There are many societal constraints in recovery. You’re dealing with constant allusions that morals are tied to food, weight, and exercise. How can we better insulate ourselves against these toxic diet culture messages?
This was a question Amanda, a listener from our community, wrote in to be answered on The Recovery Warrior Shows.
In our mission to help you learn from the best, we connected with Benjamin O’Keefe. He’s a social change activist and thought leader known for his transformative work in culture, politics, and entertainment. He also has lived experience with recovering from an eating disorder, and now sits on the board of Project Heal.
Ben believes that the best way to insulate against harmful messages around diet culture and eating disorders, is to not insulate yourself at all. Keep reading to learn why.
Toxic Diet Culture Messages
It can be overwhelming trying to navigate recovery when living in a society that praises dieting and intentional weight loss. It’s only natural that your first instinct is to shy away and protect yourself from these messages.
However, Ben has a different suggestion: expose yourself to diet culture. Take it all in.
This is something he practices, inspired by his experience living with and recovering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The gold standard treatment for OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).
Ben defines ERP as creating a safe space to take on things that cause anxiety, to begin to unpack and demystify them. Exposures also help you get used to triggers, to reduce the distress they cause in the long run.
Here’s what Ben recommends when it comes to exposing yourself to toxic diet culture messaging:
- Acknowledge the conditions around us in advertising, diet culture, and fatphobia.
- Don’t ignore them or fight against them, but check in with yourself instead.
- Examine how the messages make you feel, and juxtapose these messages against the truth you’re learning about toxic diet culture.
There is power in exposing yourself to and acknowledging the toxic messages in diet culture. Ben likens it to turning on the lights in a dark room, or seeing a scary clown but discovering a nice normal guy under the mask. Exposing yourself to diet culture and acknowledging the toxic messages can help you see that you don’t need to be afraid, and you can handle it.
We may never fully escape diet culture, but we can look at it from the outside and refuse to give it power.Benjamin O’Keefe
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