By Maddie Ruud
‘Tis the season to be jolly… and also incredibly stressed. For many of us, the holidays can be one of the most difficult times to stay body positive. With a full roster of family gatherings and work functions (most of them centered on food), it can be hard to maintain personal balance — and on top of that, of course, there’s always at least one person guaranteed to say something triggering. Here are a few tips to help us all stay centered while we celebrate the season!
Forget the numbers.
I know it’s tempting, but steer clear of your scale. When you break it down, there’s nothing to be gained by it. Weight fluctuates daily based on salt and alcohol intakes, as well as hormonal changes, and the holidays are a perfect storm of these ingredients. Your scale will not accurately reflect “true” changes in your weight, serving only to lower your self-esteem and increase your stress — which in addition to being the last thing you need for your mental health, in turn slows down your metabolism.
This sounds counter-intuitive, but it has been a lifesaver for me through many Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts alike. Dieting mentality tells us to compensate for our indulgences with self-starvation (either before or afterwards), but by skipping or skimping on meals, you are actually shooting yourself in the foot. Eating regularly will keep your blood sugar more level, heading off hunger-induced mood swings. It also prevents you from getting so ravenous that you inadvertently overeat when it does come time for the holiday meal.
With the prevalence of diet mentality, it is inevitable that someone brings up weight or nutrition eventually. You can prepare for these moments by practicing “redirections,” or changing the focus of the conversation. Before I enter a holiday gathering, I like to rehearse a few lines I can use to get out of uncomfortable spots. For example, if my partner’s mother comments on my weight, I am prepared to say, “You know, I’ve noticed that since I started to focus more on listening to my body than on my weight, I’ve felt a lot healthier and happier,” and then move on to a different subject. If a friend announces he will only be eating turkey because he is on a low-carb diet, I am ready to ask about his plans for New Year’s Eve. Thinking about these “outs” ahead of time helps me not to freeze up or (worse!) to get sucked into engaging in a body-negative discussion.
Remember the reason.
When it comes down to it, the winter holiday season is about celebration! Our traditions and rituals may vary, but we are all celebrating bounty, whether it be the bounty of the earth, of light, of friends, of family, of God, or all of them together.
And last, but perhaps most importantly:
Celebrate the bounty of your body.
Just as we get more out of the holidays if we consciously put the emphasis back on the positives, we can do the same with our bodies. If you’re getting ready for a festive cocktail party and are suddenly stricken by the idea that your legs look too fat in that dress, take a deep breath. Focus on what your legs do for you, and how well they do it. Take a moment to think about–or better, to do!–something that celebrates your legs, like dancing. We spend a lot of time in November thinking about what we’re grateful for, but often we only bother to mention external things. Spend some time saying thank you to your body. In the end, your body will thank you.