Body Image During the Holidays

Before I dive into this article, I want to provide a disclaimer. I'll be discussing body image, diets, calorie counting, weight loss, and binge eating. I believe that all bodies are beautiful and support the body positivity movement. Everyone's body is different, and that is one of the best parts of being human. I will do my best to use language that includes diverse body types. If any of these topics are triggering, please take caution. 

Happy holidays! Whatever you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful holiday and winter break. Before I discuss body image during this festive season, I'll explain why I'm writing this article. 

I was morbidly obese from the ages of eight to nineteen. I spent eleven years of my life trapped in my mind and body. During Christmas break three years ago, I made the decision to seek a healthier and happier lifestyle. This included a diet, exercise, and working on my mental health. I can tell you losing over 75 pounds has been one hell of a ride! Being a binge eater was a form of self-harm, and sadly I also have restricted heavily in the past. Having experienced multiple forms of disordered eating and body dysmorphia, my mindset has changed about my body. 

The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year! I love the different types of traditions and cultures that surround us during the winter. However, the holidays can be so difficult for people with body image issues. Before COVID-19, I would look forward to seeing my friends and family; except for the times when I saw my reflection in a window. Feeling like I was eating too much or too little was never a fun occurrence. Having lived in a larger body, I am conscious of the amount of space I take up, emotionally and physically. 

I'll be presenting two scenarios that are more similar than people think. The sizes of these individuals' bodies are not provided because their size doesn't matter. The situations written below are things that have happened to me and most likely have happened to you.

Imagine you are with your family, and your dad has baked his famous peppermint cookies. You reach for one, and your cousin hits you with "Are you sure you want that?" First of all, that cousin needs to stay out of your business. In those moments, it's essential to reflect on what you want for yourself. Your body is a temple, and you are its guardian. If your dad only makes peppermint cookies once a year, then have them. Savor them and think about all the beautiful memories that are attached to them. Have it and move on with your life, because these celebrations only come once a year. 

Your aunt has made buffalo chicken dip, which is something you look forward to every Christmas. After saying hi to everyone, you get yourself some dip with celery sticks (fantastic choice, I love celery). Suddenly, your grandmother is trying to put things on your plate. You're not that hungry and really don't want a lot of food. Your mom and aunt are talking about how you never eat anything. These comments and actions are hurtful. You're eating to fuel your body, honoring your hunger, and don't need people talking about you. Respect yourself, and don't let people bully you into eating more or less than them. 

Regardless of size, being judged is a challenging experience. Going from obese to mid-sized has been a journey full of awkward moments. I love my body and am comfortable with telling people the forbidden, "no." If I don't want food, then I'm not going to eat. If I'm hungry and my ideal snack is two pieces of toffee and a pile of baby carrots, you better believe I'm going to eat that. I work with a therapist and a dietician. They are in my circle of support, which is full of people who value and respect me. Through them, I've realized that binge eating is just as dangerous as restricting. They have helped me see my health and body in a different light. This holiday season, try and find a support system that will help remind you how beautiful you are, inside and out. 

During this period, remember that your body is working to keep you healthy. It needs food, water, exercise, and moments of peace. If you take care of your body, it will take care of you. Bundle up and go for a jog, stretch in between holiday movies, and get some rest. I take moments of peace to workout (I'm a Peloton lover!) and work on my passion projects. Creating a more positive body image takes time and effort, but it's so worth it. I'm going to be on this journey for a while and would love it if you joined me. Seeing people love and heal their bodies always makes me smile. Don't let other people define you and enjoy those peppermint cookies (Or don't! Remember that it's your body).