The holidays are the apex of weight shaming in our society, the moment when all of our inner paranoia and insecurities are most capitalized on by companies and supposed taste-makers (here’s to your irritating non-ass, Gwyneth!). It’s a rough time for everyone, and forgive me if I’m being self-indulgent, but probably even more so for a recovered-ish anorexic (the ish is to signify that it’s an ongoing struggle–I’m by no means hopping from bakery to bakery, clutching my belly with uncomplicated pride).
When I was younger none of this bullshit registered with me. I was (perhaps unhealthily) obsessed with Christmas (I’m also half-Jewish, and, no disrespect, but Hanukkah just never had the same steroidal appeal; read–less opportunity for headstrong indulgence). I forced my mother and older brother to stretch the Santa myth for as long as possible, even when I myself knew he wasn’t real. Decorating the tree was my first foray into perfectionism, with me carefully curating every branch and growing disgruntled if my family members altered my “vision” in any way. That was cute then, but it was a trait that became less so when it catapulted into other areas of my life, such as eating.
In those days I loved holiday-themed Hershey kisses with the same reverence I now have for things like kale and smoothies, eating them like essential vitamins rather than the occasional treat. But that was the perk of being young and (though I know this is not the case for everyone in their youth) wholly unconcerned with things like weight or caloric value. Now that I know many people struggle with those concerns from the day they can count, I feel blessed to have escaped it then.
But it eventually infiltrated my thoughts, as it does almost everyones in some way or another. The lucky few seem to stride through life brushing off these concerns, either by way of a seemingly flawless metabolism or a self-confidence unmitigated by such attributes as thighs or love handles. For most of us, though, those handles aren’t getting much love, as we constantly wage war against them with an ardor that would be better suited to other pursuits, like our career paths. The paradox of the holiday season is that this war increases tenfold, just as consumption in all its forms is promoted more than usual. While we’re being told to abstain at all costs, we’re passing tins of peppermint bark and vendors selling endless, creamy hot chocolate. Holiday parties are rife with chatter of work out plans and new diets, amidst a dictionary of pies and a fountain of alluring alcohols.
The always-wavering strength that I found in my recovery from anorexia is especially shaky during this time, and on top of that, my nostalgia for supposedly ‘better days’ (those when eating a piece of delicious homemade cake trumped the false self-control of calorie avoidance) can turn my mood totally blue. The little girl I once was makes her presence known, rolling her eyes at my newfound priorities and begging me to do what she wants (children—especially this one–are feisty, as we know). She rarely wins out these days; like my mother probably discovered years ago amidst my temper tantrums, there’s an array of special methods for shutting down whiny babes.
But though I can’t always take her orders, I have learned to stop indulging in all of the weight-shaming material that propagates just before Thanksgiving and grows like a fungus until after New Year’s. I notice it now and feel pity rather than piety, for those who will use these articles and so-called pro-tips as a measurement for their own self-worth, as I once did. I won’t eat every cookie or slice of cake offered to me, and I’ll probably enjoy sweets less than most (not because I am better or stronger, but because I am still a bit scarred), but I will have some, and compared to my past preference of absolute abstinence, I can only view that as a victory.
What I wrote above won’t apply to everyone, and obviously doesn’t offer any significant advice in the face of this onslaught. It was written more for myself than anything else. I don’t have any magic tricks for getting through this period other than: don’t read the insecurity-breeding articles, and let yourself have a damn cookie. Easier said then done, I know. But it would be dishonest of me to tell you to run out, buy a pie, and shove it down your throat to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (however, if you do do that, please film it and send it to me–it sounds awesome).