How to Navigate Harmful Food Sharming During the Holidays

this holiday is a (ahem) exciting time for many reasons.

Sure, it’s a great time of year to enjoy the holiday spirit, but it’s also a time when many of us are around one person who can make even the finest gatherings feel uncomfortable. for the shame of the food. Although well-intentioned in some cases, food shaming—including negative comments about food choices that can cause shame and guilt—does more harm than good.

“Food shame during the holidays [from loved ones] Colleen Christensen, RD, a registered dietitian with intuitive eating and founder of No Food Rules, says it’s possible for someone to fall into a binge eating cycle because they avoid giving their body the right foods. what it wants and needs. can make a person feel justifiably defensive.”

But this doesn’t just apply to adults; Christensen also points out how shame food can negatively impact children, even if it’s not directed at them. “From an early age, children can start to perceive food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on how adults around them talk about them,” she said.

For that reason, Christensen emphasizes the importance of not shaming food around children, especially since this can increase the likelihood that they themselves develop disordered eating tendencies. One study found that parents who talked to their children about their weight and size were more likely to diet, adopt unhealthy weight-management behaviors, and engage in binge eating.

In an ideal world, food shaming would have no place at holiday gatherings (or anywhere else), but unfortunately it could be inevitable. . Keep reading to learn how a registered dietitian with intuitive eating navigates common examples of embarrassing eating during the holidays.

An RD intuitive eating tip for dealing with toxic food shame during the holidays

Disparaging food reviews can vary, but they’re generally the same in that they never work out well or make you feel good. To help you plan ahead for an upcoming gathering, Christensen shares her suggestions for dealing with four common examples of embarrassing eating around the holidays.

When someone tells you not to eat a certain amount of food

The last thing anyone wants to know is how much you should (or shouldn’t) eat your favorite foods. In situations like these, Christensen suggests reminding people that you can determine how much food you need to feel satisfied. “You can say, ‘I trust my body to tell me what it needs and it needs this much food today,'” she said.

If you’ve been expecting comments like these from a particular person, there’s another option that is to go above and beyond. “I always recommend that my clients chat with friends, family members, etc. when possible,” says Christensen. “So instead of waiting for the topic to come up, take the initiative and let them know, ‘I’m working on visual eating or not dieting. [to] improving my relationship with food, so I’d be happy if we could keep the conversation about food neutral.’” You can also mention this if you find that everyone who makes certain remarks to children at holiday gatherings.

When someone tells you to make a “healthier choice”

One of the most common by-products of toxic diet culture is the belief that there are “good” and “bad” foods. Some foods carry an aura of health while others are considered ‘bad’, even though experts insist all foods have value. If someone offers to make “healthier choices” when preparing a plate, Christensen suggests reminding them that all foods are good.

Christensen says: “I always say to remind those who are ashamed that there is no such thing as healthy or unhealthy food, some foods are more nutritious for the body and some are more for the soul, and we need — and deserve — both,” Christensen said.

Food is more than just fuel. It allows people to create memories during the holidays. Reminding both the person making this comment and the children can be a great way to reframe the conversation about the ethical value of food during the holidays.

When someone implies that you are going against your “diet”

Although intuitive eating has grown in popularity since it was coined in 1995, friends or family members may still assume it’s another form of rigid dieting. As a result, they may imply that you are going against your “diet” by eating certain foods, especially if they don’t fully understand intuitive eating.

One way to navigate conversations like this is to remind them of what intuitive eating is, and that you give yourself the flexibility to eat what you want. “Saying ‘I don’t follow a rigid diet plan [since] that actually leads to more uncontrolled eating!’ can help,” Christensen said.

When someone compares their choice with yours

If you’ve escaped the grip of diet culture, that doesn’t mean the people around you have too. People around you may make comments implying that their choices are better than yours or worse, judge you based on your food choices.

While this is frustrating and uncomfortable to deal with, everyone needs to be reminded sometimes that we all differ in preferences and choices. “Everybody is different and that’s okay, [you can say] “I’m doing what I feel is best and you can too,” Christensen said.

Christensen also advises against trying to change someone’s point of view to get them to agree with you, no matter how tempting that may be. She added: “Just as it’s not a good idea to shame someone’s food choices, it’s not usually a good idea to shame someone for dieting either. nice. After all, most of us have been there and we can all agree that it is very difficult to break out of diet culture. “Instead, if they’re starting out in the diet culture way and aren’t willing to learn about intuitive eating, ask them to respect and set boundaries. If you feel they could benefit from learning about intuitive eating, setting an example can be extremely effective.

If you find that even engaging in conversations like this isn’t your thing this holiday season, Christensen recommends redirecting the conversation to something else. Examples of this include talking about an upcoming show, a family pet, or your favorite holiday tradition. Regardless of your route, it’s important to plan ahead for upcoming gatherings, especially if you expect someone to make inflammatory remarks.


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