It's Thanksgiving week and I am really looking forward to some good quality family fun. We are going to eat, drink, play games, laugh and tell the kids no 500 times but it's going to be great. To be honest, that isn't something I usually say around the holidays. I am usually anxious about the food, the drinks, the conversations, and so many other things.
What are we having? What and how much am I going to eat? Is there something for everyone? Did I eat the appetizer too close to meal time? Is there enough food for everyone? Do I eat the crust or not? Do we have to talk about what diet everyone is on? Do we have to talk about how much weight everyone is trying to lose? Do we have to talk about how great everyone else looks in their jeans? Do we have to talk about food the entire time we are together (yes, that often happens with my family!)?
All of these anxieties = eating more = feeling worse.
I am so much more aware of how things and words make me feel as I'm more aware of my problems with body positivity and disordered eating. I also know that the worse I feel about myself, the more I try to manage what everyone else is doing or having. "Wow hunny, that's a lot of stuffing" may be a phrase I've said a time or two.
I really have been much better and happier around food recently and I'd like to just ride that on into the holidays. I try to focus more on the environment and the experience of enjoying time together rather than if my face will be puffy in the morning from my dinner.
Not everyone understands the thoughts and anxieties of someone struggling with eating problems ranging from an eating disorder to emotional eating and that's ok. Not everyone understands the triggers that can really send you spiraling into a dark hole of never-ending negative thoughts and that's ok too. So I thought I'd share some tips on how to have a positive holiday gathering while trying to avoid unintentional body and food shaming, especially if you have someone at your gathering that might be a little more sensitive and my guess is that we all do.
1. Avoid talking about weight.
This includes their weight, your weight or anyone else's weight. We are all probably guilty of saying how great someone looks or commenting on how much weight they've lost (or gained...seriously who does that?). It places an importance on weight and weight does not define someone. Compliment someone on their beautiful sweater or something else. Ask about their kids, their job, black Friday plans or anything else that might be important to them.
2. Don't discuss what is or isn't on their plate.
Everyone is in charge of their own plate and what is going in their own mouth. Commenting on their food could make them feel like they are doing something wrong or like everyone is watching them. I don't feel like it's harmful to give a shout out to the chefs during the meal, however.
3. Don't discuss how long you will need to spend at the gym after eating the pumpkin pie!
Just eat the pie and enjoy it for goodness sakes. It won't go to your ass tomorrow, FYI. This should not be normal talk by anyone anyway. But it could validate someone with disordered eating behaviors that might normally have those thoughts. Exercise should not be punishment for eating.
4. Offer an activity to do outside of the kitchen.
Make it easy to step out of the kitchen and not be near all of the food and everyone talking about the food. Have a coloring station. Maybe some board or card games going. Turn on the football game.
The holidays can be a time where it is easy to trigger negative thoughts in someone with current or previous disordered eating. It is obviously unintentional but the brain doesn't always decipher the difference. When in doubt, discuss politics...just kidding =).
Let's be thankful for our loved ones, our able bodies and the food that nourishes them. I am looking forward to keeping the holidays super positive and enjoyable this year and I hope you do as well.
Happy Thanksgiving friends!