Diet Culture During the Holiday Season
The holidays are a time to spend with loved ones, get a small break from work, and reflect on the remainder of the year. However, for many it can be a stressful time- especially for those who struggle with body image or disordered eating.
What is Diet Culture?
According to NPR, diet culture is a collective set of social expectations that tell people there is one way to be, one way to look, and one way to eat. Diet culture says we’re more “worthy” if our body looks a certain way and encourages us to make sometimes drastic and unhealthy changes to attempt to do so.
During the holidays it can be easy to be caught up with diet culture messages that are even more present this time of year. It can look like people talking about going on a diet starting next week, having a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, feeling guilty after eating a meal, comparing yourself to what you see on social media, or seeing food as good vs bad. So how do we stand against a phenomenon that has been so prevalent in the past decade?
Here are some steps that can be helpful during this time of year in standing against diet culture.
- Find mindfulness: Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings when someone engages in diet talk. Notice how it makes you feel. Does it make you uncomfortable? Sad? Angry? Remember that those feelings are all valid. If these feelings become overwhelming, find a quiet place to take a few deep breaths.
- Set boundaries: If people around you are engaging in weight loss talk, or diet talk- have a gentle conversation about not wanting to be included in that kind of discussion. If someone makes a comment about your weight or your food, it is your right to tell that person that those kinds of comments are not welcome and/or step away from the conversation.
- Trust in your body: Intuitive eating is about noticing, following, and respecting your body’s natural wisdom. Trust your body to make choices that feel good to you. Notice your body’s cues that tell you when you are hungry and when you are full. If you notice past under/over eating, be kind and forgiving. Move forward the next day without “making up” for past eating behaviors.
- Be kind to yourself: When we are surrounded by diet culture it becomes very easy to get entangled in a world where we are harsh on ourselves and on our bodies. Pay attention to your self-talk, remind yourself that you are worthy of taking up space, you are worthy of happiness, and you are enough.
- Seek out support: Sometimes we need help in the battle against diet culture. This may look like reaching out to friends who understand, attending a support group, or speaking to a therapist. A mental health professional can help you build skills to respond to these messages and challenge negative thoughts you have about your body.
This season, if you catch yourself debating whether you want a second plate, practice intuitive eating and allow yourself to enjoy your favorite holiday foods in a way that makes you happy. Advocate for yourself and all your food decisions. Remember that no one else is the expert on you and what you need.
May your holidays be filled with loved ones and an abundance of laughter, joy, and delicious food!