How do you cope with diet talk during the holidays and the holiday season? Is it possible to actually enjoy the holidays without focusing on food, weight and calories? Yes.
You probably have many fond memories of the holidays growing up. And at one point or another, you’ve probably heard or experienced diet culture trying to take the joyfulness of the holidays away from you. The holidays are supposed to be a time of togetherness, of gratefulness and of love and giving.
However, in our diet-obsessed world, we’ve somehow turned something so special into a stressful event. An event that revolves around thinking of ways to cut and save calories, to change traditional family recipes to “healthier,” and to burn as many calories as possible before eating. All of these reasons take us out of the present moment, and out of attunement with our body. If we’re basing food choices on calories, are we really reaching satisfaction?
If we’re only trying to burn calories, are we really reaping the other (mental, psychological, emotional) benefits of exercise?
5 Tips to Cope with Diet Talk During The Holidays
Dealing with diet talk over the holidays is something that has come up in many client sessions. So, I felt it would be helpful to write a post on it. And I hope you remember to have so much compassion for yourself during these times. Especially if you are working on repairing your relationship with food. Know that these diet culture messages aren’t directed towards you and they aren’t the path to health. I’ve come up with what some tips and ways for coping with diet talk during the holidays.
Be Kind and Compassionate
Towards yourself and towards others. But mostly towards yourself. It’s okay to acknowledge that the holidays are difficult. And it’s okay to seek extra support during these times. Whether that be from a dietitian, a therapist, or a friend/family member, make your bubble a positive one. Remind yourself that even though there are diet messages surrounding you, they don’t need to apply to you.
You are not a sponge – you do not have to digest everything you hear. Diet culture messages are one of those things that you want to let go in one ear and out the other.
Sometimes it can help to remind yourself that you aren’t alone. The food police tend to come out loud and strong with diet talk during the holidays. They come out in the media, in some family and friends, in advertisements and in random strangers who won’t hold back their opinions. Remember that diet culture is not the law, and there are plenty of anti-diet professionals out there.
It might of of help to create a little “anti-diet” “virtual” survival folder or box. Some things you can put in there: quotes or mantras that lift you up and remind you how awesome you are. Saved blog posts or articles that you’ve read (here are a bunch of anti-diet ones). Podcasts.
A letter to your future self. Find a “safe” person – someone you can trust and support who can remind you why diet culture is deceiving and why diet culture is not the friend to bring along to the party.
Think About Your Food Rules
Think about your food rules and try to distance yourself from them. You can do this verbally and through writing. Why are these rules in the first place? We aren’t born with food rules so it can be helpful to identify how they originated.
Once you know your food rules and have an idea how they originated, it’s easier to tackle challenging them. If we let go of our food rules, most of the time we can let go of any guilt surrounding food.
Remind Yourself That These Foods Are Available Anytime
Yes, the holidays are well known for their Christmas cookies, eggnog and pies, but maybe you need reminding that you can really have these foods at any time. You can still have Christmas cookies in the summer if you truly want them. Giving yourself permission to do so can help take away that “last supper effect,” or out of control feeling. Of course you would feel a little out of control around foods you think you can’t have again until next year. Our body doesn’t do well with any sort of deprivation mindset.
It may even help to repeat to yourself, “there’s nothing special about festive foods.” These “festive foods” are available all year round – we just see them in higher frequency during the holiday season. What is special is the memories created around them. Focus on those intangible things – how great it feels to take your grandma’s cookie recipe out of the oven.
Or, the laughs that come about from letting your kids do the mixing. Yes, food is special and nostalgic, but the focus on experience is bigger.
Challenge Yourself to Recreate Childhood Memories
What was it about the holidays that you remember as a child? What were some of your fond memories? Maybe it was setting cookies and milk out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Or helping mom cook a casserole and cinnamon buns for Christmas morning breakfast. Try to relive those. Why was it so special then? Can it still be special now? What can you currently look forward to?
Give Yourself Permission to Say No
Refer back to your holiday bill of rights. You have permission to say no. And that permission includes saying no to people, saying no to food, saying no to drinks, etc.
You have permission to change the subject if guests continue to talk about food, dieting or anything that makes you uncomfortable. I like to ask people their favorite tradition growing up, what gift they’re most excited about giving/getting, plans for new year’s, etc.
You also have permission to be blunt if that’s more of your personality. You can flat out tell someone, “I’d prefer not to talk about this anymore,” or ask more politely, “Can we talk about something else?” Furthermore, you can ask people not to make any comments about your food, your plate, your appearance, etc. This is all self-care, too! You are entitled to look out for yourself in any way, shape or form.
I know this blog post is a short order form of very complicated topics that sometimes take months to work through. But I hope they can equip you with some ammo if you’re feeling anxious about the upcoming holidays. Diet talk during the holidays does NOT have to be the norm and you do not have to accept it.
Please let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll try to address them in the comments!
What are you most EXCITED about for the holidays?
What’s your favorite holiday memory growing up?