‘Tis the season of gathering around the table.
Maybe it’s the table in your own home, your parents, your in-laws, your friends, a company holiday party, or even at a restaurant... Maybe holidays suck and you choose to celebrate alone at your coffee table. And that’s okay too. No matter where the table, it’s more likely than not that you will be around it for celebration sometime soon. And for many of us, there is going to be some stress that comes with that.
Stress and baggage has a tendency to travel with the holiday season. First and foremost, make sure you are practicing your best self care (more on that coming soon). Then take it one day at a time.
Here are some things to consider and maybe share with those you are spending time with this holiday season and feel could benefit from knowing:
Mind your own plate (And ask that others do as well)
Your plate is your business… and it’s acceptable to ask everyone around you to mind their own plate too. This is easily reversed-don’t compare your plate to that of anyone around you. Your plate is specifically crafted for you. Your wants, your taste, your needs. The what and why and how much is on a plate is the plate owners business alone.
Also, avoid being the food police and don’t accept others policing your food. It’s okay if someone doesn’t want to eat a salad… or dessert… or grandma’s famous yams. It’s also okay if you go back for seconds of absolutely anything and/or everything if that is what they want.
What someone decides to eat and drink any day of the year should should not be up for public debate (if at all)… let’s try to put an emphasis on that during the holiday season.
Things not to talk about around the table (or ever)
Diets and Restriction: Whether you’re following the newest fad, were put on it by a medical provider, or just shooting for a “lifestyle change” don’t talk about your diet, food rules, or any restrictions that you may be implementing, considering or practicing in the future. With 1 in 4 dieters going on to develop an eating disorder the risk of harm is too high to ignore.
What to talk about instead?: What tv, movies or music you’ve been into lately
Weight and Body Talk: Even when said as a ‘compliment’, talking about others (or your own) weight and body changes or shape can be incredibly damaging. It reinforces that there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ bodies… and that is not true. Bodies are meant to be diverse and that is ok. Body image is hard enough in our society without the comments, even well intentioned, from family and friends.
What to say instead?: “Hello! How have you been? It is so great to see you!”
Post Meal Shaming: Guilt and shame are common following a meal. It’s not wrong to feel that way-but that probably means you personally need to do work with your relationship with body and food and that’s okay! Just choose to not talk about any poor feelings following a meal or shame anyone else for what/how much/when they choose to eat.
What to say instead: ‘That meal was absolutely delicious. It was so great to share with you all.”
Exercise Routines: No one needs to earn, burn, ‘prepare for’, or ‘work off’ any food, let alone a holiday dinner. Everyone needs to eat, multiple times a day, every day a year, regardless of movement. Period. If you moved today in a way that felt great to you, CONGRATULATIONS! I’m so happy you’ve found movement that works for you. If you moved today and your motivation was elsewhere, that’s okay too! Either way others don’t need to hear about or feel guilt or shame related to your exercise routine.
What to talk about instead?: Your favorite thing to do during the holidays.
Preparing yourself for the holiday celebration
Plan for as much as you can. Think through your holiday plans. Run through uncomfortable scenarios. Know your boundaries and your limits. Stick to them. It’s okay to say no to events you rather not go to that will only leave you feeling drained. Share any boundaries you need to with family and friends to help have the best time possible.
Do not skip breakfast or any meals or normal snacks before the event.
The day before and after make sure you have time set aside for self care (the day of too if you can manage!). If you know these events are hard for you, make sure that you are taking time for yourself. Maybe you plan for a nap between events, ten minutes of meditation, a walk by yourself after dinner, an hour in the middle of the day to just read… whatever you know works for you, if possible to incorporate it, do so!
Pack snacks if you think you may need them. If you are unsure that any food will be there for you to enjoy (whether it’s because of personal preference, allergy, or another medical necessity) it’s okay to pack your own food.
If you want to enjoy something or a family member is insisting on you trying it and you just can’t eat it in the moment, ask for some to go.
Not sure how things are going to go? Do what is best for you, have an escape plan, and if you need to leave early, then leave early. There is nothing wrong with that.
As much as possible, enjoy the food. Embrace the company. Focus on the experience.