When I was reading the lovely Laura Thomas’s non diet advent calendar, it got me really thinking about all the times I am witness to diet talk during Christmas time and how much I was actually the person who said it in the past, when I was struggling with food and my body. And it got me wanting to write a post about how we can handle this negative part of what is supposed to be a fun time of celebration.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that has it’s own collective disordered eating. A society with a thin ideal and a society that will try anything to get this ideal… Inevitably, this brings a loootttt of diet talk, especially during the Christmas period.
If you are struggling with disordered eating, or in active recovery for these issues, navigating Christmas can be a tough affair. It is a season of celebration and with celebration comes delicious food. Yet in our food sick society, it is usually served with a huge side of food guilt which can bring a huge amount of diet talk, body shaming and all around unhelpful chatter for those recovered from an disordered eating or those in recovery.
As someone who has been the person spouting self shaming diet talk and then listened to an abundance of it once recovered, let’s give some examples and what we can say back…
Aunt Susan comes to the evening Christmas dinner claiming she hasn’t eaten all day so she is “allowed” to eat whatever she wants. Aunt Susan, you can eat whatever you want whenever you want.
Cousin Amanda comments every time she is eating something “non nutrition book healthy” about “how naughty” she is being. Amanda, you are not naughty, you did not steal the food.
Neighbour Bob comes round for a mince pie and exclaims how he is “trying to be good” but go on he will have one anyway, it is Christmas after all. Bob, there are no such thing as good and bad foods, food is not a moral issue. And you can eat whatever you want whether it is Christmas or not. No really, you can.
Your Grandma tells you that you have put on weight. I have actually. What did you get for Christmas Grandma?
Your Mum asks you if you really need another slice of pie for dessert. Yes thanks Mum.
Your friend says that as soon as January comes she is going on the 5:2 diet. How are you going to shift the Christmas weight, she asks you… I am not going to try and shift the “Christmas weight”. BYE…. (if you want a longer answer…) I trust my body to guide me what and when to eat and I choose to focus on living a full life and engaging in health giving behaviours and self care instead of micro managing my weight with self destructive behaviours. I love these books called intuitive eating and health at every size that really helped me make peace with food and not let my body and food be the centre stage of my life. I would highly recommend everyone to read them.
Remember you can set boundaries too. If people start ranting on about diet crap, you can leave the room or you can say with kindness and grace that you would rather diets were not talked about as they are triggering for you. If people don’t respect that, unfortunately it is because they are knee deep in diet mentality themselves and that is NOTHING on you. Just because other people are engaging in diet talk, does not mean you have to.
You can use conversation diverters to start talking about something life giving instead. Ask people what they are up to over the Christmas holidays, or what gifts did they get etc. Any conversation that steers the current one away from diet talk or negative food or body comments.
And most of all, you can just ignore their diet questions, statements and self depreciating comments. You don’t have to give it any ounce of your attention, because it is not worth your time AT ALL.
As someone who has recovered from an eating disorder and various disordered eating… I even still get insensitive and triggering comments from people who know what I have been through. Sometimes the first thing people will say to me is “have you lost weight” and in my head I am like “are you for real!?”. It happens. People don’t mean to be insensitive, they are just so wrapped up in diet mentality that they think it is a compliment. Or when someone tries to shame us for our food, it is a result of their saturation of diet mentality because they shame themselves for food they eat.
So as hard as it is, and trust me I know it is hard. Try and rise above diet talk this Christmas time. I know some of the answers up top may seem a bit sassy, but do what you need to do to feel sane this Christmas. Know that you do not have to take part in any of the diet crap and you can set firm boundaries for your own self care and mental health. People might not get it or understand, but they don’t have to. Look after you and do what you need to do to stay strong in your recovery and mental health. Who knows, you might even inspire someone to work towards food and body peace. You might plant the seed that grows into a journey of food and body peace, and that is pretty awesome.
If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful time.
And as always… be kind to yourselves, give yourself compassion and know you are worthy no matter what you look like or what food is on your plate.