View this post on Instagram
It’s the holidays.
Christmas has come and gone and we are on the cusp of entering a new year. Most likely, you spent the last few days with family or friends, eating and drinking in celebration.
Maybe, like me, you’re sitting here, a few days later, stuck in a cycle of negative self-talk and feeling shame and regret over how much you indulged the last week. Maybe you’re sitting here, like me, and trying to talk yourself out of it, too.
Maybe you tried to anticipate all of this. Maybe you told yourself that it’s okay to relax a little over the holidays, eat what you want, drink what you want—it won’t kill you.
Maybe you told yourself that this year you wouldn’t feel bad about the holidays, that you’d worked hard to overcome these beliefs. Maybe you thought this year would be different, that you’d be able to have a healthy relationship with food and you’d come out the other side with no regrets.
But the thing about any kind of recovery, especially with disordered eating, is that it’s not linear. And the holidays make it all the harder because if we’re not able to put these thoughts aside, we often feel worse about ourselves. We feel we should be able to put them aside. We think: what’s wrong with us that we’re feeling this way? What’s wrong with us that we can’t enjoy this time with our loved ones without our feelings of self-deprecation getting in the way?
I have struggled with my relationship to food most of my life. I, like most people, have struggled with self-esteem and body image issues that have manifested into a need for control over what I put into my body. I am at a better point now, but it doesn’t make me immune to triggering moments, like the holidays.
Whether you’re struggling with an eating disorder or just struggle with disordered eating in general, I hope this helps.
Here are 10 affirmations that I’m repeating to myself over and over to help me move through the post-holiday food guilt:
1. You are allowed to eat. Say it again. You are allowed to eat.
2. It is normal and human to overeat during the holidays. It’s also normal to overeat on other, random occasions. It happens.
3. A few days of overeating is not indicative of overall health nor will it have long-term consequences on your body.
4. The holidays are about more than food.
5. You don’t need to exercise to justify eating. Ever.
6. We can always start fresh. No (perceived) setback is permanent.
7. Your family is not focusing on your body and appearance. They aren’t going to remember you or these moments for what you looked like.
8. Food does not have morality attached to it. You cannot be “bad” or “good” for eating certain foods.
9. There are a million and one things that you are—and your weight is not close to being one of them.
10. It is not your fault you feel this way.
We live in a society that has conditioned us to believe our worth lies in how we look. A society that tells us we have to be happy and feel happy at all times and that thinness is the ladder to achieve it. Self-hatred is misdirected energy. We should, instead, be focusing on how we can fix the broken system that has made us feel this way.
Do we really want to look back and think about how our lives were spent counting calories? Do we really want to spend all of our energy focusing on our appearance and what we look like?
Though this is grim, I sometimes think about what would happen if someone close to me passed away and what I’d say at their eulogy. The thing is, not one thing would be about their appearance. If it was, perhaps it would be about how bright their smile was, how they lit up a room by their presence, or how, when they hugged you, they always felt like home.
But all else would be about how they made me feel. How smart they were. Their passion for books or cooking or sports or whatever it is that they can’t stop talking about. It would be about the small moments we spent together talking about our lives and then going out there and living them. These would be the things I hold onto about the people around me.
Remember that others are thinking this way about you too.
Sometimes, this guilt comes and goes quickly. Other times, it takes a few days or weeks to feel like myself again. I just know that this year I’m trying damn hard not to immediately hit the gym to “work it all off,” and I’m trying not to go back into deprivation mode as a form of self-punishment.
I’m reminding myself that it will only make my body feel worse, and the thing it needs the most right now is love and compassion. Recovery is not linear, remember—and the holidays tend to be those big bumps in the road.
But eventually it will flatten out again and maybe, next year, the bump won’t be so big.