How To Deal With Diet Culture During The Festive Season

87% of people suffering with eating disorders claim the pandemic has worsened their symptoms.


It’s that time again, all of our favorite food is lining the shelves and our pantry, and diet culture is packed right at the front, tied with a red ribbon. For many of us, Christmas is the best time of year, but it also comes with a lot of pressure surrounding food and our bodies because for every new Christmas advert, there’s a magazine clipping, influencer or even a family member suggesting a ‘low calorie swap’ or ‘ways to prevent a winter body’. 

This year, Christmas will be even harder. According to BEAT, 87% of people suffering with eating disorders have said that their symptoms have got worse because of the pandemic and demand for their services has increased by a staggering 140%. 

Christmas (especially this year) is about making the most of time with loved ones, enjoying some well-earned rest and sharing gratitude for what we have. Why waste your time worrying about your waistline when you could be singing, laughing and dancing. 

Our 8 top tips

1. You don’t have to earn your food - you are allowed to give yourself food freedom without the pressure of compensating for it later on. There’s no need to restrict what you eat beforehand or go to the gym every day afterwards. 

2. Intuitive eating - you may have heard of this tool, but essentially it’s a process to help you get back in touch with your body. The main premises are: rejecting diet mentality, honoring hunger, making peace with food, challenging the food police, satisfaction, feeling fullness, coping with your emotions with kindness and respecting your body. This Christmas, try to practice being kind to your body, respecting when you’re full or when you want another serving and not beating yourself up afterwards for whatever you choose. Remember - this food is here all year, it won’t magically disappear at midnight!

3. Shutting down unsolicited comments - when is it ok to comment on someone else’s body? never. Even if it’s well intended, it’s not necessary. If you hear the words ‘are you really going to eat all of that?’ Or ‘you’ve got an appetite on you’ have some responses ready or change the conversation. Treat them with kindness because it’s likely that they’re experiencing the wrath of diet culture too but don’t be afraid to have a prior discussion with your family to set boundaries. 

4. You don’t need to health-ify your day - don’t waste your time searching and cooking ‘low calorie’ recipes. Your worth is not determined by your weight. It’s normal to gain a little bit of weight over Christmas and it’s ok. Weight is supposed to fluctuate. Your purpose in life is not to lose or maintain weight so let go of the food police and make peace with it.

5. There’s no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food - categorizing food into these two types is extremely harmful. Food doesn’t have any moral value so you’re not a ‘good’ person for banning carbs and chocolate and you’re not a ‘bad’ person for eating two servings of your favourite dessert. If you hear yourself saying “I’ve eaten so bad this week” try to alter your mindset and remember that whatever food you eat, it all has some part to play in nourishing your physical and mental health.

6. No guilt - assigning shame and guilt to food is far unhealthier than any actual food. Yes, food is fuel but it’s also there to be enjoyed. You are likely to eat different food than usual at Christmas, and more of it, it’s not a reflection of your everyday and you don’t have to feel shame for eating more than usual. You have to remember that these feelings aren’t organic! They’re manufactured by diet culture so that we feel insecure and buy into their ‘tips and tricks’ to help us fix our flaws (even though they made them in the first place). Channel your anger towards diet culture, not your body. 

7. Embrace the bloat - bloating is a normal sign that our body is working, there’s no shame in it. We’re told to fear fatness and fear fulness but what’s wrong with filling your body with nutrients? You don’t have to practice self-love if that feels too hard, but try feeling neutral towards your body and accept the bloat without feeling love or anger. Remember, it won’t last forever. 

8. Social media cleanse - if you’re noticing that you're consuming a lot of diet culture talk online, act on it. Utilize that mute button and unfollow anyone straight away that makes you feel like your body isn’t worthy. Some amazing accounts to follow this Christmas are: @bodyposipanda, @intuitiveeatingldn, @lucymountain and @laurathomasphd. 

Christmas doesn’t have to be a mental battle. You have control over what you give your energy to. So choose to enjoy the festive season, give yourself food freedom and give your body the gift of peace. 

If you are struggling with an eating disorder this Christmas, BEAT has support services in place:

Helpline: 0808 801 0677
Studentline: 0808 801 0811
Youthline: 0801 801 0711

Up next, 3 Christmas Gifts For Crafty Babes