It’s Christmas! Yay, who doesn’t love an excess amount of sparkle, fairy lights and time off work. All good things. But among the merriment there can be a LOT of challenges for those of us on a body acceptance path.
How I see it, the festive season is a game of two halves – the first part of the month sees a desperate ‘ditch the last 10lbs’ in order to be worthy of the ‘Little Sparkly Dress’ (‘LSD’?). Diet culture tries to trap us with myths about changing our bodies just in time for the office party and/or other more terrifying events, where we might have to meet people who we haven’t seen for the last 12 months (e.g. ‘folks back home’).
The first phase of the season is last minute deprivation central. I heard a podcast recently where the women on it weren’t allowing themselves to eat a mince pie in December, until ‘they’d lost a stone’. *Sigh*.
However, as the festivities get into full swing, the season goes from ‘restriction’ to ‘feasting’. People abandon their food rules and exercise plans with gusto, while supermarket shelves creek under the weight of festive favourites. The population turns into an eating machine with no vol-au-vent or Quality Street safe from our supposed insatiable appetites. The reason? January and all it’s restrictions and (false) hopes loom on the horizon and so all deliciousness must be devoured before the dreaded 1st (where millions promise to themselves that they’ll never eat a cheese puff again).
It’s no wonder that anyone trying to ditch diet mentality and be more body positive might feel a bit wobbly at this time of year. The level of talk about ‘treats,’ ‘naughtiness’, ‘bad foods’ and ‘getting back on the wagon in January’ throughout Christmas is quite frankly, exhausting. That’s not to mention the stress of being put into situations with people who feel it’s their right to say something about your weight or what you’re eating.
But don’t worry, here are 10 tips to help you love your body over Christmas:
Stop giving food a moral value
When we state that food is good or bad, all it does it make us ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for eating it. How many times have you heard someone decline a piece of cake because ‘they’re being good today’. Christmas is a time for indulging. It is a winter feast. Enjoy the festivities and ‘play the long game’ when it comes to eating i.e. over the course of a year what you eat over 2 weeks will balance out. The reason Christmas can lead to binges is the idea that January is one long month of restriction. If you tell yourself that you’re allowed to eat these foods at any time of the year then you’ll be able to feel a LOT more chill around them. You are not a bad person for eating more at Christmas, you’re a normal human enjoying the festivities.
Throw away items of clothes that no longer fit
Bodies are meant to change. It’s only society (fuelled by the media) that says we’re not allowed to. Please don’t hang on to clothes that no longer fit as motivation to diet into them. Instead, give them to the charity shop and think no more about it. Wearing clothes that fit means you’ll look more comfortable and confident. It’s confidence that’s sexy, not a label size. And while we’re at it, don’t forget that clothing rules are nonsense. If it makes you feel good then hunny… wear it!
Have a family strategy
Staying sane around your family is tough. They know every trick under the sun to push your buttons. While for 99% of the rest of the year we can curate our own world, at Christmas it’s tricky. It’s easy for our calm demeanor to be out the window (or up the chimney) before you can say ‘Father Christmas’. The key is to make a game plan. Think ahead for emotional triggers that might come up and picture how you’d like to react if they come up. If it helps, you can think of any difficult characters as your greatest teachers of patience, grace or releasing the old crap that we hang on to from early experiences. Plan to remove yourself from the situation and go for a walk if things get heated. Make sure you take something with you to remind you of the person you are when you’re at home. Listen to music. Journal. Do anything to help you remember that this isn’t your full-time life.
Practice your one liners against food/body comments
No one has any right to say anything about what you’re eating or what your body looks like. But at those times when Uncle X or Auntie Y feel it’s alright to make a comment, it can feel like you want the world to swallow you up (I’ve been there babe). Overcome this horror show by prepping some strong replies and use them like a ‘BS protection cape’. No more scrambling for what to reply. Here are some suggestions:
Them: ‘Are you going to eat that?
Me: ‘Yes I am thank you!’
Them: ‘What about your health?’
Me: ‘You do you, I’ll do me, thanks Grandma’
Them: ‘I don’t eat sugar because I’ve heard it’s addictive.’
Me: ‘I realised that actually being overly restrictive and cutting out whole food groups was what made me feel much worse and act bananas around the sweet stuff. I tend to feel my best when I eat a variety of different foods including sugar.’
