What is a 'trigger'?: How to talk about ED & Body Image

There are so many news stories and tell all novels about body image/eating disorder related topics and after awhile one can feel a little overwhelmed! Especially when the stories aren’t told in a responsible way. It is so tempting to want to give every detail about what it feels to struggle with body image, but hold off, son ;)!!! At the same time, if you see an article or book that you feel sensationalizes the experience or is too specific in detail, it’s okay to hold off and not read it. As a body positive activist, I feel a duty to be careful about how I tell my story and to make sure not to 'trigger' others. 

"Triggering" in this context means hindering someone’s ability to take in a story/event, because they are harmed by certain material as a result of a past event/their own previous issues. When you 'trigger' someone, you bring up certain emotions and reactions in them, and take them to a place they don’t want to be- for example, further into their own body image issues. Here are two SUPA DUPA easy ways to tell if something could be a bit too triggering.
  1. Numbers- When an article keeps mentioning how much someone weighed before and after having an eating disorder, that is incredibly triggering. In our diet obsessed culture, we are so into seeing how much people weigh, but in this context it is especially triggering because it can glamorize anorexia and weight loss. The number in the article can start to become a goal weight for the person reading, instead of a warning of how sick and underweight one can be with an eating disorder. Just remember, you are more than a number!! Weight is just one unit of measurement, it doesn’t account for someone’s personality, their sense of humor or the way they like to wear awesome purple rompers during the summer ;)
  1. Details- When one is giving a personal account or experience, if one goes into too many details, it can sometimes glamorize or sensationalize. Especially when the story connects to others saying you looked way too hot to exist and at the same time you were starving yourself and sick. You don’t want to make the disorder sound too exotic and glam, or people will think it’s worth trying. Also, someone who is very sick may hear these personal accounts and get ideas from them to further their illness. This means no specifics about numbers, calories, what one did/didn't eat when they were ill, and nothing about specific self-harming activities engaged in while struggling with ED. Talking about body image and ED in a responsible way means keeping things general, focusing on a general sense of the journey, and always including a big heap of hope for recovery!
Here are some tips on how to avoid being triggered by body image related things!
  • Avoid reading fashion magazines that glamorize weight loss
  • Avoid reading 'tell all' novels by way too hip celebs about their eating disorders
  • Don’t read diet books that talk about weight loss as a primary goal with eating/weight loss cooking guides
  • Unfollow people on facebook or other social media sites that post about their own weight loss goals/how they need to lose weight. For some reason, this seems to be a popular thing on social media but can be super triggering and can make you feel like you should also have weight loss goals.

I know summer is right around the corner and there is a lot of body image pressure and triggers, but do remember to get outside, have fun and be you! 

And if you need support feel free to reach out to loved ones or the NEDA helpline (a fantastic free resource!): NEDA Help

Written By Catherine Weingarten


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