This is the time of year when TV ads and the radio and any form of entertainment that can possibly throw an add across your attention span is clamoring with the dual-edged advice to Buy and Eat This coupled immediately afterwards with tongue-in-cheek follow-up warnings or ads admonishing you for having eaten said thing with a “Here’s How We Can Help you ‘Work off that Food'” logo and a seemingly sympathetic nod of understanding. You know what I mean, look at a magazine this time of year to see the delectable roasted meats and sugary deserts on the cover, all surrounded by title headlines like “Lose 10 lbs by Christmas!” “Look slim for the Holidays”, etc.
It’s enough that the messages swamping us at this time are so confused “Eat More! Oh, poor baby, ate too much? Diet until skinny so you can make it to the next Eat More holiday!” What’s worse is the roller-coaster conversations with friends, family, co-workers, random strangers in elevators: “Oh I ate so MUCH, I’m so NAUGHTY” going into the following dips “I can’t WAIT to eat such-and-such!….but I know it’s so bad for me! Goes straight to my hips!”* “Oh man I DREAD the holidays. I always overeat and then feel so wrecked for days!” and so on and so forth.
The addendum of advice I’d like to give today as we ease into the coming weekend celebrations in the US of A (Thanksgiving) is to treat the food-centric holidays, as much as you are able, as just like any other day; only with many more options of food available.
This advice is based upon my own life experiences, your results may vary but perhaps in these tips and reminders to myself you may find a few nuggets of wisdom that will help you through the coming season of Expected Over-Eatery as well.
- Don’t skip breakfast hoping that you’ll be able to cram more tasty goodness in; only to realize that you’re still over-full by the end and feeling both guilty and bloated. Instead, eat normally. That whole “Saving Room” thing is always a tricky, insidious path to feeling wretched.
- Start with small servings of the things that look the best or tastiest. Don’t hesitate to speak up and say, “I’d love to try a smaller piece please. That way I can try more of these wonderful looking things”.
- If the above doesn’t work and you still end up going through a family buffet and getting huge portions from well-meaning food-pushers; don’t fret. These days almost everything can be saved and re-heated. Often-times things taste better the second time around. So DON’T feel you have to eat everything on your plate. That whole, “Clean your plate; there are children starving in Africa”** meme that wrecked much of your childhood; does not apply.
- If you don’t LIKE something: stop eating it. Don’t feel that the gentle feelings of your great-aunt whoever are more important than making sure your stomach isn’t rolling around in disgusted discomfort. This holiday is also about taking care of yourself and giving thanks for not having to feel bad. (Or, it should be; so let’s make this a point to head in that direction!)
- You don’t like turkey. Full stop. In fact, be honest April D, you would really rather never eat the stuff. It is, even when brined and soaked and seasoned and cooked in whatever manner possible to make it moist and appealing, still dry and tasteless and ends up sticking in your throat. So, stop eating it! If you feel you MUST take a few bites for the look of the thing, by all means, as long as you aren’t gagging, but otherwise leave it and focus on those things you DO enjoy!
Remember the holidays, underneath the messages about materialistic avarice uh, I mean thoughtful gift-giving and the confusing blather about “Eat! No! Don’t Eat!”; this is supposed to be a time to reflect and be thankful for the blessings of the people you love (even if that doesn’t happen to be your family). Sometimes this means making it through very rocky moments with people (like family) that only seek to hurt you with words or comments on your body or food choices. Trying to brush off such things is difficult; and in a world where the roller-coaster of conversations about eating and dieting are par-for-the-course and therefore tough to avoid.
So I have very little advice to give for those moments. Sometimes they can be teachable ones; where explaining a bit of HAES or FA or even just Body Acceptance is possible. Often-times they are not and biting your tongue or making a quick, “Let’s not talk about diets; this is a time of celebration!” might do the trick to get through the shorter and less abrasive of such moments. For some of the others, full-on fat hatred moments of body-loathing, the simplest thing is perhaps to walk away. Smile, make a comment about not believing in such negative body-talk being productive and move on to another group’s conversation. Remember, there are some times when you have to cut your losses and move on. If you’re able to do that at a party, all the better.
That’s my “sure-fire” method to make it through the Food Feasting Holidays. I hope there is something of use in there for others as we get to this weekend of Tasty Treats.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving: I give thanks for this amazing community of Fat and Size acceptance activist; who have really shown me that there are alternatives to constant body hatred and crushing guilt over not fitting some arbitrary model of acceptable personhood. Truly, you are all amazing. And I thank all of you for that!
Happy holidays! Now, to finish that NaNoWriMo and get those holiday cards started!
*As if somehow food goes in your mouth, holds up a map and, if a donut or other typically “fattening” or “sinful” food, nods and says, “Okay boys and girls; it’s off to the hips with us! No, carrots you go to the digestion system; we’re just going to bypass all that and just slide into the fat reserves on this body’s hips! Now, move out!” Riiiight.
**I’ve always hated sayings based upon trying to make someone feel guilty for food left on their plates. As if making your body feel bloated and over-full is a better result than leaving leftovers for another day. It isn’t as though stuffing those last bites into your already-full belly will benefit these ubiquitous “starving kids”. How about we do this instead: Eat what we want, put the rest away, donate goods and money to foundations who help starving people in this country and elsewhere around the world? Seems better to me than trying to instill guilt over not doing something so oddly forceful as “cleaning your plate” when you’re already full.