To explore Diet Culture Trauma, let me first explain a bit about diet culture and then trauma…
Belief System* + Diet Industry* = Diet Culture
bodies are unruly and not to be trusted…and we should spend our time and energy trying to control them
every plan, book, pill, shake, blog…and everyone creating, selling and profiting off diets/lifestyle/detoxes/cleanses
Examples of Diet Culture Harm (this is not an exhaustive list)
- Told repeatedly our body size is a problem
- Offered an ever-changing array of ways to fix the “problem” of our bodies that ultimately fail
- Lured into diet/lifestyles/cleanse/detoxes that lead to weight gain/regain, or disordered eating, or an eating disorder.
- Having our bodies celebrated when they get smaller and ignored or discriminated against when they get bigger
Trauma is any deeply distressing or disturbing experience. It can also can be defined as anything that is not fully worked through and continues to impact us from the inside out. Trauma is misunderstood by many. Certainly, culturally we openly agree a horrible car accident or child abuse is trauma. The fact is, trauma can also be a myriad of many other things and it really can manifest in our life as ANYTHING that did not get fully processed and continues to keep us stuck and in pain.
We also can’t move toward deeper healing from trauma when we are still in the middle of it.
Most of us have not processed that we live in a toxic diet culture and we continue to engage in it, even when it is hurting us all on some level.
Most of us have not processed all the times we have been told our body is wrong, too big, too small, bad, unworthy, not okay, a problem-to-be-solved and the list goes on… and the flip-side, diet culture can temporarily help shield us from the deeper wounds that are yet to be faced in our life. For some, disengaging from diet culture can be very difficult for these reasons, and finding support and resources before disengaging can be a wise choice.
The good news is we can choose to begin to challenge both diet culture and the harsh voices of others. To create our own boundaries of what is, and is not, acceptable in our own lives. We can also learn to turn inward and explore, accept and change our own internal harsh voices. We can start to move on with our lives without engaging in diet culture, step by step, moment by moment, choice by choice. To do so we must process and face what we have endured at the hands of an industry that wants us to be at war with our bodies, and our hungers. The diet industry banks on repeat customers and will continue to shape shift to get them. It is seductive and makes empty promises.
Dieting will never resolve the trauma it inflicts, or masks.
The diet industry is really brilliant, in an evil-genius kind of way, as it continues to flourish because it validates the secret shame-fueled (conscious or unconscious) beliefs many hold due to unresolved, unprocessed or enduring traumas.
Examples of Limiting Core Beliefs Fueled by Trauma (this is not an exhaustive list)
- There is something wrong with me
- I am bad
- I am not good enough
- If my body was different I would be safe/loved/well
This post brings up complex and painful realities. Seeing the harm done by diet culture can induce shame, anger, sadness and disgust. There is much here to continue to unpack and explore.
I offer a form of psychotherapy called EMDR that can help with addressing core beliefs and I am also offering Hungerwise™ 9-week group this fall that can help you start to step out of diet culture and begin the process of healing your relationship to food and your body, the relationship that diet culture doesn’t want you have.
Jennifer DiGennaro MA, LLPC, is a psychotherapist and couples counselor in private practice in Grand Rapids, MI. She is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, Certified Body Trust® Provider, Lead Hungerwise™ Facilitator and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, as well as the founder of Nourished Energy. She specializes in treating chronic dieting, binge eating disorder, body image concerns, trauma, PTSD, mood disorders and relationship issues. She brings a deep passion for social justice to her trauma-informed, evidence-based and heart-centered clinical work. She is committed to ending the war that is waged against bodies in our culture. Learn more at: www.nourishedenergy.com/