While this holiday season is inevitably going to look different from any other, one issue that many of us will still struggle with this year is the clash between holiday meals and diet culture and guilt. A season full of big dinners and a myriad of different desserts and sugary treats can sound like heaven – or it can be really mentally exhausting. The holiday season is especially difficult for people with eating disorders or those struggling to gain or lose weight. The added pressure of family members being around constantly can feel overwhelming, but there’s steps you can take to feel more comfortable and have fun.
The first thing you can do is set boundaries. This means having a conversation with family (or friends) you’re celebrating with and candidly speaking to them about what you feel comfortable and uncomfortable with. This might mean setting a simple policy of not discussing weight during the holiday season or talking to your family about menu adjustments to go with your diet and personal needs. If you choose to continue a specific diet during this time, you should stand up for yourself and what you need. There’s no shame in not wanting to eat heavy meals – the most important thing about the holidays is that you feel able to enjoy yourself.
Similarly, there’s no need to feel guilty about breaking your diet. Although diet culture pervades society, the unwavering truth is that your body is beautiful, and it’s completely okay to enjoy those seemingly “forbidden foods” during this time. Throughout the year, everywhere you go, someone’s trying to sign you up for a new fitness program or get you to try their miracle tea, especially on social media. You’re also likely to see hundreds of edited pictures of people with “dream bodies,” all of which can contribute to low self-esteem or self-confidence. During the holiday season, remember that it’s your holiday too, and you deserve a break away from diets and unrealistic expectations.
Another important practice is to promote healthy conversations about the holidays and eating habits for everyone. Comments that belittle how much or how little someone’s eating can trigger eating disorders, so be sensitive and understanding when talking about food during this time. No matter how close you are to a person, these kinds of comments are honestly never okay! If you find yourself in a situation where people are continually making these comments to you, it’s best to just get up from the dinner table and go to the bathroom or anywhere else you can take a moment for yourself.
The holidays can be tough, so take care of yourself with an established support system and escape plan. Stay in touch with friends and other people that make you feel happy and around whom you’re comfortable; if something happens, reach out to them for support. Remember, you can always excuse yourself to the bathroom if things get too rough for you. I also always think of a few ideas to change the conversation if discussion bleeds into an uncomfortable area. Taking steps to ensure your happiness will help you feel in control and make the holidays much more enjoyable.
Lastly, remember that you are beautiful. Remember to give your body and mental health some extra love during the holiday season this year. While it’s definitely going to be difficult not having all those whom we love around us, there are still so many steps we can take to have fun and stay happy. Don’t engage in diet guilt if you’re craving that holiday brownie or some extra mashed potatoes with your turkey this coming month.
There’s no shame in wanting to break or continue your diet because it’s your body; what you want to or don’t want to eat is your choice. Be realistic and easy on yourself, and stay safe and healthy this holiday season!