For many, the holidays are a joyous time, full of opportunities for celebration and connection with family and friends. Food is typically an important part of the festivities, and many people look forward to enjoying traditional holiday fare.
However, navigating the holidays, the food that comes with them, and the inevitable onslaught of ads for diets and gym memberships that follow can be incredibly challenging.
The seasonal expectation to take part in meals, being consistently presented with an abundance of food, or receiving unsolicited comments about weight and body size can cause increased anxiety and stress and negatively impact body image.
As we approach the holiday season, here are some tips from our dietitians to help you avoid the diet culture trap.
Don’t feel the need to follow a special diet or physical activity plan to accommodate holiday eating
Diet culture is the false idea that only thin bodies are healthy and that we need to eat or look a certain way in order to be healthy. Skipping meals to “save calories” for a larger meal later or “working off” a meal through exercise are common diet culture pitfalls. It is overly simplistic to think that we need to "balance out" small changes to our daily intake. Food is a necessity. Eat and move in a way that makes sense for you and your body.
Practice mindful eating, without self-judgement
Different people eat differently and there are many aspects to why we may choose to eat, such as enjoyment, fun, family and culture. At the same time, we should not let external pressures, such as eating just because food is present or excessive encouragement from others guide our eating or food decisions. Instead, practice mindful eating by listening to your body and trusting yourself.
Stay neutral about food – an apple is an apple
Food supports our physical, mental, social and spiritual health. Healthy eating means enjoying a variety of foods that are meaningful to you in a relaxed and self-trusting manner. Thinking of food in terms of “good” or “bad” can promote disordered eating and depriving yourself of certain foods may lead to feelings of guilt or shame when eating them. Instead, of calling food “good”, “bad”, “healthy”, or “unhealthy”, call the food by its actual name, such as “cookie”, “apple”, “steak” or “egg.”
Allow yourself to enjoy holiday foods
Part of the enjoyment of eating is choosing foods that reflect your preferences and traditions and your cultural background. Eat the foods you like, pass on the foods you don’t like and perhaps take the opportunity to try new foods. Eating and sharing food with others is an excellent way to connect and enjoy time with family and friends and pass down inter-generational cultural traditions.
Tune out the noise around diet culture
Conversations around weight loss and diets often come up around the holidays, especially in group settings. Remember, it is okay to excuse yourself or switch topics if a conversation is making you feel uncomfortable. The same goes for advertisements or posts on social media – unplug and unsubscribe to news or advertisements promoting diet culture.
- Watch our winter health guide video: Healthy food for thought