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Carrying Recovery into a Diet-Focused World

The transition from treatment to the outside world can be challenging.  Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Manhattan Primary Therapist Carrie Wasterlain, LMSW offers tips to manage the messages we are constantly inundated with when trying to stay focused on full recovery in part one of her series. 

It’s not news that our culture is saturated with diet-focused and perfectionistic messaging. But when you’re fresh out of eating disorder treatment, the overt nature of this reality can feel overwhelming. Perhaps you’ve just gotten out of residential, or maybe you’re walking home after an exhausting day of treatment. You’ve just dedicated the majority of your free time to eliminating cruel voices in your head, telling you you’re “not good enough,” “need to be thinner,” or to “eat less.” Then you walk outside, and are immediately bombarded by the same voices on billboards, magazine racks, and overheard conversations.

This can be one of the most frustrating parts of transitioning out of treatment – adapting from a supportive and safe “bubble” into the much more abrasive and often triggering “real-world.” And in the summer months, these messages only multiply. So what is one to do? How do you solidify your recovery in an environment in which it seems every external message is fighting against you?

A good place to start is to remind yourself that these messages are only as influential as you let them become. You’ve already done the hard work, now it’s time to put your healthy-self voice to use. Of course this is easier said than done, but the ideas below might give you the head-start you need.

  1. You’ve heard it before, but let’s revisit the fact that nearly every photo you see has been edited, changed, filtered, etc. These images are meant to catch your eye and convince you to buy products to “achieve” something these companies expect you to want. Part of you may still find them alluring, but remember that other part, that “soul-self” within you who would never tell their daughter or close friend to sacrifice their sanity to chase “perfection.” Your values are shifting, and you have more to offer yourself, and the world, than adherence to diet culture. So every time you are tempted to compare yourself to an image you see around you, set an intention to think of one positive quality, characteristic or skill you possess. This can interrupt the vicious cycle of comparisons, frustration, and ultimately, suffering.


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