I was at a holiday gathering and heard two women talking about how they shouldn’t be eating the foods they were piling on their plate. One of these beautiful, warm, loving ladies commented that she would “be better” after the new year.
It filled my heart with heaviness.
My heart sank because I know the physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual torture dieting and restriction causes for so many. I know this torture from personal experience after years of yo-yo dieting, body hatred and food obsession. I know this torture from professional experience after years of sitting with those battling an eating disorder and disordered eating as an eating disorder specialist.
The truth is that this isn’t the way for any of us to live.
The way we are designed to live is learning to trust our good bodies, to be in tune with its inherent wisdom, and to know our worth and value is much more than the aesthetic pleasure or physical health of our body.
The Problem with the Diet Mentality
January is National Diet Month because the 60-billion-dollar weight-loss diet industry has led us all to believe that we must feel guilty for the delicious holiday foods we’ve just enjoyed.
Truth be told, the diet culture industry wants us to feel guilty for ANY food we eat, but the message seems especially rampant this time of year.
This culture tells us that the celebrations and enjoyment of the food holidays should be followed by dieting and restriction. This message is flawed at best and damning at worst.
Diets- whether you embark on a structured diet (Weight Watchers to Keto) or you restrict food groups due to health reasons- are not successful at maintaining long term weight loss or improving health. They actually have a really high failure rate- like 95-98% failure rate.
Diets have unintended consequences, including food and body preoccupation, weight cycling, reduced self-esteem, distraction from other health promoting behaviors like exercise, and can even lead to eating disorders.
This time of year brings up an extra dose of food guilt, food fear, and negative body thoughts as the diet industry prepares to make its big bucks. It’s important to have ways to cope with holiday food guilt so we don’t fall into the Chinese finger trap of dieting.
Ways to Cope with Holiday Food Guilt and Body Shame
Don’t fall into the diet cycle.
First things first, if you feel guilt and shame for food you’ve enjoyed, or any changes in your body, challenge yourself not to buy into the message that dieting is the answer.
It’s not the answer, but it’s okay to battle this message while it’s rampant and deeply ingrained in the majority of people.
If you notice the desire to diet or notice increased negative body thoughts, offer yourself compassion and understanding. This desire makes sense given our culture, but you don’t have to give in and start the maddening cycle this year.
Smash the scale.
Literally- put on some gloves and protective eye wear and smash that sucker. If that feels like too much- give it to someone else (I used to have a collection of scales from my clients under my therapy couch).
Whatever measuring guide you use to monitor diet “success”, get rid of it. Cut sizes out of clothes. Throw away the measuring tape. Cover mirrors. Or put up positive body affirmations on mirrors.
Take care of yourself.
We have a lot of emotions and beliefs attached to food and our bodies. When you choose not to diet, you’re choosing a different path. There will be grieving. There will be confusion. There will be anger. There will be so many, many emotions.
So, take care of yourself mama. Whatever you feel is okay. Comfort those emotions, without dieting or body hatred.
Need reminders for self-care? Check out ETMB’s self-care series.
Familiarize yourself with Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size.
Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size are philosophies to help us heal our relationship with food, our bodies, weight and health.
You will be challenged when you start this journey, but it will change your life as you step into a new relationship with food and your body and find a new sense of freedom.
Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size are becoming buzzwords as the diet industry attempts to hijack these philosophies, so I encourage everyone to go directly to the links (or books) to get accurate information. A quick litmus test for the validity of what you’re reading/looking at is truly IE/HAES aligned? If it encourages restriction of any kind in any manner, it’s not truly IE/HAES aligned. See this post for a list of dietitians and therapists that do wonderful work!
Remind yourself that you are meant to enjoy food.
Despite what diet culture tells us, we are meant to enjoy food. Food is meant to fuel our good bodies, yes, but it’s also meant to provide us with a unique type of pleasure. We are meant to enjoy the decadent holiday foods that adorn our tables this time of year!
We literally have taste buds designed so we can taste and enjoy food.
It is okay to enjoy the food you’re eating- whether it’s a rich dessert, creamy pasta, warm bread, or raw vegetables.
YOU get to decide what you actually enjoy…. And you can eat it. Any day of the week. Several times a day. For weeks on end.
Love your grandmother’s green bean casserole or brownies? Keep making them long after the Christmas tree is up and the New Year’s ball has dropped.
It is okay and normal to enjoy the food you’re eating.
Know Your Worth
A daily battle we fight is knowing our true worth.
We seek our worth in so many places, but our true worth is in our hearts. It’s in our souls.
Its not in the ornamental value and pleasure of our bodies. It’s not even in the instrumental value and production of our bodies.
Your value, your worth, is in the sound of your laugh, the passions of your heart, the salt in your tears, and in the warmth of your loving embrace.
Your value is deep, mama.
Your worth is deep, mama.
And it’s not dependent on something as fickle and fleeting as the number on the scale, the size of your pants, or even what you see in the mirror or in pictures.
Your value, your worth, is your heart and soul.
Here’s to No-Diet January!!