Holidays are supposed to be a time for joy and coming together with loved ones to celebrate. But for anyone who is healing their relationship with food, learning to eat intuitively, and letting go of Diet Culture, holidays can be downright stressful.
Every year I see"health"bloggers and websites share tips on how to ward off temptations, control portions, and replace foods to have a"healthy"thanksgiving. I see gyms advertise their special classes to"earn"your pie or burn off the turkey. And I hear stories from countless people about body-shaming relatives and passive-aggressive judgements about food choices.(Doyou really want that second piece of pie?)
Basically, holidays like Thanksgiving are full of triggers that can lead us to feel ashamed of our bodies, guilty about our food and exercise choices, and nervous about being watched and judged. I know that for many of my friends and clients, these feelings can be so intense it doesn't leave any room for joy, love or celebration.
But these feelings are based in fatphobia and Diet Culture, and, in my opinion, have no place at the table. This year, instead of letting our culture's obsession with dieting take over our Thanksgiving experiences, let's LET THAT SHIT GO, say a big FUCK YOU to Diet Culture, and let ourselves fully experience and enjoy every moment and every bite.
Here's how you can do it:
1.) Give Yourself Some Perspective
It is is easy to become consumed by body-negative, food-shaming thoughts because Diet Culture is all around us. But remember, Diet Culture is a liar. And that voice in your head that tells you that you need to diet, that you need to fear weight gain, that you need to eat perfectly and have a perfect body in order to be loved, respected, and happy? Yeah, that voice is a liar too.
The truth is, there is no such thing a"good"or"bad"food. The choices you make with food have nothing to do with who you are or how worthy you are. Neither does the weight, size, or shape of your body. And even if those things DID matter at all, that doesn't change the scientific fact that a single meal, or even a couple days of eating"toomuch" or"unhealthy"food cannot actually make any significant changes to your health or body composition. Just like eating a salad can't cure disease or make you automatically drop 20 pounds, eating one plate of mashed potatoes and gravy can't cause heart disease or make you gain weight.
Remind yourself that there is more to LIFE, HEALTH, and WHO YOU ARE than what you eat or what you look like. Remind yourself that enjoying food, spending time with loved ones, and taking time to rest is GOOD FOR YOU just like vegetables and workouts are. And remind yourself that whatever you eat and however much of it, it is just one meal - it cannot hurt you.
2.) Set Important Boundaries
If you are expecting diet talk, body shaming, or other inappropriate comments at the dinner table this year, it's time to put on your big kid pants and set some boundaries ahead of time. Your Aunt Sally who always comments on your weight? Give her a call or send her an email beforehand to let her know(politely)that it hurts your feelings and you aren't having any of that shit. Your cousin who just started eating keto? Make it clear(respectfully)that he can do and eat whatever he wants, but you don't want to hear about it. Did your mom just make an unfunny joke about her love handles and then give your plate the stink eye? Pull her aside and tell her(lovingly)that it makes you sad when she talks about herself that way and you just want to be able to enjoy your meal in peace without making it about bodies or weight loss.
Hopefully, if you are eating with good people who love and respect you, they will honor your boundaries and save the diet talk for when you aren't there. It may feel awkward or scary or uncomfortable, but setting firm boundaries about what kind of talk you are willing and unwilling to tolerate will make the whole experience more positive for you, and probably everyone else as well.
3.) Reclaim Your Experience with Food
Eat your food with gusto. Take in all of the flavors and aromas and textures. Enjoy every god. damn. bite. Revel in the comfort and joy it brings to eat good food with people you love. Diet Culture demonizes pleasure; it makes us believe that if a food tastes good, it must be bad for us. And if we are going to eat it, we must repent by feeling guilty the whole time and not *really* tasting or enjoying anything. This is total crap. It is perfectly healthy to eat things you like and find joy in eating them! And in fact, resisting enjoyment while eating is actually a form of restriction and that could contribute to digestive problems, anxiety, and a future binge.
Enjoying our food lets us feel satisfied. It lets us stay connected with our bodies and make food choices that end up feeling good. It lets us be mindful and stay present. These are all wonderful things!
4.) Listen to Your Body
Just like at any other meal, your intuition is your best guide for making food choices on Thanksgiving day. Instead of choosing things because it seems like you are supposed to eat it, choose the things that actually sound good to you. Eat as much of those things as you want and as feels good. Leave things on your plate, go back for seconds, skip the sweet potatoes and put gravy on your pie - I don't care. If its what you crave and what fells satisfied, it is a good choice for you.
This is where you may end up making decisions that, from the outside, can look a little"diet-cultury."There is nothing wrong with eating mostly turkey and salad because that is what sounds and feels good to you(butit's also totally fine to exclusively eat dinner rolls and mashed potatoes). There is no need to stuff yourself silly if a smaller portion feels really satisfying(butif you are feeling a little silly, stuff away!) The point is, there are no wrong answers. Listen to your body, eat what it wants, stop when it wants you too, honor what it tells you, and you'll be good to go.
5.) Own Your Choices
Y'all, this one is important. Because, try as we might, we probably won't feel 100% perfect about every single food decision we make(because,duh, perfection doesn't exist). Maybe you do end up getting uncomfortably full. Maybe you’re lactose intolerant and end up paying the price for eating that ice cream at dessert. Maybe you had a little too much wine and missed the workout you had planned for the next day.
Instead of beating yourself up, wallowing in guilt, or making a "bad" food or exercise choice mean you are a"bad"person (remember, that's not how that works) OWN the fact that you did your best to make the best choices you could at the time and that is GOOD ENOUGH. Just like it's impossible to be a"perfect eater" the way Diet Culture wants you to, there is also no such thing as"perfect intuitive eating." It is inevitable that you will make choices with food that leave you feeling less than optimal - so is life.
What's important is that YOU made the decisions. YOU chose to eat what you ate - not a diet book, not an Instagram guru, and not your aunt Sally. So own it, repeat some body-positive affirmations, and enjoy whatever comes next.
No guilt, shame, or compensation necessary <3