Advice by Kaela: How To Deal With Triggering Conversations At Work
By Kaela Scott
Q: I love my job and my coworkers are lovely people, but every non-work conversation is fixated on weight loss, dieting, fitness, and the latest health trends. I’m a 47-year-old woman who has worked hard to recover from a lifelong eating disorder, and these conversations are challenging for me to hear. What can I do to show them how toxic their obsession is, without having to tell everyone about my eating disorder?
A: This is a really great question and something I think many people of all different ages can relate to. It is a sad reality that food and body are always hot topics for conversation in the world we live in and that often these conversations aren’t particularly healthy or focused on genuine confidence and wellbeing. When going through recovery these conversations are bound to be triggering but I think the big thing to focus on when overhearing these discussions is your own anxiety and feelings.
It is natural to want to educate people on how destructive the diet and fitness industry can be and to want to show them the “healthier” way. The challenge is that it isn’t our job to correct people’s beliefs or to tell them how they need to live their lives.
It is natural to want to educate people on how destructive the diet and fitness industry can be and to want to show them the “healthier” way. This is especially true when someone has committed months or even years to focusing on recovery and has invested a lot of effort and commitment into having a healthy relationship with food and their body. The challenge is that it isn’t our job to correct people’s beliefs or to tell them how they need to live their lives. Instead, it is our job to learn how to remove ourselves and regulate when we feel triggered or angry by other people’s conversations or behaviors.
When we recover we so often believe and hope that our journey is done, that we will no longer have to focus so hard on regulating our anxiety and emotions around food, exercise, people and other triggers. Having worked so hard for this we can feel even more overwhelmed when something challenges our newfound strength. Even when recovered, some conversations can be hard to hear. While this is really difficult, it is also part of the world we live in and something we have to accept. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t try to have a positive influence on those we surround ourselves with, rather that we need to decide where to pick our battles. In our friendships, it can be normal to set boundaries around the types of conversations we find helpful vs. harmful because we spend a lot of our free time with these people and need to feel safe to feel close. With work colleagues, however, the nature of our relationship is professional and it isn’t our job to have everyone share the same beliefs or to limit conversation.
Our environment will often have lots of really healthy and inspiring people and things in it, but it will also have the opposite. We do not get to have control over others, only ourselves. So if you find yourself in the middle of a triggering conversation, choose to remove yourself and focus on what you can do to be okay. The more you learn to regulate, take care of and prioritize yourself, the easier you will find it to live a recovered life in an often unrecovered world.
Kaela Scott is a Registered Clinical Counsellor who specializes in Eating Disorders. She runs her own private practice and works with the Looking Glass Foundation in both their summer camp and their Hand In Hand Program. She has been passionate about working with eating disorders since freeing herself from her own struggle and realizing what it is like to be happy and well. When she isn’t working, you can find Kaela either cozying up with a cup of tea and her friends or up in the mountains going for a hike.