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Tip Day: Living in a world of diet talk

Posted Jan 12 2011 11:42pm
No, a diet isn't the same as an eating disorder, but there are quite a few overlaps.  The obsession with food, the good food/bad food dichotomy, the talk of weight and the losing of it.  When I was still new in recovery, I found this talk tremendously triggering.  Now, I find it insanely annoying but it doesn't trigger ED thoughts and behaviors.  Here are a few tips I learned for how to cope
1. Avoid the worst offenders.  I've had great conversations with co-workers, but I've also learned to avoid them in food situations.  Honestly?  I don't care how "bad" you were the other day.  In the name of expediency, I just avoid those people when we had our company lunchtime gatherings.  It might be that you can tolerate diet/body talk most of the time, except when you're feeling vulnerable.  So that might be the time to avoid such offenders.

2. Start a new conversation.  "So how 'bout them Yankees?" might be a bit of a cliche--not to mention super-obvious--but try talking about something besides food and weight if the conversation steers that way.  I like what I call micro-conversations in big groups, that conversation within a conversation.  Ask the person sitting next to you what they thought about something, if they caught the homework assignment, if they know of a good place to get their oil changed.  It's much more subtle than a big shift in the discussion, but it still serves the same purpose.

3. Try to educate.  I confess I don't use this tactic very much.  As open as I am on my blog, virtually none of my former classmates and co-workers knew of my eating disorder.  So getting on a big spiel about the diet/binge connection came too close to "outing" myself.  Not that I didn't disagree or raise a new piece of evidence, but I don't like being preachy.  That being said, every now and again someone says something that basically begs me to interject, and I sometimes do. 

4. Create a Diet-Free Zone.  At my old job, the space was pretty informal.  I had already called attention to myself by protesting the Big Fat Loser contest--the last thing I wanted was a confrontation.  That being said, I refused to engage in conversation about the virtues of diet foods and dieting people.  It was astounding how quickly the talk ceased around me.  I didn't engage, they didn't get their "props," and so they looked elsewhere.

5. Determine who's a lost cause.  Some people can't or won't be educated or shut up.  There's not much you can do about this fact.  They are what they are, and your job isn't to convert the world.  It's to preserve your sanity as much as possible during your recovery.  It's not your fault, and it says nothing about who you are.  Once you realize someone is a lost cause, don't waste any more time and energy on them.  If they ask your opinion, you should still feel free to give it, but otherwise, just let them talk.

6. Acknowledge the green-eyed monster.  Oh, jealousy.  It took me many years to realize that one of the things that most annoyed me when people talked about their diets was the fact that I was insanely jealous.  They got to lose weight.  They got the pats on the back, the feeling of accomplishment.  They got to obsess about food and exercise all the time.  And for them, it was all okay.  Totally sanctioned and encouraged.  Whereas any idle talk of wanting to lose weight that happened to come out of my mouth could practically have convened an emergency meeting of the UN.  It wasn't fair, and it drove me bonkers.  Totally crazy.  Realizing that I was jealous allowed me to put those feelings into context.  Of course I was jealous, just as I would imagine an alcoholic would be driven nuts by the advice to drink a glass of red wine every night, or conversations about getting totally wasted.  Letting myself be jealous and miss the eating disorder--while simultaneously commiting to recovery--was remendously empowering.

As always, if you have any tips to add to the list (or any suggestions for future tip days), please share them in the comments!
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