Body Talk Around The Holiday Season
(Trigger Warning for body image content)
Let's just dive right into it and state the obvious - there's a LOT of body talk around the holiday season.
I've already been hearing some of it, and I'm already over it. As someone who really used to struggle with body image issues and constant fret over the number on the scale, this time of year used to be really triggering. Because I'm certain I'm not alone in this, I wanted to take time to talk about this issue here on my little corner of the internet.
And let me just preface this by saying that if you or a loved one are struggling with a more serious issue such as an eating disorder, please stop reading this post immediately and go seek help. I'm not a doctor, but there are tons of medical professionals out there who can help you. I'm putting an emergency help line down that is a free resource to use:
If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, help is out there. Call or text (800) 931-2237 immediate support.
Let's dive into some of the issues & frustrations.
Food is literally everywhere you turn at every celebration this time of year.
I personally love that we have a holiday solely dedicated to eating food (because, to me, what could be better?). But with its constant presence comes a lot of opinions, a lot of negative talk, and the diet industry shoving its opinions in our faces. It can be really tough to navigate, especially if you're already struggling.
This negativity can come from both places: the outside world, and your own self-talk. It can be the fitness instructor at your spin class telling you that you have to "earn" that slice of pie. It can be your "well-meaning" aunt telling you that "you look GREAT" if you'd lost weight since the last time she's seen you, or a parent telling you that you don't really need that second helping of dinner, even though you're a grown-ass adult who pays her own bills. It can be the ad on Instagram about the diet program kicking off in the New Year to get rid of all the "holiday weight" you probably gained. The list FREAKING goes on.
And if you're someone who struggles with negative self-talk coming from within, it loves to rear its ugly head something fierce this time of year. I can't tell you what your own self-talk sounds like for you, because it's different for everyone, but mine was centered around a lot guilt and regret. There would be a lot of calorie counting in my head, instead of trying to stay present with my loved ones on the holidays. I was automatically going to develop some disease and ruin the rest of my life if I indulged in a large slice of pie or too many appetizers. And yes, writing it all down on here makes it sound ridiculous, but I can assure you that in my head it made perfect sense. It can be overwhelming having to deal with this, and I am telling you my story to let you know that you're not alone.
How do we deal with all this? Let's talk about ways to handle it all.
I'm a big believer in setting boundaries with people around you. And while yes, sometimes the people you set them with may try to take some offense to it, they are absolutely necessary. And much like personal self-talk, setting boundaries also looks different for everyone. Sometimes it can look like politely reminding that family member that having a second helping of Thanksgiving dinner is none of their business. Or telling your aunt who is weight loss focused that you are focusing more on your mental & emotional accomplishments this year rather than just the physical ones. Or also remind her that your body is not a topic of conversation, and move on to something else to discuss.
For me, setting boundaries looks like muting certain friends or family members on social media that are too heavily body focused. It's honestly something I do to keep my own peace of mind and prevent resentment from growing towards that person.
When it came to handling my own self-talk, it was a bit harder to learn how to turn it off. Why is it that we can be so quick to recognize external pressures that need to be turned off, but when it comes to our own self, we need a lot more teaching and reminding?
I can't tell you exactly what is needed to help your own self-talk, because like I said before it's a personal voice & gut feeling for everyone, but here are somethings that worked from own experience. And please know that this was by no means an overnight revelation, but a gradual shift through lots of the following:
- Reminding myself that these events are once a year. Am I sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner extravaganza every single night of the year? Definitely not. These are special occasions that allow us to indulge and enjoy a delicious meal, and once a year will NOT ruin our health for the rest of our lives.
- Setting mental & emotional boundaries with myself. Yes, setting boundaries even includes yourself, too! I've had to really work on telling myself that holiday meals are meant to be enjoyed, and I am not killing myself by allowing myself to indulge once in a while. I've also had to tell myself that while others may have opinions about what my body/their body should look like, that doesn't mean I'm required to listen to them. Even if they are a parent of close friend. I've had to really work on creating a boundary that their opinions are unnecessary to my peace of my mind.
- Working through these issues with my therapist. I am huge believer in therapy and professional help, and the topic of my body image issues has been something frequently discussed to help me on my self-love journey. If this is a topic you feel that you personally need to talk out and work through, I absolutely recommend finding a professional resource. They are worth their weight on gold.
- Shifting my mindset to what is most important this time of year. The Christmas of 2019 I had an uncle die literally on Christmas Eve. Three months later we were all going into lockdown from COVID, where so many more people around the world lost others who would never be at another holiday meal. If the past few years have taught me anything, it's that we are all so lucky and blessed to still be here. Creating this mindset shift of perspective was huge to remind me of what is most important when everyone is gathered around the table eating.
I sincerely hope this post was helpful for you in your body talk journey around this time of year. Just remember to set those boundaries, give yourself LOTS of grace, and remember that life is short, so eat the damn pie.