As a Registered Dietitian who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, part of my work with clients includes discussing the impact of diet culture on the development of disordered eating patterns and how to disengage from it to support recovery.
You may be wondering, what is “diet culture”? The term diet culture is used to describe our society’s belief that there is one acceptable way to have a body or to eat. Diet culture offers the false promise that if we achieve this impossible standard that we will be more loved and accepted.
Once you become aware of diet culture’s impact on our society it may feel overwhelming to realize just how invasive these beliefs are in all aspects of life. Recovery can feel as though you are swimming upstream in a society whose views about food and bodies are not conducive to healing your relationship with food. I have so much respect and admiration for my clients who are fighting their eating disorders everyday despite this.
Here are some ways to disengage from diet culture to support your eating disorder recovery:
Be mindful of social media consumption. Take stock of what you are consuming on social media. If you are seeing diet content, it may be time to do a social media cleanse and unfollow accounts. Instead, follow accounts that are non-diet aligned, show different kinds of bodies, and overall feel supportive of your definition of recovery. Sometimes it may make sense to take a break from social media or set time limits.
Create a diet culture free space. It is impossible to escape the messages of diet culture completely, so creating a space or community that feels free of diet culture may be helpful. This may be spending time working on a puzzle while listening to your favorite music. Or hanging out with a friend or support person that you trust won’t make negative comments about food or bodies.
Reach out for support. For some it may feel that they are the only ones trying to disengage from harmful diet culture messages in their lives. This can feel isolating. Finding someone to talk to and provide support around this can be helpful. This may be an eating disorder support group, your dietitian or therapist.
Notice and question the information. As I said before it is impossible to avoid diet culture. So, when you are confronted with negative food and body comments. It can be helpful to ask yourself: Does this information serve me, my values, or my recovery? Being able to notice and call out diet culture can be a helpful skill to strengthen your recovery.
Practice Self-Compassion. Recovery in this diet obsessed world is incredibly difficult and it makes sense why you would feel overwhelmed, angry, or anxious. Talking about these feelings with trusted supports or your treatment team can be an incredibly important part of recovery. You are not alone in this.
Shelby Santin is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. She has a private practice located in Northern Virginia and clients virtually through DC, Maryland, and Virginia.