Christmas season is approaching fast. The “most wonderful time of the year” should be a time of joy, celebration and connection with your loved ones. Unfortunately, for many people it is also a period in which those nasty messages from diet culture become stronger and louder. Prepare yourself, as in addition to endless images of Santa having a blast with Rudolph, you will be bombarded with toxic messages, convincing you that your body is not OK, that you shouldn’t indulge, that you should “be good” and “be healthy”, and compensate with restriction or exercise for your “naughty” eating, that you should buy this protein shake or go on the latest cleanse… the list goes on and on. If you feel confused, you are not alone. Christmas is supposed to be fun and not run by the food police right? More often than not, Christmas festivities are centred around food, dinner parties with family and friends, potlucks, Christmas cookies, cakes, and chocolate! So how can we survive Christmas without getting lost in diet culture? Here are some great tips that will help you navigate this season. Just remember that you are more than OK!
- Embrace the Health at Every Size (HAES) mentality: In a nutshell, HAES is a weight neutral approach to health. HAES moves away from society’s obsession with thinness and weight, towards wellbeing for everyBODY. HAES recognises the holistic nature of health, therefore promotes practices that improve people’s physical, psychological, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs. Forget diet culture’s lie that there’s only one healthy body-type! In fact, research shows that the more healthy behaviours people engage with, the healthier they become… regardless of their size! All bodies deserve respect and to be taken care of! And even though nutrition plays an important role in our overall wellbeing, health is much more than what we eat. For instance, research demonstrates weight stigma to be much more harmful to our health than nutrition. So from now on and forever and ever… remember: it is actually good for your overall wellbeing to fully engage in the fun of Christmas!
- Recognise the dark side of diet culture: You know how characters in Star Wars who used the dark side drew their power from others’ emotions such as fear, jealousy, and anger? Well, diet culture does the same thing by making YOU feel unhappy with your appearance. This oppressive system of beliefs keeps telling you that in order to be happy, healthy and successful, you need to be thin. Be an anti-diet Jedi and train all your senses to recognise and reject all those toxic messages. Did you eat all that delicious cake? Good! Did you rest on boxing day instead of running around the block? Awesome! Oh, and that last wellness plan your friend told you about the other day? Man, it’s just another diet.
- Make your social media body positive: Do a summer clean and unfollow body/food shaming influencers, “health” coaches (AKA diet coaches), “before and after” hashtags, and “weight loss” gurus. Social media is flooded with “experts” giving unsolicited advice on how and what to eat. Instead follow people that inspire you. Look at bodies that look like yours! In diet culture we have been told the lie that there’s only one way to be OK. Follow social media accounts that embrace body diversity and that will help you break away from diet culture. And remember how to get a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body!
- Enjoy food: Food is a huge part of celebrations! Food brings people together. Allow yourself to enjoy the variety of tastes, smells, and textures on the Christmas table! Food is not just fuel, it nourishes us in so many other ways that only the physical aspect of it. So ditch the guilt around food and our bodies given to you by diet culture and all of those “influencers”, and enjoy that Christmas pudding all the way!
- New Year Resolution: Remember how amazing your body is! The human body is just amazing. Think about childbirth, breathing, dreaming, learning, growing, running, swimming, thinking, feeling and so on. It is so sad that instead of fiercely loving ourselves, we have internalised society’s message that the main value our body has, relates to the achievement of the thin ideal. Most women are unhappy with their appearance, and the weight loss industry knows that very very well. They profit from our insecurities and offer us endless empty promises of ways to change our bodies. As a result we have forgotten that our bodies are powerful, and instead we focus on how they look like. So here is an invitation as your new year resolution, reconnect with the power of your body, joyful movement, mindfulness, food, rest, music, friends, and whatever you choose to fully experience this incredible gift of being alive.