What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
The radio ads started at the beginning of December, reminding people that they should drink out of tall, slender glasses and avoiding standing by the buffet table if they wanted to keep themselves from giving in to temptation over the holiday season. And, I mean, sure, if that's how you roll, drink all the sparkling water out of champagne flutes that you want. I will take any excuse to drink from a champagne flute because they make me feel fancy.
But if that isn't how you want to party, if you're beating yourself up because you are already looking forward to the zucchini latkes with chili flakes or whatever special food that your family only makes during this season, there really is an alternative. And that alternative is to remember one thing.
You are allowed to eat.
To expand on that one thing: You are allowed to make your own food choices. You are an adult and you have autonomy.
There will be, inevitably, the people who think this is obvious and simplistic. But there are also the folks who struggle with food -- people who have spent their lives restricting their eating while hating themselves and their bodies.
For those folks, the "forewarning" to take a tiny plate to the buffet line can just contribute to already disordered eating. And there's nothing really festive about that.
As cheesy as giving yourself permission to eat seems, it's actually a vital component of the Satter Eating Competence Model. I first learned about this model when I did some work with Michelle, The Fat Nutritionist.
In the Satter Eating Competence Model, which is similar to intuitive eating in a lot of ways, there is no inherent "good" or "bad" food -- there is only confidence when it comes to your own food choices, which are based on eating as much as you need, eating food you enjoy, eating food that makes you feel good, and feeding yourself with some structure. Instead of buying into what other people think you should be eating (guilt salad or self-loathing rice cakes -- which are distinct from salads and rice cakes you actually like), the idea is that you will not starve yourself and that it's actually important for you to enjoy your food.
Trust yourself to navigate the holiday meal and remember that at this time of year, food is being used to bring people together in the longest and darkest part of the year. Food's role as social and cultural lynchpin is rarely so clear as it is now.
So, as we head into Christmas, you are allowed to eat. You're also allowed to not eat if you aren't hungry. You don't have to partake of the bounty if you don't want to -- other people might try but they're wrong to pressure you into eating something you don't want. Autonomy goes in both directions -- eat or do not eat at your own discretion. They get to make the same choices.
And you don't have to hate yourself because you're excited about your aunt's best friend's buffalo chicken dip. It's a win-win holiday situation.