Them: ‘I’m trying this 5:2/paleo/SW/WW/detox cleanse’
Me: ‘I’m loving this new Intuitive Eating thing. It helps you tune in to your body’s natural hunger and satisfaction cues and gives me a healthier relationship with food. There’s no rules and I no longer have to feel guilty for eating’
Them: ‘I’m trying to ‘be good’ this Christmas’
Me: ‘Eating for me isn’t about moral value. I think about food across the year which means the next two weeks aren’t such a big deal and I can really enjoy the festive foods.’
Them: ‘Have you lost weight?/you look well’
Me: ‘I know that comment was well-meaning so thank you – but I would rather you complimented me on my <insert excellent party trick here> and not on my appearance. And I’ll agree to do the same’
Throw away your scales
This ‘step of shame’ is not your friend. Every time you use this piece of metal to judge yourself you’re putting all your worth on a number. Health is not best measured on the scale but holistically, so find better ways to measure how you feel. You are so much more than a digit! You are all your hopes, dreams, accomplishments and ambitions. Remember these. All that piece of metal does is measure the amount of gravity you have on this earth. Nothing else.
Happiness is not a dress size
It’s easy to think that if could just change our bodies to look a certain way then we’d be happy… and have the perfect life including perfect house, perfect partner and swinging from the ceiling sex life. This is one of diet cultures biggest lies to make us spend money on it’s products. Happiness comes from changing our minds, not our bodies. Start by being kinder to yourself. Ask yourself what would a friend say to you? If you’re always beating yourself up about your body then it doesn’t matter what size you are. You have to start cultivating a kinder way of seeing yourself and know that there’s no such thing as a perfect body. When we’re able to be kinder to ourselves, it’s easier to want to eat, sleep, move and foster good relationships that makes us feel good. When we feel we’re worth looking after then suddenly we make more positive decisions about how we want to live. It’s these things that create happiness. Not restriction and criticism.
Follow positive accounts (and unfollow those that make you feel like sh*t)
Think of your social media feed as a party, you only want to fill it with stuff that’s fun, positive and uplifting. Fill your social feeds with body positive bloggers, non-diet nutritionists and other awesome body acceptance accounts like @antidietriotclub. These will help give you strength when you’re feeling on your own. Ask yourself, is that #fitspo account really helping your mental health? If no, unfollow! And flood your feeds with other stuff that’s NOT ABOUT FOOD OR BODIES! Stuff like artists, poets, wildlife photographers, puppies and hilarious cat memes.
Realise that you’re not just your body
How do you know that you have a body? Weird question but think about it. Because you have an awareness, something beyond your physical being. You are a living, breathing, beautiful bundle of scientific magic! Your body is the least interesting thing about you in fact! Society has us so fixated on our aesthetics that it flattens our worth into what our ‘shells’ look like. Write down 10 things that have nothing to do with your body that you like about yourself. Are you a good friend? Do you play an instrument? Are you a good listener or teacher? Don’t get sucked in that what you look like matters more than your amazing qualities as a human.
Double down on self-care
This time of year is haaaaaaard. Yes it’s fun too but it’s also kinda hard on our mental health. We don’t eat, sleep, move or stay hydrated as well as the rest of the year. We’re bombarded with messages that we need to be merry, jolly and bright the whole time and we have to go places we might not want to go. Make sure you prioritise your needs. You know what your body needs to feel good. It’s not selfish to pencil in some ‘you time’. Remember, boundaries are sexy.
If an occasion comes up and you feel bad about your body or guilty for what you’re eating. Or you’re surrounded by people talking about what diet they’re going to embark on in the new year. Or someone body shames you or someone else in your presence. Ask yourself, why am I feeling like this? Why are they saying that? And the root cause will be the same. We live in a society that holds up a totally unrealistic beauty standard that is obsessed with thinness. Fatphobia is embedded into the fabric of society. And it’s that which needs to change, not your body. Being fat is not the worst thing that anyone could be in life. Growing older and your body changing is not something to be ashamed of. And it shouldn’t be your life’s greatest goal to be thin. If you’re going to make a resolution in 2020, then make it to rebel against the system and constructs of society that put these illogical and oppressive messages onto us – and eat the god damn roast potato.
You have the right to take up space, to eat what you want, wear what you want and love your body; whatever it looks like and however well or not-well it functions. Cheers to that.
Harri Rose is the author of You Are Enough: How to love the skin you’re in an embrace your awesomeness. Follow her on Instagram @harri_rose_