Written by Samantha Gladish, RHN, holisticwellness.ca
Diet culture has done a number on our society, and it can be some murky territory for women who are invested in health and fitness. For decades, we’ve been preached to that “smaller is better,” reminded to count every calorie that we consume or expend, and we were taught tricks to ward off our hunger. It’s no surprise we’ve got a complicated relationship with food as a result. And for the woman who’s actively working to heal herself from this negative rhetoric, the holidays, and abundance of decadent meals and drinks mixed with stress and overwhelm that can go along with it, can be an emotionally charged time of year.
As we hold fast to flipping diet culture the bird and continue to work through these conditioned feelings of guilt, shame, and fear surrounding eating, we can arm our emotional and mental toolkit with ways to remind ourselves that food is for fuel and nourishment—and it’s also for enjoyment. This is the perfect time of year to flex that enjoyment muscle, and turn some of the following helpful pieces of advice into the season’s mantras to find food freedom and preserve the healthier mindset you’ve been working to cultivate.
Transformation Isn’t Linear
Your health, wellness, and healing require deep commitment and patience, along with the understanding that things will go wrong. If we were able to flip a switch and have a healthier relationship with food, we would. But that’s not real life. So if feelings of guilt creep in over the holidays, remind yourself first that you’re human, and that this is all part of the path to healing. Accepting that the ups and downs will come is an important step in freeing yourself from letting old habits get to you, so give yourself a break.
Enjoyment and Pleasure
Diet culture would have you believe that being “healthy” means you eschew the gravy or extra slice of pie, but we know now that this restrictive mindset is damaging to the psyche. Keep in mind that nothing is off limits—and we mean nothing. Having the freedom to choose your meals and tune into how they make you feel so that you can listen to your body when it tells you that it’s satisfied is one of the most important factors in ditching the diet mindset. Learn to re-trust yourself so that consuming these holiday foods doesn’t feel naughty. Allow yourself to enjoy it, and pay attention to when you feel satiated.
Self-care has been in the spotlight in recent years, and the mundane basics of it are at the heart of feeling good in your body: Things like staying hydrated, moving your body daily, and stacking your plate with colorful whole foods. These factors are key all year, but especially over the holidays when scheduling and emotions run high. So instead of leaning on old habits such as restricting or over-exercising, instead, shift your mindset to one of abundance. Enjoy the snacks and drinks at holiday parties, and also continue going to your favorite fitness class. Revel in the Christmas cocktails, and also add an extra glass of sparkling water into your hydration line-up. Adding more rather than taking away can be a healing practice for a body and mind that are used to scarcity.
While the holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year, they can also bring stress, uncertainty, and sometimes even negativity. But what doesn’t have to change is your commitment to yourself. You’re in control, and you get to decide how you’re going to show up for yourself. Your wellness journey won’t always be perfect, but continuing to be your own ally in whatever weather comes your way can renew your sense of courage and pride in yourself.