As the holiday season makes its annual appearance, many look forward to the warmth of fireplaces, the unity of family, the collective activities of baking cookies, sharing gifts and making memories. For most, this season is greatly anticipated from the time it ends in January. However, for those that are striving to remain body positive, the holiday season can also be a time of negative triggering around dietary restrictions, new year resolutions and disappointed expectations of loved ones. Consequently, this creates a battlefield of sorts, causing some people to skip the holidays with family all together due to comments around weight and the hypervisibility of their bodies. Instead of looking forward to making new memories, those in recovery from an eating disorder may be spending the coming months building exit strategies to protect their bodies and practices. How does one remain body positive during the holiday season? More so, how can family and friends advocate to ensure feelings of inclusion remain present? Check out some of our suggestions below.
Know Your Limits
The journey to body acceptance can be a long and hard one for some. Those in recovery from eating disorders may face triggers around food and dates. Meanwhile, others may find themselves in contention with family members who insist the comments made about their bodies are driven by the “concern” for their health and well-being. Whatever the case, knowing your limits can be a great way to determine your bandwidth for participation in events where you may encounter fatphobia with others. It’s ok to divest! This rule applies to interactions with others as well as what you participate in when you are alone. Sometimes it’s best to turn off the TV, log off of social media, and tune out the noise. Being able to excuse yourself from conversations around the body can help mitigate the negative emotional impact they may have.
Practice Daily Affirmations
Affirmations for body acceptance is something that can be practiced daily. If you are just beginning your journey in body positivity or have been at this for a while, affirmations that speak to your body’s worth, decentering its size or weight, can be a simple and great way to reprogram your thought processes. Affirmations can be more than wishful thinking. Instead, you can use short factual statements to solidify your beliefs and reestablish values in yourself. Simple sayings like, “My body is worthy even if I didn’t exercise” or “I’m so much more than what I eat” can be introduced to interrupt thoughts around body shame. By practicing affirmations daily, you can start to create a routine that will keep you on course during your good days and be an extra layer of protection on the days when you need more support.
Be Kind to Yourself
Diet culture and fatphobia are everywhere! The pressure to conform to the demands of the weight loss industry is a reality all people face. Moreover, body acceptance is something that is practiced daily and even then, those who practice it may face internal struggles. Knowing this, it’s important to be kind with yourself during the holidays. There is no requirement that you hit the gym to “burn off” what you ate. There is no better, smaller, acceptable version of yourself. No new year resolution for weight loss needed.
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Your Truth
For those who do not like confrontation, speaking up can be a challenge. However, sometimes, speaking up is the remedy needed. Reclaiming your “voice” in a situation can be empowering and informative. You should never feel like you have to endure ill-treatment from someone because of the choices you make about your body. You aren’t any less worthy of respect because you choose not to conform to the pressures of diet culture.
For Friends and Families of the Body Positivist
It is important to note that most people look forward to spending the holidays with those they care about the most. For many people, this includes the company of friends and family. Creating a safe space is imperative for marginalized groups. Here are some ways family and friends can be a resource for those practicing body positivity.
Avoid Fat & Diet Talk
There are sooooo many more things to discuss during the holidays as opposed to what you ate, didn’t eat, and regret eating. If you have someone who is practicing body positivity among you, think about the things they would like to talk about. Think about the great things that have happened to you throughout the year that you can share. Avoid talk about dieting and body shame, as this often leads to more shame among those participating. If you have a hard time coming up with topics, it’s always a good rule of thumb to yield the floor, allowing the person practicing body positivity to lead.
Contrary to popular belief, body positivity is not a fad that just started a few years ago. In fact, what’s now known as fat acceptance has been around since the 1960s. Before one considers dismissing a friend or family’s acceptance of body positivity, it’s important to educate yourself on what these terms actually mean. By doing so, you position yourself to be an ally and advocate to that friend or family member in their time of need.
One of the biggest commitments you can make to your friend or family member practicing body positivity is to seize opportunities to speak up, encourage, and support when applicable. Perhaps it’s a friendly encouragement after a visit with family or changing the topic when you notice the conversation veering toward dieting. Having a strong support system is a powerful tool for those in recovery of eating disorders and those on the journey of body positivity. It also takes a lot of the pressure off of those who have made a choice in body positivity to do all the work on their own. By leaning in, you not only show yourself to be an ally, but you also allow the education you’ve gained to go to “work” by sharing it with others.
You Deserve Happiness During the Holidays
The holidays are not reserved for only those who have seemingly have life figured out. No, they are for the rejected, the ridiculed, the scorned and hurt. They are for those still figuring life out, those who choose to live differently, and those who stand upright in their truth. The holidays are for everyone, and you are not left out of that number.
By identifying best practices for yourself, you are participating in a type of self-care that will provide you with protection and liberty. Remaining body positive through the holiday season will allow you to focus on the snow that falls and the carols to be sung. When the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, you’ll remember where you were and with who you chose to celebrate with. You’ll know when to engage and divest. Freedom will be your inheritance.