Navigating Recovery in a Diet-Obsessed Society: Insights from Cole Kazdin

Have you ever felt like you have to be thin to be healthy, or hoped to lose weight as a side effect of eating disorder recovery? So did Cole Kazdin, until she embarked on a journey that shifted her perspective and healing further than she ever expected.

It’s only natural to hold out hope for weight loss while recovering and living in a diet and body obsessed society. This is one of many ways that diet culture impacts eating disorder recovery and holds you back.

Cole Kazdin is a prominent writer and Emmy award winning TV journalist. She recently authored What’s Eating Us: Women, Food, and the Epidemic of Body Anxiety, where her personal struggle with an eating disorder intertwines with her skills as a journalist to break down and expose the harms of diet culture, while sparking hope for recovery.

On a recent episode of Equipped to Recover on The Recovery Warrior Shows, Cole shared her more about her book and how it impacted her perspective on diet culture in eating disorder recovery.

Keep reading to discover three key highlights from her insightful conversation on navigating recovery in a society obsessed with dieting, and gain tools to thrive on your recovery journey.

Cole Kazdin’s Recovery Story

Cole Kazdin’s battle with her eating disorder was a decades-long struggle, fraught with denial and self-deception. It was the honesty and transparency of her now-husband that opened her eyes to her own condition and set her on the path to seek treatment and enter recovery.

Despite her optimism, the journey was studded with unexpected challenges, particularly with the impacts of diet culture along with the lack of a standard treatment that can guarantee complete recovery. Nonetheless, she moved forward in recovery making the most of the tools she had at hand.

Eventually, she reached an unexpected turning point with the discovery that food is not the enemy, but a crucial ally in maintaining mental health.

This revelation, which she stumbled upon while researching for her book, sparked a radical shift in her perspective and helped her challenge diet culture narratives.

Navigating Diet Culture in Recovery

The influence of diet culture can be a persistent obstacle when recovering from an eating disorder. Cole Kazdin’s insights hold critical importance as it shines a light on the pervasive impact of such societal pressures and provides tools to mitigate its effects.

By fully understanding the intersection of diet culture and the recovery journey, you can build a healthier relationship with body and self.

Here are the key highlights shared by Cole Kazdin on navigating diet culture in recovery:

  1. Nourish Yourself to Combat Diet Culture
  2. Take Recovery Into Your Own Hands
  3. Embrace a Feminist Approach to Challenge Diet Culture

1. Nourish Yourself to Combat Diet Culture

In our culturally diverse and technologically dynamic world, the influence of diet culture is inescapable. From strategically placed ads of diet fads on our social media feeds to fitness influencers promoting restrictive eating, we are constantly bombarded with messages pressuring us to conform to an ideal image of beauty and perfection.

The prevalence of these ideologies makes recovery from eating disorders a complex and challenging process. In order to effectively navigate through recovery, it’s imperative to shift focus from external influences to individual nourishment.

Cole Kazdin shared how she eventually found a sense of balance through the process of nourishing her body rather than succumbing to the demands of diet culture.

Being meticulous about planning her meals was initially synonymous with her disordered eating habits. However, setting a timer to eat every three to four hours slowly helped her reconnect with her body and its needs.

One of the biggest things for my recovery has been eating, because sometimes I still don’t get hungry.

This practice, although contrary to her previous behaviors, led her to a pivotal realization that food is essential for survival and vitality. By nurturing her own body through regular nourishment, Cole found that her anxiety levels considerably reduced.

Understanding the importance of nourishment is a vital takeaway for anyone in their recovery journey. Forget the rules that diet culture and your eating disorder tell you around restriction and food. Nourish yourself, and stay nourished consistently to keep a healthy mindset and brain on the recovery journey.

Eventually, nourishing your body becomes an empowering act of self-care rather than a grueling chore dictated by the disorder. It’s an act that ultimately fosters a healthier relationship with food and body image.

Hence, the process of nourishment, crucial as it is, serves as an essential tool in mitigating the pernicious effects of diet culture and subsequently, for progressing in recovery.

2. Take Recovery Into Your Own Hands

As we navigate the recovery landscape, it’s clear that no two journeys are the same. For meaningful progress to be made, your individual needs, strengths, and circumstances must be acknowledged.

This is especially true in the current state of treatment where there is no one standard of screening and care, and so many providers allow diet culture and weight loss to seep into their eating disorder care.

There are systems in place that make recovery seem impossible, and there’s so much bad treatment out there.

Understanding your needs and the limitations of the treatment landscape can help you pave the way for a more nuanced, empathetic, and ultimately successful recovery.

Cole shared some of the many ways that she made recovery work for her. For instance, she found strength within her community and engaging her loved ones in her process to create an environment of understanding and acceptance. She also suggests working to find providers in the anti-diet realm in order to get the best care.

So, why is the concept of taking recovery into your own hands so important? The answer lies in recognizing the deeply individual struggles faced by people going through recovery.

Every person has different triggers, ways of responding, support networks, and personal approaches to coping. And every person has different levels of access and interest in the different types of treatment options available.

Recognizing these differences and taking ownership of your healing makes you an active participant in the healing journey rather than a passive bystander to diet culture’s influence on the treatment landscape.

3. Embrace a Feminist Approach to Challenge Diet Culture

As we navigate the complex landscapes of recovery from eating disorders, one significant topic that often emerges is the concept of the feminist approach, specifically in challenging societal norms and diet culture.

At its core, diet culture exists as a web of beliefs valuing weight, shape, and size over individual health. It hails thinness as an embodiment of health, enforcing this idea by stigmatizing those who fall outside these expectations.

This is where feminism intervenes, liberating individuals from these rigid norms, while enabling the cultivation of personal identities outside the scope of societal binders. It pushes back against the grain of ingrained societal messages surrounding body image and fosters an environment where one’s worth isn’t determined by their outward appearance.

I dedicated my book to women because of my lived experience as a woman in diet culture

Cole Kazdin emphasizes the necessity to incorporate open conversations about food and body image within feminist discussions. Often, these issues remain overlooked, with focus shifting instead towards other equally pressing issues of maternal mortality, wage discrepancies, and health disparities.

Kazdin’s perspective underscores the dire need for information and empowerment to challenge societal norms, and the pervasive influence of the diet industry and weight-loss campaigns.

The concept of the feminist approach and challenging societal norms holds paramount importance in the context of diet culture and body image. It assists in debunking the myths propagated through diet culture.

It further urges society to shift its widespread perception, acknowledging that nourishing the body holds greater significance than altering it to fit within a specific frame. Such a shift is instrumental for a healthy society for all genders, and embracing all bodies.

Rise Above Diet Culture

While taking on eating disorder recovery in a society obsessed with weight loss is undoubtedly challenging, you CAN find healing.

Through nourishing your body, taking recovery into your own hand, and embracing a feminist approach to recovery, you can build a strong recovery in the midst of harmful diet culture messages.

Listen to Cole Kazdin’s episode on Equipped to Recover to hear more recovery insights, including more details on finding treatment that works, and new treatments emerging in the recovery landscape.

Click here to learn more about Equip.

Connect with Cole Kazdin and Equip

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