Holidays: Dealing with Diet Culture
Updated: Nov 2
On Thanksgiving morning, my mom and I were finishing up some food we were making to share later on with our relatives. My mom knows my nutrition approach (personally and professionally) well and has a very healthy relationship to food herself – so grateful for that!
Anyways, she thought it would be funny to propose a game for that day between the two of us and count how many times we hear something disordered. I was game on.
By the end of the day, to our delight we had only heard about a handful of comments. From my experiences and from hearing all of my clients’ and patients’ experiences, this was a slight amount.
But then I realized it wasn’t even December yet and the holidays had barely begun. Plus, we weren’t counting the comments my yoga teacher made about getting ready for “all that food.” Ugh.
Anyways, this, along with my observation from clients and patients that others’ disordered food and body comments are one of the hardest parts about the holidays for people trying to heal their relationship to food and body, is why I want to share a list of disordered comments and their truths this month, as well as a few tips for those struggling.
Maybe you are in recovery or on that healing journey and you want some help in figuring out how to deal with triggering comments. This really depends on your comfort level and context, so do what feels the most nourishing to you – some suggestions are:
Changing the subject completely to something more fun/interesting (“Have you seen that new movie….?”).
Giving the person a complement (“I really like your shoes…”).
Setting a boundary about topics (“I’d rather not talk about food or body stuff…”).
Leaving the room (this is especially important if the person continues to say triggering things after you’ve set a boundary).
Sharing your perspective (“Actually, you don’t have to work out to earn a holiday meal…”).
Or perhaps you say things and you don’t even realize they may be triggering for someone around you in eating disorder recovery or is on a healing journey (or that you may need help yourself). That’s okay – we live in a society that normalizes all of it.
Here are some comments that are common this time of year:
“I enjoyed myself way too much with all that food and those cocktails – I need to go work out harder now!”
Why is this disordered? Our bodies can handle holiday eating and drinking. Food, cocktails and the holiday season are meant to be enjoyed – no guilt required. Exercise is not a punishment for enjoying oneself.
“Man, once January rolls around I’m going to be good again.”
Why is this disordered? Food and morality don’t go together. We are not bad or good because of how/what we eat. This also fosters a last supper mentality and will cause some people to eat more than what’s comfortable because they know restriction is around the corner after the new year.
“I’ve been eating so many carbs – I’m probably gaining so much weight.”
Why is this disordered? Carbs are the macronutrient that we need the most of in our diets (at least 50 percent), are the body and brain’s preferred fuel source, and they are delicious. Carbs do not equal weight gain!
“I don’t know how those people eat all that dessert– sugar so bad for you.”
Why is this disordered? Sugar is not bad for you and no one should be judged for eating dessert. Eating dessert is part of normal eating and most desserts have the same food groups as other foods – starches, fats, fruits, dairy and sometimes protein. Plus, hello – they are delish!
“You’re so tiny – what’s your secret?”
Why is this disordered? I believe that no one should be allowed to comment on ANYONE’S body – whether they are in a larger body or a smaller body. Plus, being “tiny” does not make a person superior or interesting, and is certainly not a badge of honor. We also never know whether or not someone is struggling with or in recovery from an eating disorder/ disordered eating – regardless of body size.
If you need help navigating the holiday season and/or want to work on your relationship to food and/or your body, please explore our nutrition therapy page.
Wishing you a happy holiday season!
In true health,