Working on eating disorder recovery is difficult enough, with the constant stream of diet messages in our society. But the New Year and the entire month of January brings this to another level.
At the time of posting, we are well into January. This is a time of year where diet and exercise messages are at an all-time high. The diet and fitness industries take full advantage of the calendar change - a time when there is an increased pressure to set New Year’s resolutions and to “better yourself”. With the online and social media world, toxic dieting messages are more prevalent than ever! This can lead to significant challenges for individuals living with an eating disorder.
If you are working on eating disorder recovery, how can you manage the bombardment of diet-messages? Here are some thoughts to consider:
Remember: The diet and fitness industries are out to make money
Diet and fitness companies benefit from the increase in the “New Year, New You” messages. They contribute to the influx of these toxic messages out in the world. These companies take advantage at this time of year and increase advertising to make more money. Your health and wellbeing is not their priority.
Be prepared for diet- and exercise-talk
The “New Year, New You” messages impact many individuals. Even if you realize why these messages are so prevalent and harmful, many individuals around you may not… You may hear or see more diet-culture messages from those around you – at work, at school, at home, in your online networks, etc. With this awareness, you can prepare for more exposure to these harmful messages. It can also help if you consider what may be helpful if these conversations come up around you. Click on “Dealing with Diet-Talk”, below, for a few ideas.
"If you want to set resolutions... use your values as a guide."
Remember your values and your reasons for recovery
Consider your values in life and your reasons for recovery. What is important to you? How do you want to live your life? Do you have goals that you are working towards? The “New Year, New You” messages can get in the way of you living your values and focusing on your reasons for recovery. Try not to let these messages overshadow all of the things that are important to you, and the work you have done in your recovery journey so far. When challenging messages are “in your face”, try to remind yourself of how recovery is a part of living your values and reaching your goals.
If you want to make resolutions, focus on your values
New Year’s resolutions don’t have to revolve around diet-culture. If you want to set resolutions or make some changes, use your values as a guide. For example, if you value connection and family, a resolution could be to schedule a family night once or twice per month. With practice, and over time, shifting what resolutions look like to you (versus what you see and hear around you) can help to reframe this whole time of year for you.
Take time away from media
This is a great time of year to filter out certain media and change your perspective. This can help to ensure your safety in your eating disorder recovery. Remove any accounts that provide harmful nutrition or exercise messages. Consider which media outlets and social media accounts are helpful, and which ones are not. Unfollow or unsubscribe to anything that is unhelpful for your recovery.
Return to your nutrition and recovery plan
The overwhelm of messages around you can leave you feeling uncertain of what to do next, especially when living with an eating disorder. This can make it difficult to follow through with what you need for your recovery.
When my clients are feeling this way, I help them to return to their nutrition plan. We discuss what has ACTUALLY been helpful in their recovery and review that their nutrition is key to recovery. This also means revisiting other parts of their recovery plan, like setting boundaries or speaking to themselves with compassion. Returning to your plan can be a helpful way to "regroup" when you are feeling uncertain.
Ask for support
Remember that it is 100% OK to ask for help. Reach out to your support people, speak to your dietitian and your other care team members, return to your recovery plan. Do the things that help to bring you back on track if you feel that you are losing your way with your nutrition, or other areas of your recovery. Use the supports that help to stabilize you in your recovery.
What works for you?
The online world makes harmful messaging front-and-centre in our day-to-day lives. Many of these messages are for the profit of the diet and fitness industry. And yet, an eating disorder can hone in on the nutrition messages that swirl around this time of year. It can make it confusing, and challenging to follow the plan that is helpful for your recovery.
There are different ways to deal with these challenges, and move forward in recovery work. Speak to your supports and your care team to determine what strategies may best help you with the challenges of the “New Year, New You” messaging.
Dealing with Diet-Talk
Some find it helpful to brainstorm ideas of what you could do or say when diet-talk comes up. Below are a few examples.
Responses to diet-talk could look like this:
There are no “good foods” or “bad foods”. (Unless food actually went bad!) All foods fit and have a place.
The only time you should feel guilty about eating is if you stole the food…
It sounds like you enjoy your new workout, but I don’t think it’s a good fit for me.
You can choose to redirect the conversation, like this:
It sounds like you’re liking that new diet, but I’m wondering - how is your job going?
Sounds like you enjoy working out… Do you like to travel?
Have you read any good books lately? I’m reading... and it is fantastic!
You can also choose to not take part in the conversation.
This could range from remaining silent to leaving the room. It is 100% ok to turn your back and walk away from a conversation engaging in diet- or body-talk!
Disclaimer: Blog posts are for informational and educational purposes only. They are not considered individual nutrition counselling. Consult with your health care providers for individualized recommendations.