Tis’ the season of receiving messages, emails, and media ads promoting tips on how to maintain a healthy weight over the holiday season. Diet culture thrives in this season and the diet industry is seductive and preys upon people when they’re most vulnerable. They hook you in by promising a crazy amount of weight-loss in a short amount of time and assure that if your new year’s resolution isn’t to lose weight, you’re doing it wrong. Does this sound familiar? I’d be lying if I said I’ve never fallen victim to this trap.
Most what diet culture media is promoting during the holiday season is saying that your body, as it is right now, is not good enough and, therefore, you should listen to their advice. Here’s the kicker: the articles that promote fast weight-loss and body shaming are not being written by nutrition professionals. Their endgame is to sell a product. They have no interest in empowering you and they are most definitely not looking out for your health. Diets are meant to fail. If a diet worked like it promised, the diet industry wouldn’t be worth $71 billion.
I recently received an email with the title, “Got those holiday cravings? Count those calories!” I cringed. Messages like these are very sneaky. They’re not promising a fast result or a product, but they promote something even scarier: restriction. It’s no secret that in the short-term, calorie restriction can lead to weight-loss, but at what cost? Not enjoying the holiday cookies you’ve just baked, saying no to your favorite dish that’s been a family tradition for years, and setting you up to fail. Restriction throws our body into a vicious cycle of mistrust. We restrict and our bodies learn to slow down our metabolism because it doesn’t trust that it will be fed again. And when we do eat, our body sends signals to eat as much as we can for the same reason. This leads to overeating, or even a binge. Restriction in the long-term can even cause weight gain, increases the risk of developing an eating disorder, hormonal dysregulations, extreme fatigue, and a myriad of other side effects.
Giving yourself full permission to eat and enjoy the food reduces the likelihood of overeating.
Instead of counting calories to gain control during the holidays, how about letting go a little bit? Give yourself permission to enjoy the food instead of creating rules for yourself. Tune into your body and maybe you’ll notice it telling you something different than what your mind has been saying. You are allowed to enjoy second helpings without guilt, and you’re allowed to recognize that maybe you’re satisfied and don’t want seconds. You are allowed to eat without judgment and without having to burn off the calories afterwards. You are allowed to tune into your own emotions and physical sensations to guide you toward cravings.
So, if those holiday cookies are calling your name, eat them and move on!
Eating Disorder Hope. (2015) “Bulimia and Starvation: How Restriction Perpetuates the Binge-Purge Cycle.” https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/bulimia/bulimia-and-starvation-how-restriction-perpetuates-the-binge-purge-cycle.
National Eating Disorders Association. (2018) “Statistics & Research on Eating Disorders.” https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders.
Schilling, Leslie P. (2018). “Disorder in disguise: Recognizing the need for change when common diet trends cause harm.” ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 22, no. 5. 34–39. https://doi.org/10.1249/FIT.0000000000000422.