Becca Clegg, LPC, CEDS-S, joined us for an interview on her book, Ending the Diet Mindset: Reclaim a Healthy and Balanced Relationship with Food and Body Image. What follows are our questions in italics, and her thoughtful responses.
Your introduction to Ending the Diet Mindset: Reclaim a Healthy and Balanced Relationship with Food and Body Image starts with the Anaïs Nin quote, “Had I not created my whole world, I would have certainly died in other people’s.” Quite fitting for your book, your thoughts?
We live in a culture that has an incredibly toxic outlook on the food we eat, and how we view our bodies. This quote really spoke to me when I saw it, because it echoed the need to reject Diet Culture if you want to truly recover a balanced relationship with food and your body.
“Diet Culture” is defined as a set of beliefs that promote thinness and equate it to health, hierarchal status, and moral virtue. This culture we live in, “other people’s world”, promotes disordered eating and negative body image. In order to truly break free of these behaviors and thoughts, we really have to create our own set of beliefs and ideas about what food means to us and how we relate to our body.
In dissecting the Deprivation Mindset, you suggest a shift from fearing food to loving it. What is one step a person can take toward this shift?
In the book, I suggest that people make a “love list” of foods. We must begin to tell the brain there are foods we love to eat, thus sending the basic message that food is abundant and you are no longer at war with food.
What foods go on our love list?
They are foods you would buy your best friend or child if he/she was home sick and needed to be nurtured. They are foods you would make sure your child ate on a regular basis if you were responsible for feeding them. This is about giving yourself permission to eat, so try to just trust what feels right.
As you change your relationship with food over time, add to this list as you identify foods you feel really great about eating. It’s important these foods satisfy you as much as they nourish you. Bottom line is that in order to change our fear of food, we must begin to focus on what we like about food and allow ourselves to reconnect to the pleasure to be found in eating.
Can you please provide a few examples of self-talk that really are self-sabotage?
Because diet culture is pervasive and affects most of us, much of our self-talk is tainted by diet culture’s negative messages. When we hear the voice in our head that tells us what to eat, what not to eat, and how our worth is connected to our food intake, it is loaded with messages from diet culture.
Much of our self-talk is not the voice of our authentic self, but rather messages and beliefs we have unconsciously internalized. This leads us to sabotage our true connection to our inner wisdom because we learn to follow the messages our culture teaches us. We learn to rely on an external source of authority and disconnect from our inner wisdom and intuition. Trusting our toxic diet culture versus listening to our internal wisdom will always lead to behaviors that harm and sabotage.
Why do you like the metaphor of the labyrinth in eating disorder recovery?
The metaphor of the labyrinth is one of my favorite metaphors because it provides people with eating disorders a way of looking at recovery through the lens of compassion. It also acts as a road map for recovery itself.
The idea is that when you start your journey of change, you enter the labyrinth. The road has many twists and turns and is anything but linear. You might feel like you are starting back where you came from, and yet, you are still working your way to your goal, which is the center. In our case, the center is your authentic self – your soul, your spirit. You are journeying back home; back to the core of who you really are.
So, the lesson from the labyrinth is that you should not mistake a hairpin turn in your road for failure or distress. If you journey back around and see something similar to what you saw in the past, you can trust this is part of the necessary twisting and turning. As long as you are willing to commit to staying in the labyrinth (i.e. staying committed to showing up for yourself with awareness and the intention to keep trying), you will arrive at the center.
Please tell us a bit about the importance of acknowledging one’s “soul needs.”
Underneath the everyday, tangible needs we have (like food, clothing, and a roof over our head), we have deeper needs that can’t be seen, or touched, but are equally as important. These are what I call the “soul needs”.
It is my opinion that if we don’t meet the needs of the soul, we often confuse the deep hunger for them for physical hunger. We might use food to comfort ourselves and eat food in a compensatory manor. Conversely, we also might control our food intake as a way to grasp onto a modicum of control because we feel so lost in a world where our soul’s needs have been denied. We search for a sense of peace or happiness, and in this culture, we often fall prey to the belief that we can find this through obtaining worth based on weight or body image.
Soul needs, some of which are respect, autonomy, playtime, fun, connection, validation, love, affection, accomplishment, safety, and security, are always going to demand your attention. If we can learn to recognize our soul’s needs, this skill assists us from erroneously focusing on food in ways that are disordered and always a ‘red herring’.
You state, “Diets breed shame.” Please elaborate.
Most dieting is predicated around the idea that something about you is wrong and needs to be fixed. It is built on the “not good enough” belief – and depends on it to survive. This is a self-destructive mindset because it is built on the belief that we are not good enough as we are, which is the foundation of shame.
This explains how dieting is built on shame. That’s like building a home on an oozing, festering swamp filled with quick sand and sink holes. It is doomed from the start; due to the fact the foundation itself is not stable.
From the beginning, we are sucked into the shame cycle before we even realize what is going on. Our attitudes while dieting reek of “I’m not good enough as I am, so I better change my body so I can finally be ok”. It is a set-up for breeding deep seated shame.
Your chapters challenge 10 different “destructive diet mindsets.” How do these mindsets damage a person’s core?
The destructive diet mindsets harm us because they are established on belief systems that tell us our worth is based on our weight and body size. What happens when we seek worth in diets, is they inevitably fail us, as diets do not work. We seek diet after diet believing that the failure is our fault instead of the diets, and we are left with damaged self-esteem, fear of failure, and a disheartened attitude towards making intuitive and life affirming changes with our relationship with food and movement. Perhaps the most insidious fall out of dieting is the total sense of disconnection with our bodies and our internal authority with regard to our own self-care.
About the author:
Becca Clegg, LPC, CEDS-S, is an author, speaker and therapist specializing in the treatment of women in recovery from eating disorders & body image issues. Becca speaks nationally, educating families, clients and clinicians on the treatment of eating disorders and body image issues. In 2017, she published Ending The Diet Mindset: Reclaim a Healthy and Balanced Relationship with Food and Body Image, and has been a contributing writer for The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals, NBC, Euro News, Recovery Warriors, and her own personal blog found at Rebeccaclegg.com. Her private therapy practice is located in Atlanta, GA.