Food has become almost as synonymous with the holidays as changing leaves or Santa Claus himself.
What comes to mind when you hear the word Thanksgiving? Pumpkin pie, turkey, cranberry sauce.
What about Christmas? Ham, gingerbread, peppermint hot chocolate. And, for Hanukkah? Latchas, brisket, jelly donuts.
I could go on.
What else do we think of? I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it, your dog walker’s sister’s boyfriend’s cousin heard it, too.
Those dreadful sentiments that come the morning after a big holiday, and they go a little something like this:
“I can’t believe how much I ate last night.”
“I feel so fat. I’m never eating again.”
“I had three pieces of pie last night. My diet starts NOW.”
Not to mention everything you hear during your holiday meal. Coming from relatives, friends or even partners —
“Are you sure you want to eat all of that?”
“You look like you’ve gained a little weight since the last time I saw you.”
And, equally as damaging, “Did you lose weight? You look amazing!”
Telling someone they look great after losing weight could be seen positively, but more likely, it’ll be understood by that person as a comment on their human worth: You have greater value to me now that you weigh less.
It’s not a coincidence that eating disorders spike during the holidays. America’s obsession with food coupled with its obsession with skinniness and “fat culture” creates an environment full of triggers that can amplify an already unhealthy relationship with food.
I’m not by any means saying we should ignore food at the holidays altogether. Food is considered a love language; it’s used to show our appreciation and care for those around us during a time of great joy and togetherness.
What I am saying, however, is to understand the hidden message behind your words. Be cognizant of the comments that tie food directly to weight.
Comments that link the two, even with the best of intentions, will be harmfully internalized.
With Thanksgiving already under our belt and the December holidays just around the corner, urge kindness and practice compassion.
If you know somebody with an eating disorder, take the time to do some research and find out how you can be an ally and a support system.
If you don’t know somebody with an eating disorder, you do — you just don’t know it. It is important to be aware at all times. You can never be too careful.