Staying body positive through the holidays

Thanksgiving, and holidays in general, can be a tricky time for anyone. Not only do holidays tend to be food-focused with lots of expectations around eating, but seeing family that you may not have seen in a couple months can spark conversations you may not want to have about your body and how you look.  Comments about your appearance or how much you’ve changed since the last family gathering may be triggering to some, especially if you have negative body image. Here are some tools to help you navigate those less-than-ideal situations come holiday season.

What is body image?

Body image is the way we see ourselves both in our minds and when we look in the mirror. It includes our thoughts about our appearance, how we feel about our weight, shape, or height and how we physically experience our body through movement. Our relationship with our body changes over time and even day by day. There are many things you can do to improve your body image. Eating a variety of different foods with important nutrients and moving your body in a way that feels good might be a good place to start. Meeting with a licensed therapist can also be helpful. Some other helpful tools for improving body image include changing your thought patterns.

NEDA, the National Eating Disorder Association, recommends the following:

  1. Celebrate all the great things that your body does for you.
  2. Keep a list of all the things you like about yourself (not including your appearance).
  3. Remind yourself that beauty is a state of mind and comes from within, not just what you look like on the outside.
  4. See yourself as a whole person, not just as the things you don’t like about yourself.
  5. Surround yourself with positive people- family, friends, and others who treat you well and make you feel good.
  6. Find some affirmation to repeat to yourself when your negative body thoughts occur.
  7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good about your body. Find clothes that fit your body, don’t make your body fit your clothes.
  8. Be careful with social media. Become in tune with messages that make you feel bad about yourself and your body. Unfollowing accounts that post these messages may be helpful.
  9. Do something nice for yourself. Read a book, take a nap, or treat yourself to a spa day. Anything that makes you feel good.
  10. Do something nice for others. That’s always a way to make yourself feel good.

If conversations around weight and body are making you uncomfortable (and it’s no one’s place to talk/comment on your body anyway) here are some things you can say to deter or change the conversation. Remember, these phrases are just to help guide you since confronting a family member or close friend during the holidays can be hard.

“I’d prefer if you didn’t comment on my body/weight”

“I’m not interested in discussing weight loss or dieting today, but we could discuss the most recent episode of/podcast/celebrity gossip….”

“That doesn’t really concern you”

“That comment made me uncomfortable”

“I’m working on my relationship with food and my body right now, and I’d prefer to not talk about this”

“Thank you” with no further comments

“You commenting on my weight doesn’t motivate or help me become healthier. It does the opposite. Please stop”

If you feel comfortable, set boundaries. Call/text your family members ahead of time and let them know certain conversations/comments are triggering and you’d prefer they be avoided.

The holidays are a time for friends, family and food and you shouldn’t let your relationship with your body distract from that. Eat the delicious food and desserts while honoring your hunger and fullness cues. You don’t want to regret missing out on arguably the tastiest meal of the year so allow yourself to enjoy, savor, and trust your body’s ability to handle it.

– Dietitian Reuby