5 Ways to Celebrate Food and Your Body This Thanksgiving
By Kira Rakova--The holiday season in the United States has had, for the past few decades, a strong focus on food, bodies, weight, and dieting. It is not uncommon to see headlines of magazines, online publications, and advertisements that warn against ‘holiday weight gain’ and provide solutions on how to ‘prepare’ for it. Many Americans continue to make weight-related New Year’s resolutions year after year, with one study finding that 38% of Americans made such resolutions in 2015. And around the dinner tables, conversations about dieting, calories, and bodies can be heard. The holiday season in the United States (and many other countries too!) is truly food and body centric.
For someone in recovery from an eating disorder, this environment is especially difficult (although it is certainly toxic for all). Those in recovery may struggle to avoid triggers during this time. They may find it hard to reply to others’ fat-shaming and diet culture-centric conversations. They may feel like their progress in recovery may be scrutinized, or worse – undermined.
While there are, of course, resources and advice out there for people who are in recovery or struggling, the fact is, the way food and bodies are thought and presented about during the holidays has to change. It is important to start shifting the mentality away from toxic fat-shaming, diet talk, weight obsession, and food shaming. Instead, the holidays should be focused on coming together, appreciating the memories and experiences made throughout the year, and bringing about hope for the next year. Moreover, the holidays should become a time to start celebrating food and our bodies. The holidays should become a time to be thankful, cheerful, and hopeful rather than anxious, judgemental, and shaming.
But what does this mean on a practical level? How DO we move away from fat-shaming, self-shaming, guilt, and all the other emotions that the holidays have become intertwined with?
Ideally of course, there need to be structural, society-wide changes that need to occur. The content and framing of media needs to be addressed. Fat-shaming and fat-antagonism within schools, universities, and workplaces need to be dismantled. Health At Every Size needs to replace diet culture. But on an individual level, we can also begin making changes within our own lives. Below are just a few suggestions as to how:
- Celebrate the traditional, religious, or family meanings of dishes. Many holiday dishes have a particular history or meaning behind them. Spend timing learning about why the particular holiday you are celebrating involves specific foods. Is it because of a religious significance that involves a beautiful story? Is it because of historical access to certain foods or historical symbolism? Or is it perhaps something meaningful to your family? Ask your grandmother or uncle or other family member or friend about why they bring a particular dish every year? It’s a great way to connect over food in a way that goes beyond the food itself.
- Make food together. For those who are comfortable being around food as it is being prepared, it may be a good idea to participate in the food making. Often times, it is a fun bonding experience that once again transcends the physical meaning of food.
- If you are able, shut down body shaming. This one may be difficult to do, especially if you are in recovery and not open about it to everyone present. However, by shutting down problematic conversations about weight, bodies, and food, you are helping build an environment and culture that is not so centred on these things. Proud2Bme also has some great tips for you on how to do this!
- Share or write down what you are your thankful for your body for. What has your body helped you do this past year? Did you climb a mountain and watch a beautiful sunset? Learn how resilient your body is through yoga? Visit another country? Discover a new singing talent? Whatever it is, write down privately or share it with your family and friends, encouraging others to do so as well.
- Engage in winter festivities outdoors. Build a snowman, go skiing, have a snowball fight. Or if you live in a place with no snow, play tag or hide and seek with your little cousins or take a walk with a family member you haven’t seen in a while. Take time enjoying the outdoors and bonding with your loved ones. But of course, keep in mind that these types of activities (especially when physical) are NOT meant to be a form of punishment or “exercise”; they are meant to be about celebrating the wonderful things you can do outdoors with your loved ones.
Most importantly however, enjoy yourself! Whatever and however you celebrate, take time to appreciate yourself, your loved ones, and the deeper meaning behind the holiday.