied with their own thoughts about food and body image battles. When I was deep in my ED, I would go grocery shopping and deeply scrutinize what everyone else was putting in their carts – both out of jealously and longing (I wanted to eat what they were eating). So If people are commenting on your food choices, chances are, they’re fighting their own battles with body image and similar issues. Try to keep that in mind – their comment is more about them than it is about you.
People around you are engaging in ‘fat talk’ or ‘diet talk’ – “I shouldn’t have eaten that!” “I’m going to gain three pounds today!” – that sort of thing. Of course, this is triggering because you’re challenging yourself today.
If they’re people you feel comfortable with (parents, close friends, etc), say something along the lines of “this conversation is making me uncomfortable, can we please change the subject?” If you don’t feel comfortable saying that, the best thing to do is just walk away. Honestly, that conversation can only hurt you, so it’s best to avoid it.
So there you go – some possible scenarios you may run into, and how you can react to them keeping your recovery efforts intact.
That’s it for me today – have a good one!
<— Any thoughts on these possible scenarios or strategies for dealing with them?