The holidays and family can be amazing, don’t get me wrong, but Thanksgiving, for example, can be a tricky holiday to navigate. From comments about weight gain/weight loss/muscle gain/muscle loss to being single/whom you’re dating to questions that mirror your existential crises, interactions with others can be stressful. Combine that with comments about how little/how much you’re eating, or whether you
got too many potatoes/carbs/stuffing/gravy, or how someone “hasn’t eaten all day” or “will be working out the entire day tomorrow to ‘make up’ for today’s eating,” my empathy goes out to us all.
First: you are allowed to eat the day of Thanksgiving at times other than the main meal. If you are hungry, eat. It is more than okay, more than understandable, normal, necessary. Listen to your body and know that no matter what anyone says, I wholeheartedly back you up, and I understand your struggle. As a society, we seem to ignore our bodies’ requests, seeing them as an annoying little sibling who nags us. Our bodies are so much more than this, though. Our bodies are constantly working and functioning in ways beyond our understanding so we can live and walk and talk and enjoy our days without a second thought. Our bodies allow us to laugh and hug and have meaningful conversations with family and friends we haven’t seen in months. Our bodies allow us, at the most basic level, to live and breathe and think. Let’s respect and be thankful for that.
Second: your body is real freakin’ fantastic. Maybe your weight has changed and maybe it hasn’t -- who cares. You’re out here doing great things, living, continuing to keep going despite all of today’s hurt. You’re bringing the personality quirks that people appreciate more than you know. You’re making a difference by doing whatever it is you’re doing. You are valuable regardless of what you do; you are valuable regardless of what you look like. Your body is simply a shell that allows you to learn, to make good grades (and bad grades -- that’s okay!), raise children, get a job, get out of bed, go out to eat with friends, watch movies, take naps.
Third: it is okay to be full, to be stuffed, to take an extra serving of mashed potatoes. Check out this quote by Ellyn Satter which we use at Embody Carolina trainings to help people understand “normal” eating:
Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.
Normal eating is trusting your body. to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.
Let’s change the ~fowl~ language this Thanksgiving. Let’s celebrate each other’s accomplishments and lives and our unconditional love for each other.
Let’s eat when we’re hungry. Let’s eat what and when we want, even if others make unnecessary comments. Let’s embrace our body’s signals and functionality. Let’s be thankful for family, for friends, for healthful bodies, for good food, for community.
If you are struggling, know you aren’t alone. For resources and helplines, check out https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline. For Embody Carolina trainings, see http://www.embodycarolina.com/upcoming-trainings.html.