Coping 101: Upsetting Comments and Toxic Conversations

If I had a nickel for every comment I’ve received about my weight, size, and shape, I’d be a millionaire. Almost. And maybe even a billionaire, if we were to include past conversations about diets, weight loss, or perfect beach bodies (and how to get ‘em). And I’m only 25!

I wouldn’t mind the extra cash. But all of those toxic conversations and unhelpful comments? No thanks!

What’s wrong with a well-intentioned remark about, say, how we’ve put on weight, or about how Uncle Joey or Aunty Melissa have lost nearly thirty pounds on some new diet?In short: for some of us, these remarks are destabilizing and upsetting, complicating our efforts to recover.

This won’t change anytime soon. Disordered eating remains a taboo subject in our society. And as anyone who struggles or continues to struggle will confirm, not everyone recognizes the potentially triggering consequences of particular comments and conversation topics.

But in the meantime, if you’re looking to avoid future upsetting comments or to redirect a conversation toward a “safe” issue, here’s what’s worked for me:

1. Ask the individual to refrain, in the future, from making explicit comments about bodies, yours or anyone else’s. Don’t worry—you don’t need to explain why. And it doesn’t have to be awkward, especially if you throw them a nod and a smile and a “thanks, but if you don’t mind, I’d prefer for us not to talk about body weight” response. It’s neither aggressive nor passive-aggressive, just assertive, and the best way to go.

If preventing these comments and conversations isn’t an option, here are three ideas for how to cope with and endure them:

2. Recall your journey. Reflect on where you started and where you’re now at. This means thinking back to both the “dark” memories of your struggle—perhaps the mistakes you made or setbacks you experienced—but also to your successes and accomplishments, both big and small. We all have reasons to celebrate ourselves, so recall your journey when trying to cope with upsetting conversations.

3. Recall what you’re struggling for. Struggles with eating disorders are neither easy nor short-lived. They may span one year—or many. But one upsetting comment can be enough to reduce yours to a single moment, and sometimes the only way to cope is to recall the bigger picture, the ultimate goal you’re pursuing: a healthy, sustainable relationship between your body and your thoughts.

4. Think of those who love and support you. Behind every individual recovering from disordered eating is someone cheering them on. Sometimes these ‘supports’ are very visible in our daily lives. And sometimes our best allies are a little more tucked away in, say, recovery groups, or on the internet. But we all have allies. Always try to remember their advice and words of encouragement, especially during tough times.

These four strategies have been indispensable to my recovery. And they may be for yours, too, so give them a shot! After all, when it comes to neutralizing those triggers that lie outside our control, we all need all the help we can get!

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Posted in Coping, eating disorders, hope, lived experience, recovery, stigma, stigmatisation, vulnerability.

Posted on 26 Nov 2014, by BTC

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One comment to Coping 101: Upsetting Comments and Toxic Conversations

  1. Alison Hackney
    On Feb 16th 2015 at 15:25

    Last week I heard Dr Howard Steiger interviewed on Radio Canada. Thank you, Howard and everyone on the Eating Disorders recovery team: Mimi, Miriam, Dorita, Linda, Linda! I was so touched, again, by the compassion he expressed and which I encountered over and over again at the Douglas. I remember seeing Howard, Mimi and Dorita at the ANEB fundraiser. I made a donation to the Douglas foundation: I am inspired by all of you! what a great team. thank you all a million times. from ALISON