The holidays can be a joyous time for many, whilst challenging for others. As a therapist specializing in disordered eating and body image issues, I can attest that the holidays can be difficult for this population. In many cultures, holidays are surrounded by family, friends, and food. If your relationship with food or your body is something that you struggle with, then the holidays could be an increased time of stress. Whether you are struggling with what others will say about your body, how you will feel about your body, or the food that will be present; hopefully this will provide some guidance or relief.
Choose an outfit that you feel comfortable in.
Having a bad body image day? That’s ok! Pick out looser fitted clothing or an outfit you simply feel comfortable in. Clothes that cling to your body can create negative thoughts about yourself. Try outfits out in advance to find something comfortable. Nothing is worse than trying outfits on the day of an event and realizing you despise everything in your wardrobe.
Find a support person!
Having a person who is able to provide words of encouragement and reassurance. This can either be someone who will be in-person at your holiday events or a call or text away. Struggling with disordered eating or body image issues can be a very isolating feeling, but it is not something you should have to deal with alone.
Avoid body checking
It’s tempting, I know. Body checking is the act of looking at your body in a mirror or pictures. For some people, this may not be harmful. However, for someone struggling with their body image, this could be detrimental. One minute you are enjoying the holidays with your family and the next you are mentally tearing your body apart.
Identify words or phrases that can be empowering and motivating for you. Recite these words out loud, in your head, or on paper. You may find that externalizing the affirmation can be more powerful. When a thought is in your head, it is combined with so many others and can often get lost. However, when a thought is out in the open, it becomes more realistic and tangible. Below is a list of positive affirmations that you can utilize. Key tip: Write the affirmation down at least 5 times and/or put it on a sticky note somewhere you frequent, so you are always reminded of it.
Examples of positive affirmations: My body is my own. My body is unique and does not need to look like anyone else’s. I am more than just my body. My worth has nothing to do with my appearance. I do not need to change my body. I am grateful for all that my body allows me to do.
Sometimes being positive toward your body is just not realistic and could be discouraging in the moment. Body neutrality is a tool that can be useful on your journey to improving your body image. Individuals may struggle with being positive toward their body because it may not feel very genuine and that is where this tip can be beneficial. Stick to the facts. Ask your support person for help with this one, as the unhealthy mind may have trouble finding neutral facts.
Examples of neutral phrases: My body is enough just as it is. My body deserves to be nourished. I am working toward accepting my body as it is and how it may change. My satisfaction in life is not based on how much I weigh or how I look.
Redirect diet talk
It is not uncommon for family members and friends to talk about their plans for their new diet once the holiday season ends. If you find yourself in this situation, focus on redirecting the conversation. For example, you could redirect this talk by asking them to tell you more about their upcoming trips or favorite sports team. If redirection is not working, you always have the option to either walk away or address your discomfort. A helpful statement could be, “I would really appreciate it if you could refrain from making body comments, it is a difficult topic for me”. Those that support you will understand.
Listen to your body
You have the freedom to eat whatever it is that you desire. Getting to this place is very empowering. However, until you get there, eating during the holidays can be difficult to navigate. Listen to your body and give it the fuel that it needs. Under-eating to fit into your clothes or look good for the photos will more than likely produce negative results. When we restrict ourselves from eating, it can often lead to the need to binge eat, which then leads to symptoms of depression. This is a vicious cycle that develops through food restriction and can be prevented.
Seek Professional Help
If you continuously find yourself in a position where you are struggling with what you perceive as disordered eating or body image issues, seek professional help. It is not a battle you should have to fight alone, and an unbiased mind can aid you in creating profound progress.
Please note that each individual’s experience is unique. You may find that some tips resonate with you more than others and some not at all; that is absolutely ok and normal. Whether you are struggling or someone you know, my hope is that one piece of this will be helpful.
When you begin to accept yourself as you are, that is when the real change begins.