We had our first snowfall of the season last Thursday. My kids woke up and flew outside to make snow angels, build snow people and have a snowball fight. For a full hour before quickly eating breakfast and running to the bus they just played and had so much fun. Why am I sharing this? Well because it is November and it snowed and you can imagine what the conjured up for the shorter than 5 foot tall crew in our house...yes that's it...Christmas.
This past Sunday (today is Wednesday for those you that need a timeline reference) I came home to both kids and partner stringing Christmas lights and garland on the front of the house. And so started the yearly tradition of me attempting to hold off Christmas and my family wanting to jump in at the earliest possible moment. And the nickname of "Momeneezer Scrooge"( thanks for coming up with that one MZ) Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. I have wonderful memories of Christmas growing up. As well as amazing memories watching Christmas through my children's eyes. However being a dietitian who does not subscribe to diet culture I find the holidays difficult.
Here's why. I find it often starts in November. People calling to see if I could help them "get through the holidays" without weight gain. Or to see if I could put them on a diet so that they would "know" what to eat at holiday parties. And even to see if I could help them "quickly" lose XXlbs so that they can eat/drink whatever they want until the new year. As soon as I start to explain my approach and that I follow a non diet philosophy the response is almost always " so you won't help me?!" Some days I find it hard not to yell "But I would be helping you!! I would help you make peace with food and your body so next year you could enjoy your parties without guilt and shame!" To be honest I often do not even get to that point as many just say good bye and hang up. Once a person even said "but you teach mindfulness and (I forget which magazine) said it is the new way to lose weight". (I think the co-opting of terms such as wellness and mindfulness for weight loss is a post unto its self. It will come....once I figure out how to do it without F@&k being every other word)
November kicks off the season of social gatherings and weight loss ad campaigns. "New Year New You" (FYI you will always be you and you are amazing) ads start about the same time as the Christmas ads. As a culture these two things seem to have become enmeshed. Enjoy these beautiful yummy chocolates but be prepared to work them off come January 1st. Diet culture has even infiltrated Santa Clause as he can be seen choosing the low fat cookies on TV ads or joining a gym to "work on his body" after his magical night of delivering presents. Look at the magazine covers in line at the grocery store next time you are there. They will be explaining to you how to navigate the buffet table at your work function to choose the "low (fat/carbs/sugar/whatever the hell they are trying to tell you to avoid this week). They will show you how to detox (um...fyi...you own a liver so you are a master detoxer already) before or after you next social gathering. Essentially these articles will teach you how not to be present in your life while you continue to follow the rules of diet culture. If you take a lap of the food table to assess and make a plan then go back and follow what ever rules you have set up for yourself you might miss out on a conversation with a family member that might not be here next year. Or the co-worker that struggles over the holidays. Or the stupid drunken comment your brother makes that you can hold over him for years to come. If you are too busy adding up calories or macros you will miss the magic. And food can be magic...and hold magical memories.
When I was a kid we would visit 3 different houses on Christmas eve. Do you know what I remember most from all those nights? Yes the people but...in all honestly the food. We would go to Bill and Annabell's first. They were about the age of my grandparents and were our neighbors for a few years. They always had a Christmas Eve gathering in their basement and served spinach dip with pumpernickel bread and kielbasa with cheese and Triscuits. I always looked forward to these treats and even now I think of them every time I see spinach dip in a loaf of pumpernickel. The second stop (which did change to the first at some point as I am guessing my mom will call to remind me of this..lol) was my dad's parents. There we had bowls of nuts and boxes of chocolates called "nutchos" (I have no idea if they still exist but Christmas was the only time of year we got them) and homemade nuts and bolts. The third and final stop was Granma Kay's house. She had a shrimp ring and/or crackers with seafood sauce and mini shrimp on top and a Chinese food box from M&M meats. Where these all my favourite foods? No. Was this the only time of year I could eat them? No. But what these foods did do was tie together all the love that I felt that night. For me it was a happy time. We ate, we laughed and we celebrated the holidays together. These memories bring me such joy( I will acknowledge my privilege to have had these experiences). I do not recall if there was any diet talk those nights- and I am guessing there wasn't because the foods are just the foods to me. It might seem idealistic but those are the same memories I want for others as the holidays can be such a difficult time for many they do not need to feel worse by diet culture. I want people to remember the amazing appetizers the neighbor serves or the delicious cheese tray or even the weird shrimp/seafood sauce cracker combo their granma made. I want people to eat during the day before they go to their holiday party and not "save up" before going. I want people to look forward to the holidays as a time of food peace not a time that can increase the guilt and shame of eating. Every year I am reminded that I continue to be in the minority when trying to rid the world of dieting. And every year I wish I could have gotten those people that called for an appointment to lose weight to try the non diet approach. I want a world where people eat what makes them feel good. Where they eat what they want without rules, without shame. Dear Santa...is that too much to ask??
Until next time be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically me...