Enjoy the mince pies, eggnog, Christmas cake and all the festive fancies! Not because it’s “that time of year” or “you’ve been ‘good'” or even because you can “work it off in the New Year” but because eating food for enjoyment is normal and healthy, not to mention an absolute privilege and an honour!
Before anyone jumps down my throat for being “irresponsible” and “promoting unhealthy behaviour”, I am not saying “gorge yourself senseless this Christmas!” although “normal eating” does also include eating past fullness signals occasionally, especially at celebratory times. I know there are people out there who are fully committed to misunderstanding the body positive message. And that’s fine. This is not for you.
Several years ago, for periods of time I would restrict the things on the “naughty food list”, feeling very chuffed with myself, positively saintly in fact, if I managed to stick to the ‘diet’. I would do this until I could think of nothing else, other than those foods, the contraband and would consequently end up stuffing my face until I went way past that feeling of fullness. See, by suppressing food desires I was setting myself up to binge and not be able to recognise my satiety signals. In a tired and hungry state, judgment can be impaired and impulsivity tends to increase.
By assigning morality to food choices, we create a confusing and unhealthy relationship with food which could develop into medical complications, emotional and psychological pain, leading to serious impairment.
Thankfully I was never that determined to lose weight to put myself through such uncomfortable measures and most times, only after a couple of months I would balance out food portions again. Whilst on my weight loss journey I would be addicted to hearing “ooh you’ve lost weight, you look great” (urgh – that’s a topic for another blog) but I was very aware that I was quite miserable. Being so restricted was a pain in the ass and in no way sustainable. Can I get an AMEN?
Years ago, I went to Duncan from Blue’s 30th birthday (oops, I dropped something, I’ll pick that back up!) which was held in a beautiful penthouse suite in a hotel. There was fabulous food and overflowing alcohol but because I was on a diet I didn’t partake. I felt rather out of place and was so tired I had zero banter. I ended up leaving at 11pm and was in bed by midnight. Sod off Diet Culture!
Our bodies know what and how much we need to survive and if we listen to it we can live very comfortably within about 10 pounds of our set point weight in either direction. But in order to do that, one thing must be mourned: the continual desire to be slim. And acceptance that one might put on weight is an essential part of breaking out of the cycle of yo yo dieting.
I realise I’ve just lost half of you. I mean, how ridiculous, being ok with getting bigger?
There’s a lot of work that can be done around mourning the loss of the “thin ideal”, but what helped me was learning about the negative effect that persistent dieting could have on my body, in conjunction with the realisation that I had done this so many times without a permanent result, just like 97% of everyone else who had tried and failed to lose weight for good. Here are some reasons why restricting is not good for you and in fact more dangerous than carrying extra pounds…
- The fewer calories you eat per day, the harder it is to get all the vitamins you need.
- Restricting makes your body believe it is starving so it reduces metabolism and begins to save fat which in turn makes you think that you are failing and need to restrict even more.
- Losing weight means digesting your own body tissue instead of food and unfortunately, dieting does not tell your body what parts it needs to digest or which parts to save.
- Dieting causes muscle loss, possibly from your heart with severe consequences.
- Not to mention that dieting makes you moody, gives you bad breath, makes you obsessed with food and binging can cause guilt and low self esteem.
- It does not teach you about eating healthily and impairs a normal relationship with food.
Imagine if we’ve never been convinced that eating less would result in permanent weight loss, or if we’d never been told that foods are good or bad. Imagine that we lived in a society that didn’t favour one body type over another and oppress more marginalised bodies, causing people to truly believe that being fat is the worst thing anyone could be. I love Dr Linda Bacon’s tweet this morning, which says…
“I don’t think I’m dreaming when I predict an eventual cultural turnaround, where Health At Every Size ideas become common currency and Jenny Craig “something bizarre our parents used to do.””
And I have to agree, based on the advances that the Health At Every Size, Body Positive and Fat Acceptance movements have been making within the last couple of years. And based on my own life and the changes in my eating habits and relationship with my body and food, I’d say that this cultural turnaround is most definitely possible.
So please, this Christmas and any friggin’ time you want, enjoy the mince pies!