Giving thanks for giving up

Here we are again, y’all. The holidays. It’s the time of year dieters and binge eaters dread all year long: the food is SO good, the temptation is SO bad, and the guilt is so deeply ingrained that it’s a point of conversation at holiday celebrations.

Yep. All across the globe, we’re wading through airport insanity, toiling away in the kitchen, dashing through the snow, so we can gather together and……talk about our food guilt.

Do you have to deal with a lot of diet culture at your family gatherings? For those of us who are particularly vulnerable to body talk and prone to disordered eating, it can be an extremely destructive experience. If you’re in the midst of unhealthy binge-restrict patterns, these kinds of messages just confirm and deepen your worldview. “Diets are a part of life. Everyone feels guilty when they eat. Losing weight is a measure of success, and I’ll win the admiration of my friends and family.”

On the other hand, if you’re trying to leave the dieting world behind, it can really shake your confidence. “Everyone on the planet is on a diet…why do I think my life could be different? What will people think of me if I give it up?”

Negative food talk at the dinner table is a way to signal to each other that we know the rules, we accept the rules, and we’re falling in line. “I’m eating this naughty food now, but this isn’t who I am. I still feel bad about it. I will punish myself later. That’s balance, isn’t it? Guilt now, punish later. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up.”

Through interactions like these, we’re taught over and over again that living life without dieting would be tantamount to giving up. But what if it’s the other way around? What if giving up dieting presents the opportunity to live — truly live?

It took me years and years to realize, but now I know that giving up is a gift. Weight loss terms might seem steeped in positive propaganda — goals! inspiration! being “good”! — but you already know the hard reality. The isolation and anxiety. The nightmare binges. The deep, burning shame. The stuff we don’t talk about at the table.

This year, you can give up, too. Give up the societal shame of eating food that tastes good. Give up the notion that feeling full is a bad thing, when it’s really just our bodies’ way of communicating. Give up the fallacy that we can choose what our bodies look like if we just want it bad enough. Give up the fairy tale of someday, and dare to live in the here and now.

As you gather with friends and family this year, I wish you the courage and peace to eat and be merry, with no strings attached. Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans out there, and happy holiday season to everyone who celebrates. This year, and every year, I’m so grateful I gave up.

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