We are four days into December. The Christmas lights are up in our town centres, mince pies have been eaten and presents have been wrapped (well, the super organised people have done that). But it doesn’t seem as though everything is sparkling as bright as the star that’s sitting on top of our Christmas tree.
Food is such a big part of Christmas and it wouldn’t be the same without it. So why, before I have even eaten my Christmas dinner, am I hearing adverts from diet organisations, slithering their way in between George Michael and Mariah Carey’s well-known songs on the radio? It just confirms how society looks at dieting as just another ‘normal’ part of Christmas. And that makes me so frustrated. Not only because there are people with eating disorders who find Christmas a very overwhelming time of year, but also because we should all be enjoying Christmas. The drinks and nibbles, the box of chocolates being passed around, the Christmas parties and of course the Christmas dinner itself. Food is such a massive part of Christmas – it wouldn’t be the same without it, yet we are made to feel guilty for enjoying it. I don’t hear any adverts on the radio making you feel guilty for going to visit loved ones…
Maybe you’ve been able to dodge the diet comments so far, but the closer we get to Christmas and New Year, the worse it’s going to get.
‘No thanks, I’ve got my weigh-in tomorrow.’
‘Oh, alright then. I’ll start my diet in January.’
‘No thanks… I’ve already had my meal replacement shake.’
(As well as those looks of judgment as you help yourself to a second slice of Christmas cake.)
I’ve realised that there is no point getting annoyed with the person who is making those comments because it’s just like a child who uses bad language; they have just picked up the words that surround them. They aren’t to blame. It’s the diet organisations that are. They’ve brainwashed us into thinking that we need to be slimmer in order to be happy and that who we are right now isn’t good enough.
Maybe the advert isn’t wrong in the fact that you can’t do up the zip of your party dress or your Christmas jumper is tighter this year, but that’s because we are constantly changing. Change doesn’t just happen towards the start and end of our lives; it’s constant. Everything is evolving, growing and changing. Allow your body to change too.
We want to look our best, especially over Christmas because of all the people we will see, all the photos that will be taken and we don’t want to hear ‘she’s let herself go since last year’ whispered behind our backs.
But what is our ‘best’? Surely our best is trying to be perfect… but perfection doesn’t exist. Striving for perfection is actually pretty dangerous because we are aspiring to be the impossible. No matter how hard we try, we will always be met with failure.
After over eight years of searching for the secret to a happy relationship with food and my body, I’ve found that you need to love and let go. Let go of the restrictions, the scales, the numbers and the people on social media who make you feel as though you aren’t enough. Once you’ve ungripped your grasp of the negativity, you now have a free hand. Use it to support yourself with love. Since it’s your body, do you not think that you know what is best for it? You’re the one who knows when it’s hungry, who knows when it’s in pain and who knows the things that it doesn’t respond well to, such as dairy or too much caffeine. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we need to turn to professionals for advice, but why are we also putting more faith into others who don’t care for our wellbeing or know very little about us, than we do ourselves? Trust yourself.
But how will we not overindulge and cope without rules and restrictions? I feel as though this might need a whole blog post of its own! But if I was to quickly summarise it, it’s about listening, looking and learning. Listen to what your body is telling you, look at your eating habits to see why you are doing something and learn from how something made you feel before. It doesn’t need to involve anyone else.
Sometimes the hard part is knowing when to stop. We need to be mindful and take a step back. Am I sitting here eating these chocolates just because the tub is open; that they need to be eaten or maybe it’s because I’ve turned to them for comfort because that family gathering was too overwhelming? Turning to food when we are bored or distressed isn’t going to solve the initial problem of being bored of distressed because we are using the wrong solution to that problem. It’s like an activity found in a quiz at school; a column of questions, a column of answers and a line needed to be drawn to join the correct ones together. What would be a more suitable solution instead of turning to food when hunger isn’t the problem? Or what solution have you replaced food with when the problem is hunger?
So maybe this Christmas, try to let go. Throw away your scales, cancel your diet membership and stop counting the calories that you consume. Let go of other people’s opinions and let go of exercising if your intentions are purely to burn off what you’ve eaten or because you want to lose weight. If there are deep-rooted issues, then take one small step at a time and surround yourself with people who love and care for you. Or if you feel as though this doesn’t really apply to you, maybe you can just be mindful of what you say to people this Christmas. You never know who is struggling with their relationship with food or their body.
Rediscover the love, joy and peace this Christmas, not only in what you do or who you spend it with but also within you. Learn to love yourself. Not when you have lost weight. Right now. Love and let go.