Holidays are here which means plenty of time to circle around your respective family and friend's tables and all sing happily together, without any issues at all, glowing with the joy of the season and hope for the New Year.
As wonderful as this time of year can be, it’s also packed full of occasions which can really trigger some body-image related stress and heartache. The fact is, holidays are both amazing and exhausting and I thought it would be great to help you prep ahead of time for at least ONE issue to go a bit smoother this season – how you feel about your body during the holidays.
Included in this article is a special gift to help you keep your body-acceptance intact so you can enjoy the spirit of the season. Inspired by an activity in my More to Love Course, I'm providing you with a simple yet powerful exercise which I'd love for you to share to the More To Love Facebook page. The exercise is towards the end, so keep reading!
I’ve broken down three common topics which come up around the holidays:
- How to handle weight-related conversations
- How to enjoy food rather than fear it
- How to keep stress down and self-care up during this time of year
Read them all or jump to the one which speaks to you. And this is not meant to be the definitive answer but more so to serve as a touch-point for your own reflection on how these common body-image issues may show up in your life.
How to handle weight-related conversations
I know many of MTL’s readers deal with direct or not-so-direct comments and opinions about weight, health, and exercise. It’s unfortunate that it’s socially acceptable to discuss something as personal as someone’s own body in a public setting. So what can you do about it? A lot.
A while ago, I wrote a piece about how to handle unwanted comments about your body. It’s never comfortable or easy to prepare yourself for a potential “battle” so to speak, but that’s honestly what I suggest doing. Usually, you know who is going to be around you ahead of time so use it to your advantage.
Perhaps there is a relative or family friend who makes it their mission to pry and poke at your weight or lifestyle. For these types of people, I advise limiting as much interaction with them as possible. Don't be rude, just don't go too deep. You're not obligated to interact with people you don't want to.
Bear this in mind: you can be the owner of your conversations meaning – be in charge of what you want to talk about. Come prepared with one or two topics and stick to them. If things start to turn, excuse yourself – you’re an adult and you don’t have to participate in conversations that are not right or OK for you.
Another option is counting on your allies – aka, those relatives and friends around who you can call upon to support and diffuse if need be. It might also be a good idea to talk with them before hand to make a plan of action should some comments and topics start to venture into unwanted areas. It’s really nice to have the support of your loved ones in these tougher situations.
BUT OK, worst case scenario – someone makes a direct jab about your weight. What do you do? You take a deep breath, conjure up ALL the love and strength inside your heart and say calmly to them “That is a hurtful comment and it’s not ok to talk to me like that.” The ground you stand on is your own self-respect and naturally, someone might try to back-peddle or spin it, or play the "But I'm just concerned for you!" card. Calmly remind them again...
You do not have to be held to talk about something you don’t want to with someone you don't want to. And while it’ll be uncomfortable, the person is breaking your boundary when they are not entitled to. End of story.
How to enjoy food without fear
I am Irish-Italian, my dad is directly from Ireland and my mother is second generation Italian and her siblings all live within 2 miles of each other just north of Boston. My Italian side are fantastic cooks and the hosts of all occasions, and that being so, our holidays are abundant with food. How much food? So much that every single year since as long as I can remember each holiday meal has ended with “Ok, next year we’re going to scale it waaaaay back.” In my 30 years of celebrating, it's never happened!
So with all this food around (especially when I was in my diet days) I get these thoughts: Should I really eat that? Will I eat myself into a frenzy? Will I deprive myself of all the glory? Will I turn every day this month into a holiday feeding fest which will NEVER end??
Food is meant to be enjoyed and so is your experience around food. If you’re nervous about food triggering issues for you, you have the benefit of time now to plan for it. Perhaps re-read some articles or books that really helped you find a good balance with food. Talk with friends and family. Visit forums online. Get the gist of an intuitive eating approach and maybe it’ll lessen the fear around what you’ll do with food.
But I've found (same for the women I've coached) relief in giving myself permission to enjoy food. When you put trust back onto yourself, something amazing happens – you don't feel the need to control and you're actually more at ease because you've established faith in your ability to listen to your body.
My attitude towards food ebbs and flows; somedays I want to eat more than others, and I recognize that’ll be the case around the holidays too. My relationship to food these days is much more balanced and mindful, but it's still a practice and one I accept will change as I do.
Every bite is an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Am I eating out of boredom? Sad? STRESS? Just 'cuz it's there? Craving protein? Fats? What does full feel like? When I get hungry, how does it affect me?
Treat it like a science experiment and give yourself the space to be mindful and present with what you eat. Doing it this way, judgment around what you eat lessens over time.
I also put my attention to more than just food…I try to take in the whole experience of the holidays, the sounds, scents, cold temps, decorations, family, warmth. When it becomes less about food and more about an overall experience, I find myself moving into situations with more ease.
Basically, a holiday can exaggerate underlying food issues but they shouldn't rob you of the experience of enjoying yourself. So plan now, be mindful and give yourself room to experience deliciousness.
How to keep stress down and self-care up
Holidays also mean dealing with OTHER people and obligations. Between gifts, parties, traveling, and meeting expectations, it’s really easy to take for granted your own well-being. The more energy we place onto other people’s happiness, we deplete our own. And this is a very common issue for caregiving, heart-centered folks like yourself.
You give, give, give..but feel exhausted. Why? Maybe it’s for approval or to be loved. Maybe you feel guilty for taking time for yourself, or that your energy and investment should always be towards others. I totally understand that thinking but it’s also stressing you out. And everyone else!
So let me ask: what is your giving actually costing you?
Just because you take a few days here and there for yourself doesn't negate all the incredible roles you play in other people’s lives. In fact, they will respect your efforts even MORE when they see you are prioritizing your own well-being.
So go ahead and carve out two hours each week this month which are JUST FOR YOU. Put them on your calendar – hell, lie and say “Oh, I’m off shopping….” but instead, go to a movie. Get a mani-pedi. Sip tea alone in a coffee shop. Draw a hot bath at home while listening to relaxing music. Do yoga. Work on a special art project or crack open that journal. Do something special which reconnects you to yourself.
Making self-care a priority allows you to show up to all the amazing events this season brings. Stress robs you of the ability to do that. It’s not selfish to want to be at your best – you’re allowed to find time for yourself and recharge. In fact, you must.
More to Love Activity: Give yourself the gift of body-love this holiday season
Now that you've read through each of these common issues you might face, you've probably said "Oh, that's SO ME!" So how do you stop feeling/acting a certain way?
Provide yourself the space, permission and expectation to behave another way.
For this exercise, make a pledge to yourself on how you'll approach the season to ensure body-love is kept at the forefront. Journal, reflect and get quiet with yourself. Answer honestly "What is it I NEED to make this holiday body-positive time for me?"
To help you make it even more special, I've designed a template you can download and edit directly using PicMonkey.com. Once you create it, I'd love to see it! So email or post it and share with me how it's going.
It’s really easy to let the holiday’s become a black-hole, an exception to the rest of the year’s rules, but it’s still a time in our lives that requires focus and full-hearted presence.
Because let’s be honest…this really is a wonderful time of year and you deserve to feel it.