Tackling Diet Culture Through the Holidays

I hear from a lot of people that the holidays make them anxious, especially if they’re working through eating more mindfully and getting OUT of diet culture.⁠ Not everyone is on the same path, so it’s likely you’re going to be challenged and encounter the behaviors you’re working so hard to put past you.

There’s comments about our bodies or what’s on (or off) our plates, being pushed to eat more than you want, talking about food being “bad,” how you’ll have to “work it off” or punish yourself to make up for what you ate, etc.

It can be a lot to deal with mentally! I have a few tips for tackling this at the holidays:

  • You choose how you respond to things, whether you want to confront or let it go in one ear and out the other.⁠ Consider the source — is the person typically open to changing their views? Am I comfortable talking to them privately or in front of the family? If they are the argumentative type, is it worth making a scene? You may even choose to let it go in the moment, and have a conversation after the holiday. It’s up to you.
  • Diet talk from others doesn’t need to dictate what you do with your plate. ⁠ ⁠Eat what you want to, as much of it as you want to. With mindful eating, we do want to keep in mind our hunger and fullness cues (to make intentional decisions about how we want to feel), however it’s okay to not follow them sometimes. The point is continuing to notice them instead of ignoring them — it’s just like meditation when your mind wanders and you bring your attention back to your breath, the noticing is the practice.
  • Know that for some people, food is a love language, so declining another serving (especially in Italian families… “What, you don’t like my cooking???”) can feel like rejection. In response, understand and acknowledge where they’re coming from, cooking is an act of love for them, but also remind them that you’re a human in a different body. Try: “Thank you for making this, I’m really full now but I’d love to take some home if there are leftovers.”
  • You can refocus the conversation about food being “bad” for you, to the senses instead. If someone is talking about how unhealthy or bad a certain food is on the table, shift it: “But the pie smells incredible and tastes so rich!” Often, the foods we look forward to are the ones that give us guilt. Food is about satisfaction, not just fuel, so being present and having a sensory experience makes it more fulfilling.
  • You can shift the focus on body talk, too, to how healthy or comfortable you feel doing what you’re doing.⁠ ⁠Whether you’re told to eat more or less or get comments about having another slice of pie : “I’m actually feeling really healthy and comfortable and have lots of energy” or however great you’re feeling. You also don’t have to provide details unless you want to.
  • Remember every meal is a new opportunity to do what feels good to you in the moment. You don’t have to “earn” or “make up” for Thanksgiving.⁠ ⁠
  • That said… your fitness instructors may be stuck in diet culture. We’ve all been there and we know how hard it is to get out of that mentality, so while it’s important to have compassion and be kind, if they say things like the above, feel free to let them know it’s not appreciated.⁠

I hope this is helpful! If there’s anything else you’re struggling this week, feel free to share below.

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