Yes, Christmas is still some way away, but if you’re anything like I was, you’re already panicking about what people will think about your appearance when the holiday rolls around. When I was still stuck in diet culture, around now was the time I’d be going on a diet so I could ‘look my best’ by Christmas. True, many of us won’t be seeing extended family and friends this year and there probably won’t be any office parties – perhaps celebrations will be over Zoom instead 😫… so maybe this isn’t a concern for you.
However, many of us have gained some weight during the pandemic with the result that body image anxiety is at an all time high for far too many people regardless of who you might be seeing over the Christmas holidays. Imagine if diet culture wasn’t a thing. Imagine if our society didn’t have an obsession with thinness. Then any weight gain during the pandemic wouldn’t be a problem, would it? It’s only because of our cultural milieu that it is.
Whatever your plans for the holiday season, If the ‘lose weight before Christmas’ bug has got a hold on you, because you think that’s what’s needed to ‘look your best’ then I have 3 thoughts to share with you today:).
Trying to lose weight will backfire
You would not be here reading this if going on a diet had resulted in permanent weight loss. You’re almost certainly in the 95% of people for whom diets don’t work! Diets not only don’t work for long term weight loss, they also cause up to 60% of dieters to increase their weight set point over time.
So please, banish the idea of a diet! Don’t fall prey to the marketing messaging of a $60 billion+ a year industry. They want your money. They do not care about YOU or your health (mental or physical). Their business model relies on repeat customers, not because you don’t have willpower, but because their product is faulty!!! Imagine an airline pilot announcing that only 5% of the passengers will arrive safely at the destination. Would you get on that plane? No, I didn’t think so.
What does ‘look your best’ mean?
I think we need to have a serious chat about this.
Have you ever thought how ‘looking your best’ has come to be defined?
We tend to think we ‘look our best’ when we’re THIN!
Or wearing make up… or with our hair done a certain way… or without wrinkles… or with a tan (but not ‘too dark’).
Because all around us we see images of thin cis-gender, able-bodied, usually light skinned, young looking bodies, with curves only in the ‘right’ places. Lumps and bumps don’t get a look in. We do not see diversity in the images around us. We are incredibly fatphobic as a culture. We have been conditioned to WANT that ideal appearance – and if we can’t have it exactly (which very for of us can), we should at least work hard to comply as best as we can. Of course, this makes some people very rich…
Yet… diversity EXISTS! Open your eyes when you’re out and about. Really SEE people. There’s a huge diversity of shape, size and presentation of the human form. Yet we’re fixated on the image we’ve been taught to believe has value and is worthy.
How can you look your best?
If you can’t shift the belief that looking your best requires you to lose weight (because that’s what it is – a belief, not a fact), then please remember that trying to get thin will almost certainly end up backfiring on that plan.
So what can you do instead?
Don’t you think that people who are enjoying themselves ‘look good’?
If you’re shrinking and trying to be invisible because you’re ashamed about your appearance, I promise you it’s not a good look!
So what can you do to enjoy the moment?
In my experience, relaxing helps. How can you do that? What helps you to feel more relaxed?
Letting go of how you think you, other people, or the circumstances should be and instead, allowing everything to be as it is, without resisting it, without fighting the reality, will help you to enjoy what IS here now. Who’s cracking a joke? Who gave you a juicy (maybe virtual) hug? Who revealed something about themselves you didn’t know?
Where and with whom can you connect?
Enjoying yourself will be reflected in your whole demeanour. Focus on that:).
Wear clothes you like and that fit well
Ill-fitting clothes don’t look good no matter what size you are. Dress in something you like, that’s comfortable and that fits your here-and-now body. 99% of my clients resist buying new clothes that fit. 100% of them are SO GLAD THEY LISTENED! I know it’s not easy for everyone to just go out and buy new clothes, especially now when the pandemic has affected household incomes and even if you can afford it, you can’t try things on in the shops because of Covid restrictions
Instrument vs ornament
Focus on how you’re feeling on the inside – think of your body as an instrument for life, for this moment of spending time with people you care about, rather than an ornament for the viewing pleasure of others. You’re not an ornament! You’re a human being and you don’t owe prettiness (however that is defined) to anyone.
Focus on the inside (not the outside)
Paying attention to what is going on inside you (your body’s sensations, your emotions and your thoughts) will help you stay in touch with yourself, recognise and meet your needs – and by doing so, you’ll look your best! Truly, someone who is self-aware and supporting themselves is likely to feel more relaxed and happy – thereby looking their best ;).
Here are some things to try to avoid:
- Worrying about showing your ‘best side’ to the camera. Thinking of certain bits of you as ‘better’ (more ‘flattering’ ‘thinner’) is simply going to fuel your body image distress.
- Cocking your leg or arm to give the illusion of being smaller. This too will keep you hyper focused on your body.
- Looking at yourself in the mirror with critical eyes, honing in on ‘problem areas’ and then trying to hide them.
- Trying on multiple outfits in a frenzy.
- Don’t go on a diet or mess around with your food with the aim of shrinking your body.
- Put your attention on the inside of you – how are you feeling? What do you need?
- Wear clothes that fit, are comfortable and that you like.
- Do what you can to relax.
- Don’t be hyper-focused on your appearance before or during the event – this just drives body image distress.
- Follow the joy!.
Could you do with some support navigating eating over the holidays this year?
My short course Peaceful Eating Over the Holidays will open for registration soon – join the waiting list so you can get all the details as soon as they’re released.