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How to Enjoy the Holidays Without Worrying About Your Weight

emotional eating Nov 16, 2021
woman enjoying the holiday with her family

A few years ago, I was flying home for Christmas after not having seen my parents for more than a year. While I always looked forward to coming home and seeing them, there’s one question that had been keeping me up at night in the lead-up to my trip:

“What is mum going to say about my weight this time?”

I knew mum and dad were both coming to pick me up from the airport and I felt butterflies in my stomach from the moment I stepped off the plane, excitedly anticipating the moment of our reunion.

I grabbed my bag off the carousel and made my way out to the exit. As the doors opened, I instantly looked around through the crowd to see if I could spot them, my heart skipping a beat when I saw them smiling and waving at me.

I ran over, straight into their open arms. I thought I could spot a few tears of joy in their eyes as they welcomed me with tight hugs and kisses, which made me well up too.

And then mum would take a step back.

This was it, the moment I’d been dreading for months.

She’d look at me, her eyes scanning my body up and down a few times, getting ready to deliver her verdict. There were only two options. It was either gonna be “You look like you’ve lost weight” or “You’ve gained weight again” — there was no in-between.

I sucked in my stomach, immediately on guard. But it was pointless. I already knew what she was going to say.

No matter how hard I’d try to hold in my breath or how masterfully I’d hid my curves with layers of clothing, there was no escaping the truth: I’d gained weight this year.

But even though I’d worried about it and anticipated the conversation in my head over and over again, hearing the words come out of her mouth still stung.

I knew she meant well. She’d struggled with her own weight growing up, and didn’t want me to suffer like she’d had. But the way I felt after hearing her confirm my worst fears still set the tone for the rest of my stay.

Every time I got dressed in the morning, I worried about what she’d think. Every time I sat down at the table, I wondered if she was judging how much I ate. Occasionally I’d get caught up in the moment and let my guard down, but those moments were few and far between.

It’s tough to be present when you’re constantly worrying about what other people think of you.

While I’ve grown accustomed to not seeing my family for long periods, the pandemic came as a shock to those who are used to seeing their loved ones regularly. For many, reuniting around the Thanksgiving or Christmas table this year will be an exciting prospect, while others might feel a little apprehensive having to face weight-related comments from family members after 18 months of hibernation.

Why do weight-related comments hurt so much?

The reason why weight-related comments create such a strong emotional reaction within us is because they often connect back to traumatic moments from our childhood.

Whether it was grandma grabbing us by the love handles saying ”you’re getting a little chubby, love” or the neighbourhood kids laughing and pointing at our tummy when we walked by, most of us have had at least one notable moment in our childhood where we felt rejected because of our weight — and those moments left a mark.

Research has shown that social rejection hurts just as much as physical pain, but when we were little we often didn’t know what to do with those emotional bruises. We learned to escape the pain and push it down, but in doing so, the bruises never healed.

When someone makes a weight-related comment today, it’s as if they’re pushing down onto those bruises again, and it hurts just as much as it did all those years ago (even worse when those comments come directly from those same family members who caused them).

Since we naturally fear pain, we try our best to avoid getting hurt again — which is why we’ll go to great lengths to try and lose weight ahead of family events, or why we’ll do our best to disguise our bodies to avoid getting noticed.

But even if we do get a lucky break and manage to escape the weight-related comments, we’ll still spend our entire time worrying about it — stopping us from actually being able to enjoy the time spent together with our loved ones.

So how do we escape this mental anguish?

How to stop worrying about what other people think of you

The key to feeling good in your own skin is to realise that confidence is an inside job. When we heal from within and start feeling good about ourselves, nothing anyone might say can change that — because there aren’t any more bruises to push.

Here are a few ways in which you can do this:

1. Start speaking to yourself in more positive ways

Anytime you notice that you’re putting yourself down, change the narrative. Start speaking to yourself as you would to your best friend, with kindness and compassion. This doesn’t mean you have to stand in front of the mirror exclaiming “I’m beautiful!” (the likelihood of your brain falling for that is slim). But even small shifts in your thinking can have a big impact over time. Start with pointing out the things you do like about your body rather than focusing on the things you don’t, and remind yourself that your body doesn’t define your worth.

2. Upgrade your social media feeds

Our brains normalise what they see often, so the more we surround ourselves with realistic images of what our bodies look like, the more our brains will start to appreciate what we see. Ditch the photoshopped magazines and fill your feed with #bodypositive and #weightneutral bods.

3. Work with a trauma-informed therapist or healer to heal the underlying emotional wounds

There are several therapies and modalities available today to help you heal the underlying emotional trauma that caused those initial insecurities around weight. You don’t even need to know or remember what created it since any active trigger can help you heal the root cause.

This is how I went from spending anxiety-filled holidays to feeling confident in my own skin and not giving two hoots about what anyone might think of me.

It worked so well that the last time I went home to visit my parents and was met with my mother’s usual greeting, I felt nothing but kindness and compassion for that former version of me who used to hate herself all the time.

I didn’t once worry about my weight or whether I was eating too much and, most importantly, I was able to fully enjoy this precious time with my loved ones.

If this is something you’d like to experience too, I’m offering some extra support leading up to the holidays in this free facebook group so you can enjoy this festive season wholeheartedly, without worrying about food or weight.