It’s the most wonderful time of the year! While there’s so much fun, festivity and food this time of year, nothing quite squashes the joy of the season like “diet culture.” If you are worried about how to handle holiday meals, talking about 2022 weight loss or worried someone might comment on your child’s size this season, you aren’t alone. Here are some easy ways to ditch diet culture and have healthier holidays! No shame this year, only praise!
First things first, let people eat, or not eat in peace. Do your best to not comment on other people’s plates or lack thereof. Some people are too anxious to eat in groups while others love to enjoy all the foods of the season, so let them, including kids. Instead of saying, “aren’t you going to finish that, or just three more bites,” trust that most people and kids know if they are still hungry. OR, instead of “Wow, you must be hungry!” when someone wants to fill their plate, why don’t you just ask them how they are. Praise and shame are two things that don’t need to be associated with food unless you are praising the cook!
Give people space. Some kids need a chance to leave the table, and some adults do too. If someone asks to be excused, let them go! Some of us need a break from conversation, and sometimes we just need to move. Holidays and really any days will go much smoother if we feel we have the freedom to do what we need. That may also mean allowing people to wear masks or choose to eat further spaced out than you are used to. Whether someone needs more room while they eat their meal, or just, in general, to feel safe, let them be. Plus, you never know when you might need a break and decide to walk the dog mid-dessert. In general, assume that most people are choosing what is best for them, so let them have the space to do so. Don’t shame people for taking care of their needs, we should praise people who are authentic to their own care.
Don’t talk about diets. Nothing is less interesting than hearing about who is going to restrict what in the new year. Not only is talking about dieting boring and in poor taste, but it also sets a precedent to those around you that you must always be restricting something from your diet. If you want to talk New Years, talk about how you want to feel. What you want to do. All those things are way more inspiring than hearing about how you aren’t going to eat a potato in 2022. Be mindful of the ears around you too! Talking about diets can trigger poor memories and certain behaviors. Let’s have a great time, without focusing on what you can, can’t, will or won’t eat in a few weeks. Don’t shame your body, weight, or size, ever! You are alive, give yourself, your body and all you are some praise!
Move or don’t. Exercise is something to be celebrated, but not everyone will want to come to your party. If you want to exercise, do it. That may mean that you go for a walk, leave for a class, or take a few minutes to do a quick yoga video. GREAT! Of course, you can welcome people to join you, but no pressure should be added. It’s not likely that your cousin Joe who hates running is suddenly going to fall in love with it because you want him to join you on your daily ritual. Let’s be respectful of people’s choices to move or not move this time of year. Some people may have waited all year for this little break, let them take it! So, a genuine invitation to join you is ok, but a no, is a no! There’s no shaming for moving or not, but there should always be praise for people setting boundaries.
Lastly, do your best to not berate yourself or others. If you didn’t work out today, don’t shame yourself for eating food. If you eat a bunch of yummy food, don’t give it a label as good or bad. Maybe you do feel sluggish from skipping your workout, that’s ok. But no one else should feel bad if they did too. If you ate a bunch of food, it doesn’t mean it’s good, bad or indifferent, it’s food! Let it be! You may think you are being self-deprecating, but you may also be hurting those around you. And if anyone decides they want to comment on you, your children or anyone’s bodies, shut it down. Bodies change, get over it. No shaming yourself over the basics of life, or anyone else’s either. Shaming is never a gift, but always a stealer of the holiday spirit! Instead, focus on praise for what you do have or were able to do. Praise people around you for who they are!
It’s the end of another year. A pretty weird one too! As you reflect on all this year was or wasn’t, try not to decide if it was good or bad based on your body. Reflect on how you felt, who you engaged with and what you remember enjoying. Life is about so much more than just what we look like. Instead of bringing the shame game into the holidays, let’s make it about praising all the days.