Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.
With the holidays approaching, it can be easy to become caught up in the diet culture messages that are prevalent this time of year. Regardless if you struggle with an eating disorder or not, these messages can bring on intense and overwhelming feelings of being “less than” or “not good enough.” The Holiday Season is meant to be bright, happy, and full of the best of relationships – a time when families, friends, and coworkers come together to share good will and good food. If it is also a stressful time for you, here are some strategies that may be helpful:
· Set boundaries around friends and loved ones.
If those around you are participating in weight loss or begin putting rules around their food choices, have a kind conversation with them about how you do or don’t want to be involved in their new choices. Redirecting the conversation and changing the topic, or planning activities with them that aren’t revolved around food, can be beneficial. If they ask you to participate in a New Year’s weight loss program, develop a catch phrase such as “thanks for thinking of me but I’m currently working on accepting my body and eating intuitively.” We are all on our own path through diet culture – we can respect others’ choices as well as protecting and honoring our own.
· See diet culture for what it really is.
Don’t let your dieting brain trick your authentic and healthy self into thinking diet culture is something that it’s not. Keep yourself educated on what the dangers of dieting are and recognize how it has or could disrupt your current life. If it seems overwhelming in trying to navigate diet culture while pursuing specific health goals, meet with a dietitian who is educated in Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size, and practices from a weight neutral approach.
· Let social media empower you.
If social media is something you participate in, let it build you up not tear you down. Social media is a powerful presence in our modern society. If your social media feeds are making you feel worse instead of better, beef up the positivity on your feed. Find an online community that supports self-love and body/weight acceptance.
· Participate in self-care and compassion.
Find new ways to take care of yourself that aren’t attached to changing anything externally. This allows you to take care of all areas of health including physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. Self-care looks different for everyone. Make a list of activities that interest you such as reading, walking outside, going to a yoga class, saying yes/no to plans, making an appointment with your therapist, etc. Make sure you have self-care items that are free and easily accessible at home, work, or school.
· Let your authentic self and values guide your health choices.
It’s time to celebrate the wonderful qualities that make you uniquely you. In order to take a stand against diet culture, we have to work on accepting and respecting ourselves. It requires living our core values so that we can experience life more authentically. For example, if family is an important value and you want to move your body more, find a way that can combine both. It might be bike rides with your kiddos or taking a stroll with your grandma. Break out of the tiny box that diet culture puts us in when it comes to reaching our personal health goals.
· Change your self-talk.
Use affirmations, intentions, mantras, and gratitude lists. Surround yourself in the affirmations or mantras that are important to you. Create collages, vision boards, or write yourself a little reminder on a sticky note: (I am grateful for my hands and the art they allow me to create … I am enough … I am worthy of happiness). When you challenge diet culture and embrace your individual and unique health, you are better able to celebrate all the things that truly make you who you are.
May your holiday season be filled with those you love, and an abundance of joy and laughter.
Center for Change
Adapted from the following articles by Danielle Basye, RD, LD: