Navigating body image, self-esteem, and our relationship with food is a year-round struggle for many.
Now let’s add to the mix indulgent seasonal foods, special holiday treats, judgmental family members, and the pressure of looking good in holiday outfits. Even those who are generally confident begin to sweat at this equation.
Many activities during the holidays are food-centric combined with many already harping on about their coming resolutions; this time of year can be challenging. So if the idea of sharing holiday meals, spending time with family who might comment on your eating habits or your body makes you spiral, you aren’t alone.
Avoid Triggering Conversations
Food may be at the center of the holiday table, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the center of the conversation. Challenge yourself to skip talking about the food, especially calories, dietary restrictions, and macronutrient values.
If you must comment on the food, simply comment on how good it tastes or how thankful you are for the chef who worked so hard to prepare the meal. When other food-related items are discussed, sincere comments can transpire into a food-focused conversation. Conversations fixated on food can be very stressful for those who struggle with disordered eating or body image as they attempt to calculate calories or feel guilty about the food they are about to consume. If you feel a shift in the conversation, politely cut the topic short and switch to a different matter.
And while you’re at it— avoid body talk as well. Be it a new gym routine, a fitness class you recently tried, weight loss, weight gain, a new diet trend, body changes- no matter if it’s about you or others around you should be avoided. Even if you think you are giving a compliment, be mindful about your comments that let others know you are evaluating their body as it can be triggering. Specific comments can reinforce the idea that certain body sizes are prized above others and that any body changes will be noted. Some great compliments are “You look happy,” “You are radiant,” and “I love your energy.”
Ditch The Food Guilt
Unfortunately, we live in a very diet-obsessed culture that has labeled certain foods as “good” and “bad. This categorization of foods creates a moral value system where guilt and shame are felt when certain foods are consumed.
While food has a nutritional value, it does not have a moral value: food is food. It’s not good or bad, and a person is not right or wrong for eating it. Attaching your worth to what you consume is silly. You aren’t better when you avoid sugar, processed foods, or fats, and on the flip side, you aren’t worse if you choose to consume those things. During this time of year, food serves a cultural and celebratory purpose, be it a family recipe or a special treat for the holidays; many foods have more value than we may perceive. You can one hundred percent enjoy what you eat and savor every minute of it. So, instead of cutting out your favorite foods or “bad” foods during the holidays, eat what makes you happy with no strings attached.
Be Kind To Yourself
It’s okay not to be okay—the holidays can be stressful and overwhelming as it is. That’s why it’s more important than ever to practice self-compassion and self-care, especially if you know you are or might be in a stressful situation.
Having a few affirmations that make you feel empowered and calm about your body can be super helpful to recite when faced with difficult situations. Statements like: “I am grateful for my body and what it allows me to do,” or “Others’ opinions of my body do not affect me,” or “My worth is not tied to food.”
Holiday gatherings may still look different this year, but generally, the holidays are a time for us to get all dressed up for events and gatherings. For lots, all of our holiday outfits are only worn once a year and probably haven’t been worn since last year’s celebrations and may fit us differently than last year. This is normal; our bodies are meant to change and evolve for different stages of our lives. We aren’t meant to stay the same from year to year. Be gentle with yourself and understand, clothes are meant to fit us; we are not meant to fit the clothes. If you find that your “to-go” outfit doesn’t make you glow anymore, treat yourself to a new outfit that makes you feel comfortable and empowered as you are. You will look AMAZING no matter what!
Walk Away From Conversations That Don’t Serve You
It’s important to set boundaries and explain to others how they are hurting you by using specific words or statements. We must come to terms with the fact that we cannot change or influence those around us, but we do have the ability to change our surroundings. If someone says something hurtful—especially after you pointed out that their comments are unwelcome—pause, remind yourself that you don’t need to continue in this environment, and it’s okay for you to disengage.
You deserve to feel safe, and you are well within your right to leave a conversation or change the subject if someone decides to bring up topics that are harmful or make you uncomfortable in any way.
Shine Your Light All Holiday Season Long
At its core, the holiday season is about celebrating with the people you love—and that includes yourself. Body image and body positivity struggles during the holidays are real, but they don’t have to be the focal point of your holidays. You deserve to feel empowered, joyful, cared for, and loved throughout the holidays and all year long.