My only holiday eating "rule"
The holidays can be a particularly tricky time to navigate eating and body image. The ramped up break room conversations about the treachery of cookies and looming New Year’s diets* can be enough to make even the loudest body positive voices feel a little anxious. Today I want to share with you my personal holiday eating “rule,” in case it’s helpful for your self care, too. Although it isn’t always easy, the rule is simple. Don’t take on other people’s food shame. We all know the person who talks about how deathly dairy is, while they watch you add creamer to your coffee. You may have someone in your life who looks you in the eye as they criticize what you eat and drink, without your invitation. They may even leave you out of it entirely, but lament about how “bad” they are for eating X, Y, and Z. Their food policing is about their preoccupation with food. But as exhausting as it may be for them, their shame is theirs. You may already have a tough relationship with eating. Right now you may actually be deep into the important work of healing and shaping a more peaceful relationship with your body. Regardless of where you are on your journey, you don’t have to take on anyone else’s food shame. Here’s why: Feeding yourself isn’t a moral issue. Some foods have more vitamins than others, of course. But eating sugar doesn’t make you a bad person, just like eating salad won’t make you a better person. Your value as a human being doesn’t hinge on vitamins, calories, or any other metric. Taking the shame off of food is hugely helpful to our mental and physical self care. When we stop equating food with virtue or guilt, we naturally gravitate toward more balance in the way we eat. It becomes easier to hear hunger; enjoy food’s tastes and textures; and tune into how we feel before, during, and after. But more importantly, you deserve to appreciate your body. Right now. Without conditions. So if someone’s commentary on food’s value is making it harder for you to be nice to your inherently valuable body, you’re allowed to disengage. You’re allowed to visualize a protective layer that shields their negative feelings toward food from sticking to you. You are allowed to change the subject, be direct with them, or even leave the room mid-conversation. You’re allowed to say to them (or to yourself!), “It sounds like food is stressing you out right now. What has been really fun for you this week?” At the end of the day, self care is more than what we eat, how we move our bodies, or the boundaries we verbalize in our relationships. Self care is also listening to our thoughts whirring beneath the surface. It’s recognizing when we feel pulled into conversations that don’t align with the compassion we want to feel about our habits and body. It’s choosing to be steadily loyal to ourselves and our wellbeing, as much as we possibly can. Total acceptance of your body may not be where you are today, and that’s ok! Just remember:
You don’t have to take on anyone else’s shame.