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Food and Festivities

Updated: May 23

The holiday season is often associated with overindulgence, whether in food, alcohol, or consumerism. For many people, this time of year can trigger disordered eating and body image issues. But it doesn't have to be this way.

It is not just food which is the problem; it is people passing comment on your plate, labelling food as “bad”, or “naughty”, or “sinful”, or half-joking about how they will punish or restrict their body back into a socially acceptable shape in the new year.

When food is treated as a reward, we give it a moral weighting which only gets weaponised. Over the last 30 years, we've managed to re-label eating as gluttony and restriction as admirable.

It's an obsession which has driven most of us to feel that our bodies - our very own homes - are an enemy to be controlled. When 90 to 97% of people who lose weight through dieting regain it within two to five years, no wonder the billion-dollar diet industry wants to keep us moralising what we put in our mouths.

As Alissa Rumsey points out: “Weight-loss programs have more than a 90% failure rate, yet we continue to blame ourselves and our willpower rather than placing the blame where it really belongs: on the product (aka the diet) that doesn’t do what it’s advertised to do.

Not only do diets fail at making us thinner but they also make us unhealthier. Dieting and intentionally trying to lose weight lead to food and body preoccupation, overeating and bingeing, lower self-esteem, weight cycling, and disordered eating behaviours and eating disorders.”

If you’re trying to opt out of diet culture this Christmas, here are a few tips to help you navigate the season and stay true to yourself.

1. Set boundaries: It’s important to set boundaries with yourself and others regarding food and body talk. If someone tries to comment on your body or compare their weight loss to yours, you don’t have to engage in the conversation. Let them know you’re not interested in talking about bodies or weight loss and make this known on your terms. You could change the subject, quote facts or give a firm no. When someone decides to lay their opinions on your body, you are not obliged to try and respond from a place which centres them not feeling uncomfortable.

2. Try not to compare yourself to others. The holiday season can be a time of heightened comparison, as we see images of "perfect" families and gatherings on social media and advertising. But remember, these images are often staged (even on social media) and edited and don't reflect reality. What are things that bring you happiness, joy and ease this season? What does your body need? How can you prioritise the care of yourself over the image of others?

3. Practice self-care: Take time to practice self-care and do things that make you feel good about yourself. This could be anything from moving in a way that makes you smile, taking a hot bath or even just taking a few minutes to yourself away from the mayhem of social media.

4. Seek support if you need it. If you're struggling with disordered eating or body image issues, it's important to reach out for help. This could be talking to a therapist, joining a support group, or confiding in a trusted friend or family member. Remember, you don't have to face these challenges alone.

The important thing is to take care of yourself and focus on things that make you feel good.

Remember, you don't owe anyone an explanation or justification for your body or your choices.

By setting your own boundaries, focusing on self-love, and seeking support if you need it, you can enjoy the season – and your dinner - on your own terms with your own gorgeous, just as flawed as everyone else’s body.


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