Hungry for the Holidays – A Rant on Diet Culture Mentality Surrounding Holiday Indulgence and Guilt

Chestnuts roasting on a fire. Warm cocoa being sipped under the tree. Pink, flush cheeks thawing cheerfully after a romp in the snow. These images epitomize the Hallmarkesque “Holiday Cheer” trademarked to this time of year. For me, the holidays always make me think of red – red stockings lining the mantel. Matching red aprons and pies in the oven. The red of Santa’s oversized jacket as he flies through the sky on a red slay led by a red nose. Holidays are meant to be filled with celebration and connection as people come together who don’t often get to be with eachother. But unfortunately often times this brings its own stressors. Even for normative people, the holidays can be overwhleming with travel, lack of routine, and an overwhelming amount of people and events. But for those of us in Recovery, there is yet another added layer to this struggle.

Why? Because holidays are all about food. Any celebration is usually accompanied by food, but the holidays tend to go all out. Indulgence is the name of the game, and we excel at it. As a culture, the holidays are looked at as a time to be bad, as though enjoying your favorite treats and delicacies is somehow wrong and something to feel bad about. Our diet culture obsessed society posits two main themes surrounding food during the holidays: Indulgence and Guilt. We are encouraged to go overboard, gorging ourselves on a meal that took 3 days to cook and only 20 mins to eat, then straining to have pie afterwards because when else do we get to do this? Its the Holidays, right? Then comes the guilt. “I’ll have to work this off after the New Year!” they say, preparing themselves to work off their sinful indulgence with a New Year’s Resolution and a Planet Fitness membership as soon as January hits. I want another one, but I don’t need another one” they say as they pick at a cookie, self-deprecating and feeling guilty with every bite. “I’m being so bad” They say as they eat food they enjoy with people they love. 

What is so wrong with our culture that people are expected to restrain themselves all year, only allowing themselves to enjoy their favorites “because its a holiday,” and then feeling bad about it until they can “make up for it”? Why do we have to feel bad for enjoying something? For having sweets or bread or anything. Why do we have to wait until a special occasion to enjoy ourselves? To be satisfied? This cycle is so toxic, and it is so pervasive in our world. Fitness and dieting companies make so much money off of our guilt come the new year, as we sign up for memberships and shakes and cleanses that simply restrict what our body needs and make us feel terrible about ourselves when we eventually lapse. Our bodies are not meant to take this! 

You do not have to buy into a culture that encourages you to deprive yourself throughout the year only to binge at the holidays so you will make up for it by subscribing to their weight loss programs. My friends, this is a trap! Eat the damn cookie! No matter what day it is. If you want it, eat it. You don’t have to feel bad for enjoying something simply because its ingredients have been villanized.

You do not have to earn the right to eat. Ever.

You do not have to subscribe to cultural rules that tell you you have to earn the right to eat (and only at special times and only if you promise to make up for it). EVER.

You deserve to be happy. To enjoy yourself. To nourish yourself. Nourishment does not simply mean meeting your caloric needs. It means nourishing your tastebuds and your soul. It means feeding yourself what you crave and making sure you are satisfied and enjoying what you eat. It means thinking of food as a gift meant to enhance your living, not as a utilitarian box you have to check off.

The difficulty here is that everyone is so entrenched in this mentality that even if you are fighting the good fight against ED and his disordered diet culture, you may still be surrounded by comments and food guilt and fear and all of that. That’s where preparing for battle comes along, and where the importance of your team and your skills shines bright.

But the first step is simply rejecting the belief that holiday food is something to feel bad about. You deserve to be happy and healthy and satisfied. Hold onto that thought.

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