Halloween officially starts this year's Holiday Season. I’ve always liked the holiday. After all, it's a day entirely devoted to fun-size candy bars. I also have a thing for the original Halloween movies and Disney’s Halloweentown. Ah, nostalgia.
Here’s what I don’t like about Halloween: it’s the start of a diet-messaging onslaught meant to prime us for the upcoming holiday season. It’s the start of everything good about Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years being manipulated into a reason to detox, diet, or restrict. The day after Halloween, people switch to that "holidays" mindset. They go from thinking about Halloween and midterms to Thanksgiving plans and Christmas presents. it should be FUN, but It’s sad that mixed in with all of it also comes the pressure not to “give in” to the food and festivities that come with the Holidays.
The diet industry and modern media have taken hostage some of the best aspects of the holiday season. A few examples:
Ads will flood social media for diets and detoxes to ensure that any time you indulge, you’ll have a way self-correct that mistake
Certain virtual groups may preach unhealthy restriction and “no cheat days” or rest days as a way to combat the holidays. As a caveat, I should say that not all groups are like this.
You’ll start to see awful propaganda stating how much exercise you’re required to do to burn off a Christmas treat
Gyms will start their advertising campaigns aimed to make people feel that they need to get back on track after their holiday missteps
A living example: I spent countless holidays obsessing over the food I was eating, getting gut-wrenching anxiety before parties, and secretly counting calories on fitness trackers. To make it worse, I was over-exercising to compensate for any treats I ate, and I was miserably trudging myself through one of the best times of the year while my friends and family enjoyed it around me. I was stuck in an invisible bubble of the diet world, isolated and lonely, unsure why I couldn't enjoy the holidays for once. Don’t be me, you guys.
My tips for the holiday season?
Just enjoy your life. Take advantage of the social gatherings that happen once a year. Work parties, time with friends, and being with family is precious. Don’t let it be ruined by calorie counters and food guilt. Eat the food, be glad you did, and move on. Those Hershey-kiss-pretzel things only come around once a year, you guys.
Cut out the diet BS. Clean up your social media of diet culture garbage that can act as a guilt trigger, especially this time of year. Think tea-toxes, Instagram models or celebrities that make you play the comparison game, or any accounts that preach dieting and weight loss. If there are people in your life that are going to go to the extremes to diet or exercise this holiday season for the wrong reasons, let them know it's not best for you to be involved with that.
Don’t beat yourself up. If you eat something and later you either don't feel spectacular or start to feel guilty, remember how much you enjoyed it in the moment. Stop focusing on whether or not the foods were labeled “good” or “bad.” Remember, we don't moralize food over on this blog :) Remember food is food, and there can be nutrients in everything. Even a sugar cookie.
Remember that exercise is never a solution for food-induced guilt. Working out should never be a punishment or a compensation tool to make up for something you ate. If you treat exercise like this, it will never be used as a stress relief or feel-good mechanism. If you want to work out to feel great and move your body mindfully, I’m all for that. In fact, mindful exercise can be a great way to combat some holiday stress that isn't related to food. Just make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.
Do. Not. Restrict. Going into the holiday season with strict rules on what you can and can’t have will only make you want it that much more. When people give in to their cravings, often they feel that they have no will power, leading to shame and more guilt. It's not a will-power thing. It's a listening to your body thing. You don’t have to fight every urge in your body to have something delicious. When you tell yourself that all food is available to you, it actually becomes less appealing. Those foods with a rosy, mystical glow around them that look so intriguing? Well, when you allow it to be an option, the glow fades. The "have to have it now" mentality dissipates a little.
In the words of my best friend, “just eat the darn kit-kat.” Nobody lies on their deathbed wishing they didn’t eat a fun-size candy bar or enjoy a Christmas cocktail. In this crazy busy upcoming season, approach media with caution, and most of all, be gentle with yourself. Cheers!