Navigating food during the holidays

photo of dinner table for Christmas
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Content warning: disordered eating

Ah, the holidays: a wonderful time for caroling, decorating and cozy evenings near the fireplace. I bet somewhere there are people planning their Christmas Day meal. However, paired with the season of giving are arduous scenarios for those who have difficult times with food. Food, undeniably, is a principal part of the holiday season. For this reason, it’s certainly not atypical for anxiety to rise when the holidays roll around. You might have intrusive aunts or uncles who are telling you to eat less or more, commenting about your weight, etc. Although it comes from a place of love, it may feel uncomfortable at times, especially if you have a history of disordered eating. 

To be frank, I myself have an unhealthy relationship with food. While going home for the winter holidays seems like a much-needed time without college at the forefront of my mind, I often dread the invasive comments as previously mentioned. The Daily Clog has said a thing or two about intuitive eating. Now, here is a list of ways to help you navigate your holiday dinner this December. 

Dealing with emotional hunger

Throughout this semester, I can recall countless times where I deeply desired homemade food prepared from my mother’s stove. I think many of us can relate to this sentiment — especially after eating Cafe 3’s pasta for the third time this week. Nonetheless, diet culture is all around us; we often hear talk about overeating and restricting oneself during the holidays. I’m here to remind you that pinpointing whether you’re hungry, satisfied or full is important. Deciding whether you should eat a second plate is a decision made from within. Needless to say, emotional hunger is valid. There are no regulations or judgments when deciding on grabbing a slice of pie for dessert. Conquering your demons by doing so is often the best way to shut them up. 

Setting boundaries with loved ones

Although family may feel as though they are helping by commenting on your weight, it usually does the opposite. There may be an aunt who offers you food every hour, or perhaps a sibling who makes a comment on how little you’ve been eating. If your family is anything like mine, food is definitely their love language — and understandably so. However, you shouldn’t feel pressured to eat something you don’t want out of pity. Creating boundaries between you and your loved ones may be just the trick to enjoy the holiday food at your own rate. You can do so by standing up for yourself at the dinner table saying something such as, “I would really appreciate it if we can talk about something else,” or “Thanks for the great food, but I’m really full. Thanks for offering.”

Focusing on your own goals

As we swiftly approach the end of the year, the same rhetoric of “new year, new me” will resurface yet again. Although taking care of yourself and your body is just as important as your mental health, it shouldn’t bring pressure. For instance, if you hear your cousin saying that his New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier and work out more, it doesn’t have to be yours. Reminding yourself that your needs are different from others’ circumstances is key for your well-being. This is especially true for those with past toxic relationships with food. Diet culture is oftentimes more negative than positive. However, it only takes a macroperspective to affirm that you are doing the best you can. 

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. I’ve faced my fair share of demons when it comes to food, ranging from skipping meals to an insurmountable feeling of guilt. Despite this, I surrounded myself with people who understood what I was going through when I couldn’t face it alone. Sometimes that’s all you need: someone to tell you that you’re doing alright, even when you don’t feel so. Never feel embarrassed to reach out for help, either. Reminder: You are not alone.

Contact Anyssa Torres at [email protected].