Have you been paying attention to the ads popping up in your social media feeds? This is the time of year when shame- and fear-based advertising skyrockets. Diet companies warn you about holiday weight gain. Gyms start advertising their New Year’s “Fix-It” programs. Basically, you’re being marketed the idea that you’re out of control, and just “too much”.
The holidays should be about joy and celebration and getting together with your loved ones. Suddenly, when you’re inundated with all this toxic messaging, your thoughts turn to restriction and exercise and OH GOD WHAT IF I GAIN WEIGHT BEFORE NEW YEARS!?
So what can we do? Sadly, this messaging isn’t going away any time soon – it’s just too lucrative for the diet industry. Thankfully, there are little things we can all do to help repair our broken relationship with food.
Seriously. The stress we feel from trying to eat perfectly is far more toxic than any food. Take some deep breaths, and remember your Ayurveda. According to this traditional Indian medical practice, we’re actually supposed to gain some weight during the winter months to help us cope with the cold. Our bodies are smart, and if we fight their natural wisdom, we’re setting ourselves up for a lot of problems.
Don’t Engage With Diet Talk
Talking about how “bad” you are for having that serving of dessert does nothing but shame you and anyone else around the table who may be enjoying their pie. The food you choose to consume doesn’t make you bad or good. Murder is a moral issue, not food.
If you’re at a table where you’re inundated with “it’s not a diet – it’s a lifestyle” or “I’m going to have to go for a long run tomorrow to make up for this!” or any other form of food shaming, try using this script from Rachel Cole:
Practice Mindful Eating
One of the best ways to improve your relationship with food is to practice mindful eating. Now, often people only pay attention to one component of eating mindfully – the physical part. Mindful eating doesn’t just encompass your hunger and fullness levels; it looks after your body’s wants as well as its needs.
Here’s what true mindful eating looks like at a holiday meal:
You fill your plate with all your favourite things: mashed potatoes, stuffing, and yams. You recognize that this arrangement of foods will satisfy your wants, but they’ll lead to a pretty intense crash if you don’t balance that blood sugar. So, you grab some veg for fibre, and some turkey for protein, some gravy (because everything’s better with gravy), and away you go!
As you work through your plate, you pay attention to how full you are. Maybe you leave a few bites of stuffing. Maybe you have room for another helping of potatoes.
Then, out comes dessert. Maybe you have room, maybe you’re full. Maybe you want dessert anyhow. That’s okay! One meal where you’re overfull doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things.
Now, here’s the kicker: because we’re so used to the all-or-nothing of diet culture, sometimes it’s hard to stop. You’ve trained yourself that dessert is something you can only have on special occasions, so you’d better EAT ALL THE DESSERT NOW!! Then, you tell yourself you have no control around food, and repeat the cycle over and over again.
What To Do Instead
Fixing your relationship with food takes time, and a lot of work. You can start now, by allowing yourself “forbidden” foods more often leading up to the holidays. Yes, you may still eat more of them than you want to while your body is learning to trust you again. But, over time, your body will learn that it doesn’t have to eat it ALL now, because there will be more available tomorrow. It’s not feast or famine – it’s just food.
And disconnect from the idea that you have to “earn” your food with exercise. As long as you’re categorizing things as bad and good, black and white, dirty and clean, your relationship with food will always be built around shame and guilt.
Keep challenging diet culture. Over time, you’ll forget you even have a bag of cookies in the back of your cupboard. (Trust me, I was as shocked to discover that as you are to hear it!) You’re not out of control, you’re not broken, you’re just a victim of manipulative marketing.
About The Author:
Kelly Boaz, CNP
Kelly is a holistic nutritionist, specializing in eating disorder recovery and food freedom. She is also a public speaker (TEDx King St. West, TDSB) and a writer. Learn more about Kelly, and about booking private consultations at kellyboaz.com Twitter: @kelly_boaz Facebook: /KellyBoazDotCom