Three Things to Remember about Body Image and the Holiday Season
We are in the midst of the holiday season in 2021 with Thanksgiving upon us and the December celebrations to come. Along with all of this comes the promise of creamy casseroles and plates of cookies, but also commentary about our bodies and the inevitable toll it takes on our body image . The memes start popping up on social media, not only about all things peppermint and pumpkin spice but also about diets and fitting into pants after all the holiday indulgences.
Between the memes on social media, the upsurge of weight loss related ads immediately following the holidays, and that distant relative we see once a year who inevitably makes some sort of body-related comment, the holiday season can be a really rough time for those of us struggling with body image issues.
Here are three things to remember this holiday season to help you feel better about yourself:
There is no morality to food
So often the language we use around foods is centered in a binary of good/bad, should/shouldn’t. We mention how we ate ‘junk’ or how we can’t believe how much ‘bad’ food we’ve eaten this week. We say we really ‘shouldn’t’ drink that cocoa. We talk about how we were ‘naughty’ and ate a cookie, or how we’re having a ‘cheat day’ and eating whatever we want.
Not only is this language moralizing food, but it is also moralizing our choices around food. It isn’t just that we view the foods as good or bad, but that we view ourselves as good or bad depending on what we choose to eat.
The thing is, food is just-food. There is no morality to it. Eating a second serving of scalloped potatoes as your holiday dinner doesn’t make you a bad person; it just makes you someone who likes scalloped potatoes. Eating that slice of your grandma’s famous pecan pie doesn’t make you sinful; it makes you someone enjoying a family tradition.
As you navigate this holiday season, try if you can to check the language you’re using when thinking about the foods you’re eating. If you’re wanting to delve into this deeper, check out books or websites about Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size.
You have the right to set boundaries
Tired of seeing the weight-related memes your great-aunt is posting on Facebook, or the self-deprecating comments that girl you went to summer camp with in 10th grade is making? You have the right to set boundaries and decide what is best for you and your mental health this holiday season (and always!). The ‘unfollow’ button can be a great tool for you. There is no reason for your digital world to be full of things that make you feel bad. In fact, following some body-positive folks can be helpful too, especially this time of year!
Just as you have the right to set boundaries in your online world, you have the right to set them in your face-to-face interaction as well. A simple statement like “Please don’t talk about your diet around me” or “I don’t like it when other people make comments about my body” can divert the conversation away from talk that makes you uncomfortable. It is helpful to decide in advance what your body and body image boundaries are, and how you will communicate those in conversation, as well as what you will do if the boundaries are not respected. Having a plan in advance can help you feel prepared and empowered if a situation arises where you need to set some boundaries!
Do Something That Makes You Feel Good About Yourself
When I’m anxious about a situation, often I’ll go into the bathroom and apply what I call my femme armor: make-up. For me, a smokey eye and the perfect shade of lipstick instantly makes me feel better about myself and more confident. It allows me to tackle whatever situation I’m heading into feeling much stronger.
What makes you feel good about yourself? Is it going for a 5-minute walk before heading into a social situation? Is it wearing a favorite dress or that amazing pair of boots? Is it indulging in a long bath with a mug of tea when your day is done? Is it self-massage with a favorite essential oil?
Spend some time considering what it is that makes you feel good in your body, and make sure to do those things this holiday season. Make yourself a priority and do what you can to make yourself feel extra special.