Christmas is a time of extremes, it seems – we’re being sold gastronomic delights, whilst also being told that we need to ‘slim down’ for the Christmas party dress/suit/outfit of your choice. These conflicting messages can wreak havoc for the most of us – “gorge yourself on this festive treat” … “how to stay lean over the Christmas period” (no prizes for guessing where that article came from!) – but for some these messages can be seriously dangerous!
The holiday season shouldn’t be plagued by guilt and worry about ‘staying lean’ or ‘working off you Christmas dinner’. But trust me, I understand all too well how easy it is to be affected by these messages that surround us.
I absolutely love Christmas and all the baking and food preparation involved, but I used to stress about how much I could have, how I would look in X outfit and how I would ensure that come the New Year I hadn’t put on any weight. And who can blame me, or you, when we are practically swimming in messages telling us how we should look, which exercises are best for burning calories etc etc. This is called diet culture and this is a pretty good definition from Body Positive Australia;
“Diet culture encompasses all the messages that tell us that we’re not good enough in the bodies we have, and we’d be more worthwhile and valuable if our bodies were different…Diet culture is deeply ingrained in our everyday existence and prevents us from living our most full and meaningful lives”
(See below for more resources which discuss diet culture in more detail.)
All the crazy diet and food talk over Christmas can get you doubting yourself, and start the niggling thoughts that maybe you should do something about your body – and let’s not even get into the rubbish that comes out in the New Year!
I found that questioning what I read and saw in magazines, online and in adverts started changing the way I felt about eating and released me from some of the rules and anxieties I had picked up on. Everyone is different, so I just wanted to include some of the very small things that made a big difference for me, and started making me realise that we can find freedom from worrying about food and the way we look. These are pretty good tips for all year round if you feel like your social media etc. need a shake-up – but seeing as the messages seem to be amplified around this time of year I thought it would be a good time to write about it.
Unsubscribe to mailing lists for Women’s Health or other websites, magazines etc. offering constant weight loss (or ‘optimal wellness’ advice). There are so many diet-related messages that we can’t avoid seeing on billboards and in newspapers, for example, that we can’t control, but let this be your chance to take back control of your inbox!
For no-nonsense chat about food and nutrition the following Instagram accounts are a diet-free zone:
(Laura, Pixie and Fiona are all doing some form of anti-diet/bullshit advent calendar on Instagram this year.)
I’ve started listening to some great podcasts that discuss the concepts of Health at Every Size, and non-diet approaches to health – something that I’m still learning a lot about as it’s in contrast to the ‘anti-obesity’ messages we’re constantly fed. These podcasts are particular favourites of mine at the moment:
And the following accounts are my favourites for spreading the body positivity message. There are a lot more accounts than I have listed here, so go explore this wonderful section of Instagram for yourself! Diversifying your social media feeds can do wonders for the way we feel about our own bodies. Seeing people of all sizes, colours, abilities, ages and genders living happy and fulfilling lives is a breath of fresh air compared to the usual narrative that only young, white, able bodied girls are happy – and only once they’ve lost those magic 5 lbs. These can help you on your way to body acceptance and body love.
This is by no means a definitive list of accounts to follow, nor do I claim to be an expert on food anxieties or body positivity. And if you think that you or a loved one might be struggling with signs or symptoms of disordered eating please try to reach out for professional help – there are some helpful resources on the BEAT website.)
I hope you have a Merry Christmas, or holiday season, enjoy, and try not to become overwhelmed or hoodwinked by the incessant diet talk!