Eating Disorders Corner
“Food is not the enemy. Self-hate is.”
This corner is devoted to addressing eating disorders, disordered eating, and body image. I have specialized in treating people with all of the above since 1999. It is a large part of my work and my heart. This corner is for those of us on the journey of disconnecting our worth from our size or what we eat.
Food, Weight, and the Holidays
The winter holidays leading up to New Year's are a minefield for people with eating disorders and body image issues. All of the food and the having-to-dress-up-and-be-seen are intimidating for folx who don’t feel comfortable with their bodies or their relationship to food.
The diet industry preys upon our fears and hypes up all of the diets and things-pretending-not-to-be-diets. By New Year’s, we’ve decided that we do in fact need to diet to lose all of the holiday weight we gained because we couldn’t control ourselves.
If you find yourself in this minefield, I’ve got some thoughts. First, the diet industry is lying to us about “significant weight gain” during the holidays. The average amount of weight gained from Thanksgiving to New Year’s is about a pound.
However, the more worried you are about weight gain, the more likely you are to overly focus on the food portion of the holidays, which will almost guarantee that you eat more than you are hungry for, which will make you feel panicky. It’s not by accident that the diet industry is worth $71 billion.
The trick is to not overly focus on the food. I know it’s special, delicious food, and it’s hard not to focus on it. The goal is to appreciate it, eat the stuff you enjoy most until you’re full, and then stop eating it. The stopping part will be easier if you are focused on things besides the food, like listening to the story someone is telling, or gossiping with your cousin about your other cousin, or noticing everyone’s fashion choices.
Make a plan ahead of time. Think about how many platefuls of appetizers and how many platefuls of dinner will fill you up, who you can sit next to who will distract you, or even just remind yourself that you can have this food any time of the year. Preparation makes a difference when you are too overwhelmed in the moment to come up with a strategy.
I strongly recommend practicing body neutrality. Remind yourself that the purpose of your body is not to be thin or look pretty but to allow you to live and have all of the experiences.
Start noticing the experiences your body allows you to have: reading this, walking, petting your dog, cooking, eating, feeling excitement, watching a good movie, laughing. Notice what your body is doing for you instead of how it looks compared to the thin ideal.
Remind yourself that weight stigma is responsible for us feeling bad about our bodies. Weight stigma teaches us that being thinner is better and being fatter is BAD. It is a prejudice, plain and simple. Weight is not related to health or personality.
Remind yourself that diets don’t work. More than 95% of the time, you will gain the weight back within 1-5 years, and often you will gain more than you lost. The hope a diet gives you is false.
Bottom line: Figure out what else you are going to focus on besides your weight or the food. Keep returning to that when your attention wanders to unhelpful places.
How to Get Through the Holidays Without Focusing on Your Weight
Surviving Thanksgiving (relevant for other food-oriented holidays!)
Intentional Holidays: How to Build a Connected Intention