Whether you’re a big raging unapologetic radical feminist like myself who has fully embraced body acceptance OR you’re still catching up and are still invested in some form of weight loss, it doesn’t matter, this message is for all.
If you live on planet earth, you might have noticed that holidays have become a big consumerist spectacle. Not only do decorations come out on store shelves earlier and earlier every year, not only does Black Friday continue to produce stampeding deaths, but companies know, that anything they can use to encourage spending, like holidays, they had better jump on, because anything less is a giant missed opportunity for their bottom line. That’s why we get nonsense like “Columbus Day” sales. Really? Someone will have to explain to me one day what Christopher Columbus has to do with a great deal on a mattress.
Well guess what? The diet industry is not different. With the holidays upon us, and the first big sugary one, Halloween, next week, you are going to see lots of “content” coming your way, with tips on avoiding overeating or how to make your holidays “healthier.” Healthy, by the way, is often just a substitute buzzword for diet culture, and I’m instantly suspicious of anybody selling anything with that word attached. The reason you’re going to see a lot of those kinds of articles, and ads etc… is because the main marketing tools of the diet industry are still fear, shame, and making you feel like you’re not good enough just the way you are, so they can sell you their plans (diets), books (propaganda), shakes (poison), etc…
Why shouldn’t you listen? Aside from the obvious, which is that you are a worthy, lovable, worthwhile, and powerful human being all on your own, just as you are, “healthy holidays” are also utter nonsense. If you’re not dieting, please don’t start the soul-crushing cycle of metabolism fuckery just as the holidays, full of temptations and treats, parties, family, magic, and celebration are starting. Are you a masochist? If you want to be healthy, guess what’s healthy? Love, relationships, community. Guess what decreases stress? A well-nourished, wholehearted approach to life. Guess what makes literally no difference at all? Whether or not you overeat for a few days or enjoy a few treats here and there.
If you are dieting, first of all I’m so sorry, I promise, it’ll be over soon, BUT even if you’re super committed to this pointless process with a 95% failure rate, I still want to encourage you not to let this gigantic multi-billion dollar industry ruin your holidays. Even the most ruthless health and wellness professional has zero evidence that one day a month of relaxing on the couch and eating too much turkey and pie is going to make you gain any significant amount of weight. It will be okay. It’s fine.
I think one reason I find the holiday diet stuff so offensive is that it does two things I find really harmful and gross. First, it steals you from things that are totally health promoting, like, enjoying being with your family and community. In studies done on Alzheimer’s, as well as people who live to be over 100, one of the most health promoting factors discovered was that people with larger social webs, meaningful connections to other human beings, actually increased longevity and reduced rates of Alzheimer’s. Dieting is one of those things that creates conflict and majorly gets in the way of these connections.
Second, I think it sets kids up badly. We project, (and I am NO exception to this rule, more on that another time) our own moral/value judgments about food and thinness on children. We talk about being “so bad,” if we indulge, ruining our diets, starting new ones right after this, feeling so deprived and sad if we stick to our diets on a holiday supposed to be filled with joy and celebration. We just totally obsess over the food we’re either eating or not eating. It’s such a waste of our own personal time and it also worms its’ way into our kid’s brains, setting them up with ideas about good foods, bad foods, and the right and “wrong” ways to eat, behave, and look that brainwash their impressionable little brains with the language and pain of diet culture.
So, for the the holidays, the best gift you could give yourself is permission to just be a human being on that day and give up striving for an ideal. Stop the guilt and shame spirals surrounding foods. There are no good or bad foods. We don’t get much time on this earth. Enjoy yourself. The whole point of saying “Happy Holidays” is to wish you happiness. The happy part should be the focus, and it’s okay to be happy about food.