I’ve written before about how important it is to have a plan for how you’re going to take care of yourself during the holidays. The happiest time of the year tends to be the most stressful time of year, after all.
It’s also one of the most fatphobic times of the year. As Virgie Tovar points out, “The holidays affirm our culture and its values. The unfortunate truth is that punishing and alienating non-conforming and marginalized people is as significant of an American value as gathering around the Christmas tree.” It’s almost impossible to avoid diet culture when so many of our holiday traditions revolve around food, and the weight loss industrial complex is gearing up for the New Year’s resolutions wave.
So this week I wanted to add a few more body positive tips for how to get through the holidays without losing your mind… or your body positive cool!
1. No one is required to perform health.
No one (including you!) has to make a show of being healthy or having healthy habits in order to enjoy the holidays or related foods and activities. Nor is anyone required to perform any version of health to earn love, respect, and consideration.
We especially have a tendency to demand this performance from marginalized bodies. So, for example, we might judge a large-bodied person for eating delicious holiday treats in a way we wouldn’t judge a smaller-bodied person. We expect larger-bodied people to “control themselves” around food while marveling at the amount of food a smaller-bodied person can consume.
Try to remind yourself of this on a regular basis, and avoid judging people for what they’re eating. Including yourself.
2. Make time for sleep.
I include this on pretty much every self-care list I make, but that’s because it’s super freaking important.
It’s really easy to let the hectic hustle and bustle of the holidays lead to sleep deprivation. And it’s pretty hard to enjoy anything if you’re a sleep-deprived grouch. You’re also more vulnerable to fatphobic messages and negative self-talk.
And while we’re on that topic…
3. Take some time for yourself.
Even if you have guests, it’s okay if you need to get away for a little bit to recharge. I’m speaking directly to the introverts when I say this, so if you thrive on social interaction feel free to keep scrolling.
I’m still working on remembering this one. I feel guilty taking time away when I should try to enjoy the company. But here’s the thing: it’s also hard to enjoy anything when you’re overstimulated and run down by social interaction.
So go eat your solstice cake in a locked bathroom, or whatever you need to do, and check out these other 5 ways to get through the holidays without losing your mind.
4. Eat on a regular basis.
Just like when I wrote about fear of scarcity, when you try to “save room” for a big meal later in the day you’re really just causing more trouble for yourself.
When you ignore your body’s hunger signals, eventually your body stops trying. Diet culture would have you believe this is a good thing, but it’s actually part of why you have a hard time figuring out when you’re hungry or full and makes you more and more reliant on external signals to eat.
That’s a bad thing, in case you were wondering.
It also makes you more likely to eat more than your stomach can comfortably hold when you finally do feed yourself. And you might even eat things that you normally wouldn’t be that interested in because you’re so hungry that everything looks amazing!
So just do yourself a favor and eat.
You also might like: 9 Guidelines for Enjoying a Holiday Meal (Without the Guilt)
5. And don’t beat yourself up if you eat too much.
You don’t have to “make up for it later” or “be more careful next time”. Eating too much sometimes is part of normal eating.
“[Normal eating] is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more” (Ellyn Satter).
Eating a bit more than usual is especially normal when there’s special food around because it’s not food that you have access to every day. It’s going to be okay.
6. Exercise! Or don’t.
We all know movement is generally good for your body. But it’s counterproductive emotionally if you’re only doing it as a form of self-punishment, or because “you’re supposed to”.
If you feel like moving your body, do it. You can even invite people to join you, but only if they want to. And leave guilt out of the picture. Everyone has the right to choose whether or not they participate in any activity. Including you.
7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good about yourself.
And fuck flattering.
If you need a reminder that you look fabulous, spend some time looking at photos of other beautiful large-bodied women. I keep a Pinterest board ready for exactly that reason. Looking at fat bodies helps to normalize them, and you also might find inspiration for some killer holiday outfits!
8. Avoid commercials.
I’m not a big fan of live tv with commercials in the first place. I’m painfully accustomed to watching my shows uninterrupted and being able to take my sweet time going to the bathroom whenever I want. But the commercials get so much worse in December and January when the diet industry kicks it into high gear.
There’s no reason to subject yourself to that onslaught. Just Netflix and chill.
9. It’s about them, not you.
If someone makes an obnoxious comment about your body, suggests a new diet plan, or drones on about their plans to drop 5 pounds by New Year’s, fight the urge to take this as a judgment on you. Yes, these are absolutely all examples of microaggressions, and it would be super nice if everyone just cut it the F out.
But remember: their words are based entirely in their own self-consciousness, and the way they’ve been influenced by diet culture.
Feel free to let them know that you’re working on appreciating your body as it is now and you’re not interested. Or that your body is none of their business. You’re not obligated to sit there and take it, although sometimes it is way simpler to just ignore it. You can deal with it in whatever way makes you most comfortable, but always remember that it’s never about you.
Wishing you body positive holidays!