’tis the season…for fear-mongering about weight gain. Just fuck off about it already

Image: star-shaped sugar cookies on a wood board with a star-shaped cookie cutter in the background.

Image: star-shaped sugar cookies on a wood board with a star-shaped cookie cutter in the background.

It’s Thanksgiving for all of our American friends (business as usual today in the Great White North). And you know what that means? Feasts! Treats! Social times where food is the centre piece. Lots and lots of it.

And also: the fear-mongering about gaining weight. The first such article came my way last week in the form of “It takes six months to lose all your holiday weight. Here’s how to avoid gaining it instead.”

How, you ask? Mindful eating, that’s how.  But that’s not the point. I have nothing against mindful eating. I like it. I do it. I prefer it even. And I practice it most of the time, including the holidays.

What I do have something against is framing its sole purpose around avoiding holiday weight gain that will take us six months to lose if we don’t watch ourselves.  Food policing and constant body surveillance to make sure we don’t “overindulge” — you wouldn’t want to enjoy too much would you now ? — those things I mind.

It wasn’t too long ago (well okay, it was just over 25 years ago) when I battled with abject fear whenever faced with an event with a “food table.” So it’s not as if I don’t know that out of control feeling. But it doesn’t abate by being told to eat mindfully.

I honestly can’t stand the thought of being surrounded by a bunch of people saying “I know I shouldn’t but” (and all manner of riffs on that same theme) for the next five or six weeks. It’s the diet mentality that messes everyone up in the first place. And the diet mentality starts with demonizing treats as guilty pleasures that we succumb to and assuming that weight gain is the most terrible thing in the world. A more healthy attitude about food, treats, and the holidays wouldn’t foster obsession and the “I know I shouldn’t” scenarios.

Instead, we would make choices, enjoy them, and move on. It infuriates me further that at the same time that we are about to be inundated with these narratives of weight, meant to instill terror we are also surrounded by magazines promoting delicious holiday foods that we’re encouraged to buy, cook, enjoy, indulge in.

Mixed messages of “eat” and “don’t eat.” No wonder so many people struggle.  Indeed, three years ago I posted something entitled exactly that: “Eat! Don’t Eat! Holiday Magazine Mixed Messages.”

My suggestion then was “pay attention,” which is not too far off of the idea of mindful eating. But that’s something I aim for year round anyway, and it’s working for me. But I still feel irritated when I see these mixed messages. And mostly they just make me want to say “fuck off and leave me alone!” I’m weary of it and it’s hardly even begun.

How do you feel about the holiday messaging around food/weight?

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