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Nix the diet talk this holiday season

Imagine you are a child. You're happily sitting at the table enjoying your holiday meal with immediate family. Your aunts and uncles are joining you virtually. Then you hear it. It's subtle, but it's there.

Aunt Kathy is talking about cutting carbs again when the holidays are over. Uncle Ned mentions his doctor told him he needs to go on a diet and lose weight. Cousin Linda laments that she'll go over her calorie limit for the day if she eats the pumpkin pie and Mom tells her, "just make sure you work it off at the gym later" with a laugh and a wave of her hand. The diet talk.

You stop chewing for a second and wonder why your family members are so concerned with diets, losing weight and changing their bodies. You look down at your plate. What is it about this food that everyone is so afraid of? Isn't food wonderful and shouldn't everyone enjoy it and want to eat it?

You start to wonder whether you should have a second slice of pie. You start to wonder if it's okay to just be you or if you should be trying to change your appearance or "be healthier." Your grandma says you are perfect just the way you are, but you start to wonder if all those adults are so unhappy with their bodies, maybe just being you isn't good enough.

How 'diet talk' feels like the norm

The scenario depicted above happens every day. Maybe you remember going through the phases of self-love to self-loathing during your own childhood, influenced by the people in your life. It's not your fault. Let me repeat that: it's not your fault. Our society has raised generations of people who are taught to distrust their bodies and attempt to change their bodies over and over again through dieting. Diet talk feels like the norm. Shame and embarrassment of our bodies feels like the norm. The ongoing journey toward the thin ideal has been ingrained in our heads.

Diet talk is exhausting. A typical person has diet thoughts, engages in diet talk and shames their body multiple times each day. For many, an ongoing life goal is to lose weight and keep it off. But what does this accomplish?

Losing weight is not your purpose on this planet. Energy and time put toward over-analyzing food choices, emphasizing your weight and criticizing others' bodies is energy and time wasted that could be put toward much more meaningful acts. Judging others' body shapes and lifestyle choices is not bringing us together and is certainly not teaching the next generation to love themselves.

Ditch the 'diet talk' and focus on the positives 

So why not try do things a little differently this holiday? Challenge the family to talk positively about the food they're eating, about each other and most importantly, about themselves. No talk of needing exercise to work off what you ate. No talk of goals to change your weight or your body shape. Instead of setting a New Year's resolution to lose weight, resolve to lose the diet talk. Resolve to respect your body, respect food as nourishment and fuel for your body, and respect everyone around you. Resolve to model healthy lifestyle habits to your children or grandchildren, and to raise the next generation as intuitive eaters instead of chronic dieters.

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