7 Steps to a Diet Culture-Free Holiday!
With Hannukah coming to a close, Christmas in less than two weeks, Kwanzaa immediately after that, and 2021 (?!?!?!) right around the corner, the holidays are in full swing!
Alongside the twinkling lights and upbeat music, however, is something a lot less jolly: diet culture. From “kEtO lAtKeS,” “hOlIdAy ClEanSeS,” and “fAt BuRnInG ChRiStMaS wOrKoUtS,” diet culture seizes upon this festive time to spread harm and toxicity. Combined with diet culture’s dominance during the pandemic, the most wonderful time of the year can quickly become the most dreaded.
And while diet culture will do anything to promote their unfounded claims, it doesn’t have to ruin our holidays! We’ve covered 7 simple strategies to a diet culture-free holiday, all of which you can implement at home!
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1. Educate yourself!
It sounds cliche, but it’s so true - knowledge is power! The fact that you’re reading this means that you’re on the right track. Spend some time during these next few weeks to learn about the issue of diet culture, whether that be intuitive eating, Health At Every Size, or body neutrality, to name a few.
As you learn, take note of insights that stuck out to you. These can serve as tangible pieces of evidence to challenge the diet culture that comes your way and remind yourself of why you’re doing it in the first place. If you feel comfortable, you can also use this information to inform others about the dangers of diet culture as well!
2. Eat what you truly want!
Food is not just physical nutrition - it nourishes your mind and soul as well! Be honest with yourself about what you want outside of diet culture’s and disordered eating’s thoughts.
> Will this food satisfy you mentally and physically?
> In a world with no food rules, what would you eat?
> Besides nourishment, what will this food bring to your life? (memories with loved ones, joy, connection, etc.)
For instance, if you’re genuinely craving mashed cauliflower, eat the mashed cauliflower! But if you’re eating mashed cauliflower because eating mashed potatoes causes you anxiety/guilt/shame/stress, eat the mashed potatoes! Neither option is “good” or “bad” because food has no moral value! Life is far too short to deprive yourself of what brings you joy, so take this opportunity to challenge yourself! Feel the fear and do it anyway :)
3. Continue fueling yourself adequately!
Eating regularly and consistently is essential all day, every day, for keeping your body and mind functioning optimally. Even if you had a big holiday meal or feel guilty about what you ate, your body still needs food! Remember: one holiday meal is ~0.1% of all the meals you’ll eat in a year. Don’t give the meal more power than it deserves!
A general guideline is having at least three meals a day and snacks in between or following your meal plan if applicable. Again, this is highly individual - what works for one person might not work for another! Check-in with your hunger cues, energy levels, and mood; they can all signal that you need food! Always consult with a registered dietitian before making any dietary changes.
4. Detox your social media feed!
Let’s face it: social media can be toxic. Diet culture is so insidiously prevalent throughout the media - it sneaks up in ways you wouldn’t expect, leaving subconscious messaging degrading your self-worth and self-image. Unfortunately, many people struggle with their relationships with food and their bodies, which can subtly be projected on others.
Take this opportunity to engage in a detox that’s actually good for you - a social media detox! When you’re scrolling through your feed, take note of how specific accounts make you feel.
> Do you feel empowered? Inspired? Uplifted? Or do you feel degraded? Inferior? Self-loathing?
> What is this account adding or subtracting from my life?
> How, if at all, are comparisons to them affecting my self-esteem?
> Do I leave social media feeling energized or defeated?
If an account isn’t impacting you positively or neutrally, consider unfollowing or muting! Not following someone isn’t something to be ashamed of and isn’t “mean” towards that person. Taking complete breaks can also be majorly beneficial!
5. Practice self-compassion
For those struggling with disordered eating and eating disorders, know that lapses happen. What matters more, though, is how you respond to it. Acknowledge the lapse, process your emotions, and take the next right step to get back on track. One setback doesn’t need to erase all of your progress. Remember, healing is a journey, not a destination!
6. Prioritize your mental health
When we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, our emotional regulation skills decline, making us more prone to experiencing distress from diet culture messaging. Fostering healthy mental health will equip you with the mental capacity and bandwidth to stay grounded during diet culture-intense situations. Setting boundaries with toxic people, spending time doing things you enjoy, and asserting your needs are all strategies you can implement during the holidays.
That said, it can be challenging to feel “worthy” of taking care of yourself. Remember: showing up for yourself will allow you to show up better for others! At the end of the day, you are the one living in your body. Make it as comfortable and safe as possible!
7. Focus on the true meaning of holidays!
While food is a big part of the holidays, it’s not the food itself that makes it special - it’s the meaning behind the food. Holidays are about connection, compassion, and community. They’re about celebrating life alongside the people you love and living in the moment. A $72 billion industry rooted in racism, sexism, classism, and ableism does NOT deserve to steal that from you!
Schedule festive holiday activities that have nothing to do with food or your body. Watching a holiday movie, decorating the house, and talking with loved ones over Zoom are all ways to truly embody the holiday spirit. Whatever you do, make sure you wear masks, stay 6 feet apart, go outdoors whenever possible, wash your hands, and follow all safety guidelines!
Remember: change is hard. But the regret of not changing is even harder. You are all capable of fighting diet culture and respecting your body! We are always here to talk whenever you need support.
From everyone at resilientHer, we wish you a Happy Holidays!!