Holiday dinners vary across cultures and families. One commonality that links us together is the knowledge that delicious feasts aren’t going to be kind to our waistlines.
But should we give a shit?
Every year, bad Lifetime movies and Christmas decorations accompany headlines across the world spreading “tips” for staying trim during the holiday season. Prepackaged snacks to avoid grandma’s baking. Drinking two liters of water so you don’t have any wine. No bread – lean protein and veggies only!
Every December, adults condescendingly remind other adults that roasted carrots have more nutritional value than chocolate cake. To many, it seems absurd. To those already swept up by diet culture, it’s familiar.
Diet culture is a benchmark of the modern world. From as early as the 19th century, there has been pressure on women to maintain or aspire to a specific body type. Weight loss is spearheaded by a billion-dollar diet industry – programs, pills, fitness challenges, powders, meal replacements, low calorie, high intensity.
The Western diet consciousness is a whirlpool of change and modification. From the grapefruit diet to juicing, society has hopped from one diet trend to another in a search for our slimmer selves.
Aside from pushing this slim ideal, the diet industry exists by monopolising shame. Weight loss “before and after” photos flood most social media platforms.
‘Imagine what you could look like! Why can’t you do it? What’s stopping you? Why are you so lazy?’
Measure, control, deprive.
The writers and platforms may vary but the advice does not.
‘It takes three hours on the rowing machine to burn off a slice of cake. Pack a bag of almonds to snack on. Load up of veggies. Say no to mulled wine.’
Every dietary limit is another step towards to the new, thinner you – the you that can live without shame.
So, to answer the question-at-large: should we give a shit? Absolutely not.
Navigating unhealthy eating habits hits home for many. “Tips and tricks” turn into disaster, leading to another holiday season spent anxious and unhappy. It’s pointless to pretend Christmas day is just another day to log into MyFitnessPal.
Food is an integral part of the festive celebration. To many, it’s a way of connecting with family by making specific dishes or passing down traditions. The family meal is immersive, the scent of certain dishes, the taste of cultural flavours – every bite has a memory, feeling, anecdote attached.
If we allow ourselves to be consumed by this toxic culture, we risk missing out on the meaningful nature of the food around us and the joy that comes with being with people we love. All in pursuit of a dangerous obsession with impossible perfection.
The diet industry wants us to fail, not win. Weight watchers is a multinational organization based on the failure of their participants. Profit margins remain high due a constant cycle of deprivation and failure – the weightwatcher eats low-point foods, loses weight.
Removed from an environment of weekly “accountability” meetings and food counting, the weightwatcher gains the weight back. The weightwatcher vows to lose the weight again – rinse and repeat.
Mindful eating and moderation are only possible when we change how we look at food.
There is no prize for struggle. The diet industry profits from disguising shame and restriction under the guise of strength and determination.
The diet industry has morphed health into an elite club. To challenge this, we must first expose the harms of restrictive diets then seek alternative methods to feel secure in ourselves and in our health.
We’re a long way from a culture that doesn’t define us according to weight or appearance. By ditching the pre-packaged almonds and engaging in the festivities, we make a conscious choice to resist. No more feeling grinchy about weight gain. Let us eat cake!