3 Tips for Rejecting Diet-Mentality This Thanksgiving

How to stand up against diet-culture over the holidays.

Posted Nov 25, 2015

Flickr
Source: Flickr

The diet industry and mainstream media inundates us with negative messages around the holiday season. From commercials talking about “guilt free” desserts, to the fear-mongering articles and advertisements that talk about “the consequences of overindulging” in food over the holiday season with an almost religious fervor — it seems that as a society we have a long way to go in regards to embracing self-love and ditching the diet mentality. The following are my tips for enjoying your Thanksgiving meal in a way that is truly healthy — both mentally and physically.

1. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat with attunement.

From an evolutionary standpoint, restricting food sets the perfect landscape for binge eating. We are hardwired to counter any threat of starvation by later taking in as much energy as possible. Restricting your food leading up to the big Thanksgiving meal will only set you up for over-eating or bingeing at the meal. Additionally, seeing foods as "good" and "bad" can also lead to emotional overeating and bingeing. The reality is that all foods in moderation can fit into a healthy diet. The only reason that you should feel guilt and shame surrounding eating is if you stole the brownie from the store.

In a certification program that I am doing on intuitive eating, Evelyn Tribole (the co-author of the book Intuitive Eating) discussed the concept of giving yourself “unconditional permission to eat with attunement.” So what exactly does this mean? Basically, rather than setting external rules around food she encourages you to allow yourself to have full freedom to eat, but in a way that is mindful and pays attention to your hunger/fullness cues and how certain foods make your body feel.

Rather than judging yourself for eating certain foods, work to mindfully pay attention to how your body is feeling during the meal. Check in with your body and intuition to decide what food looks good to you and then try to savor it mindfully. Not only will you enjoy your food more, you are also less likely to overeat if you are eating mindfully and paying attention to your hunger/fullness cues. If you do eat past the point of fullness, work to practice some self-compassion and try to accept that "normal eaters" overeat at times.

The holiday season comes once a year-and despite what diet culture leads you to believe you will not become “unhealthy” based off of one meal.

2. Speak up against food-shamers and diet-crusaders.

As much as we try, it is impossible to eliminate all of the negative messages that we receive surrounding food and our bodies over the holidays. However, you are able to set boundaries with people who are engaging in diet-talk or body-shame at your Thanksgiving Dinner. The following are some ideas for how to shut down body-hate and diet-talk if it occurs at your table this year.

A. Shift the topic to something else.

-So did you see that awesome new T.V. show/movie etc?

-How is your son/daughter doing?

B. Make a statement that asserts your opinion in a respectful (or even humorous) way.

-Instead of talking about dieting, can we all share what we are thankful for?

-I hear that you're really into your new diet, but talking about it stops me from enjoying this amazing meal and time with you guys.

-I’d appreciate it if you didn’t comment on my food choices.

-I’m trying not to focus on my weight, there are so many more interesting things about me.

-I’m trying not to focus on my eating habits, and instead to think about what is actually important.

-Thanks for your concern about what I’m eating, but my body is actually really smart and good at regulating my energy intake to maintain homeostasis.

3. Take some space if needed and surround yourself with body-positive, and anti-diet people, social media, and messages.

If you are unable or do not feel comfortable shutting down diet-talk at the table, you always have the option to excuse yourself and to call/text a support person in your life. You know yourself best and if you find a certain conversation to be too triggering, you are allowed to walk away.

Additionally, another powerful way to fight back against negative messaging from individuals and the media around the holidays is to surround yourself with body-positive, anti-diet individuals and media outlets. There are so many great social media pages that support health at every size, body-positive, and anti-diet messages, but my personal favorites include the following:

The Moderation Movement
Body Peace & Liberation
Seale Nutrition
Josée Sovinsky Nutrition 
Aaron Flores, RD
Lauren Muhlheim, Psy.D., CEDS
Isabel Foxen Duke
Linda Bacon HAES
Love Your Body Project: Peace, Love, and Food
Healthy Balance Fitness
Ashley Graham

Together, we can work to fight back against the unhealthy messages that teach us that we should feel guilt and shame surrounding our bodies and our food choices. What if instead of ruminating on the calorie content of the meal, we focused on our deep gratitude for the ability to savor a delicious meal with family members, friends, or our partner? If we can begin to shift the predominant paradigm from one of self-hate and shame to one of body respect and self-love, we can impact positive changes for ourselves and for future generations to come.

This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to write a list of all that you are grateful for (including all of the things that your body enables you to do). After all, diet-talk, shaming food and body comments, and self-hate truly has no place at a Thanksgiving table.

For body-positive, self-love inspiration connect with Jennifer on Facebook.