Written by: Michele Zandman - Frankel
Owner of RevolutioniZe Nutrition, Health and Exercise Science
Nutritionist, IFBB/NPC Prep Coach, IFBB Pro
Remaining body positive throughout the holiday season can be a struggle for so many. You may have to face that one family member with the uninvited comments regarding theirs or your body appearance, or how they or you should eat during the holidays. You may overhear “fat shaming”, or “fit shaming”, harmful discussions and relationships with food, and exercise as a form of punishment from overindulging, as well as witnessing extreme and dangerous New Year’s resolutions. You name it, these things happen. Sometimes we can trigger someone else to feel uncomfortable. It’s always smart to ditch the diet talk during the holiday gatherings, and simply be in the moment, enjoying quality time with your loved ones, and engaging in positive, joyful topics of conversation, games, music, and other activities. Here are some tips to avoid discomfort and feelings of body shame and food shame during your holiday gatherings:
Ditch the diet talk and discuss your feelings with your family and friends: You need to speak up. Discuss with them how it feels when they make certain remarks on how they or you appear or eat. Even if they don’t fully understand, hopefully they will try to avoid making harmful comments about food or bodies. Sometimes it helps to have a prepared scripted response to these uninvited comments.
Clean up your social media: If particular pages make you feel uncomfortable, it’s ok to mute them. One of the benefits of social media, is it is easy to find other likeminded people. Follow pages that make you feel good, and offer a positive supportive community for you to be a part of.
Say no when needed: If you don’t want to go somewhere that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t go. If you feel pressure around the holidays to eat a particular way, say no. You need to learn to stand your ground. “NO” is a complete sentence. The right people in your life will respect your boundaries.
Excuse yourself: If someone says a triggering comment, sometimes to respond is too hard. Simply excuse yourself from the conversation and direct your attention elsewhere. “I have to use the bathroom” , or “I’m going to grab something (food, drink, purse, something in your car”, are easy ways to excuse yourself.
Change the conversation: Direct where you want the conversation to go. Change the topic. Draw their attention elsewhere. Redirect conversations away from body policing or criticism with topics that inspire connection and joy. Focus on positive memories, family stories, recipes, traditions, and achievements. It maintains the conversational flow, but redirects attention toward other more positive and supportive topics that make you and those around you feel joyful, rather than dwelling on aspects that will bring you down.
Have a buffer or teammate: If there's an ally physically present with you, ask them to act as a buffer whenever triggering topics come up, or help you when you ask for the conversation to change.
Make a self care kit to handle stress: Make yourself a self-care package, including things like a journal, music, images that inspire you, uplifting notes, a massage ball, fidget toys, grounding objects, or scented oils/creams/candles. When things get overwhelming or you're experiencing a lot of rumination on negative thoughts about your body, have this kit nearby. Even if you don't carry anything physical, a mental list of self-care techniques can help - breathing, meditation, excusing yourself from the party to go for a walk.
Dress for comfort and confidence: Plan your outfit in advance and wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Do not wear anything that may lead to feelings of insecurity.
Holidays can be an isolating time: If you're separated from your usual support network, family or friends, especially with so many family plans turning to ruins due to Coivd, it's important to have a plan when you feel lonely. Always have somebody to call or contact when you're feeling particularly negative about your body. Partner up with at least one friend or family member who gets it so you can message one another for support, venting, or validation as needed. That way you can share frustrations, feel mutually supported, and avoid sensations of loneliness in your toughest moments.
Stay engaged in activities that won't have you surrounded by food or obsessing over food. Go for a walk with the family, play with your niece, nephew or kids, get the family to play a game, watch a movie, set up an arts and crafts station and make something festive, listen and dance to music, or partake in a fun winter activity.
Body image struggles during the holidays is a real thing. But don’t let it ruin quality time with your loved ones. Cherish your time with them, reminisce on wonderful memories and make more happy, joyful ones together.
Do what makes you happy, and also, support others in their mission to do the same for themselves :)
Also, I found the attached picture quite funny and "spicy"!
Have a wonderful holiday everyone!!!!
Warmest holiday wishes,