Popular media stories suggest that the average person will gain anywhere between 5-10 pounds over the holiday season. Family gatherings are typically centered around food. Diet culture, however, tries to eliminate that. This article could be alternatively titled, “Why diet culture is a big mean bully”
If you hear diet culture yelling in your ear this holiday season, keep these things in mind:
Weight alone is a poor predictor of health.
I cannot begin to tell you how many “interventions” I have seen around holiday weight gain. We pathologize weight gain like it is the worst thing that could ever happen. Weight actually matters very little. Research has shown that BMI is a poor predictor of health. Yet we still cling to an arbitrary measure like it determines our entire fate.
Recognize that your body is smarter than you think it is.
The set point weight theory says that there is a specific range our weight wants to stay within. For most people, this could be anywhere from 5-20 pounds. When we restrict food, our body’s metabolism slows down to compensate. If we eat “too much”, our body will compensate by speeding up our metabolism to keep our weight within our set point range. Weight loss isn’t as simple as calorie restriction.
The great thing about being at a set point weight is that you don’t have to worry about food anymore! By listening to your body’s hunger/fullness cues and giving it satisfying food, your body is smart enough to figure out the weight it needs to be at. How cool. We don’t give our bodies enough credit.
Not only is your body awesome at regulating your weight, but it’s also pretty smart when it comes to making food choices. Diet culture says external influences should determine our food choices – portion sizes, calorie counts, etc. Internal influences (aka our bellies talking to our brains) tell us to make food choices that are nourishing and satisfying. When we turn up our internal influence and turn down our external influence, we can make food choices from a place of self-care.
Respect your bodies natural size.
Most people don’t love their bodies. Honestly, I don’t love my body all the time. But I try to always accept and respect it. Our bodies are the tool that enable us to build relationships, learn things, have hobbies, be a person. I recognize that I have not deeply experienced what it is like to be negatively judged for my body’s size by others. I can tell you, however, that there are times I do not love it. I know that my body enables me to do things that bring me joy and satisfaction though, and for that I will respect it.
Know that there are more important things than your weight.
Out culture has it all backwards. We idolize weight loss, without considering the personal and social consequences that come with a dieting mindset. Missing out on time spent with family or friends sounds a lot worse to me. Depriving yourself of your favorite food (only to binge on it later) doesn’t sound very fun. The holidays are often build around food. This isn’t a bad thing. If a little weight gain means freeing up your brain space to form meaningful relationships with people that you love, it is so worth it.
How do you handle diet culture around the holidays? Let me know your thoughts!