Food and Body Freedom #54 How To Navigate The Holidays Without Diet Culture


Whatever this time of year means and looks like to you, it's loaded with diet culture. That makes your food and body freedom journey harder - whatever stage you're at - and why knowing how to navigate these realities is critical to you feeling OK.

This episode explores practical strategies to navigate:

  • eating past fullness
  • diet culture conversations with friends and family
  • body image struggles
  • food guilt

Resources mentioned

  • The Food and Body Freedom Facebook community
  • Ashlee Bennett's brilliant IG post
  • Transcription below

Okay Hello. Hello, thank you so much for being here. I am thrilled to welcome you to this episode. My name is Nadia Felsch. I'm an anti diet nutritionist and certified Intuitive Eating counsellor. In this podcast we explore the practical aspects of leaving the diet mentality behind and finding your own food and body freedom. I'm recording this episode in December 2022, which for many people is a holiday period for you that might be religious or cultural holidays like Christmas in December, Chinese New Year in January. It could be the end or the beginning of a calendar year. It could be seeing friends and family more than usual or a break from work. I personally am very much looking forward to the latter to a refresh. I know many of you are as well minus which is why we're here. Some pesky annoying, stressful eye rolling inevitable that can come up and be around us at this time of year. Which is what you have requested for this final episode of 2022. how to navigate the holidays without diet culture, FYI, food and body freedom. We'll be back with fortnightly episodes from January 2 2023. That's the first time I have said that that year and also Jan second. I'm getting right in there with a brilliant episode early in the new year. But for now when I polled y'all on Instagram and in the food and body freedom Facebook community, by the way, join us if you haven't already you'll find the link in the show notes to that brilliant free community. So you overwhelmingly shared that you most want support for eating past fullness and navigating diet culture with friends and family. You also shared that body image struggles and food guilt were the next kind of top results so guess what we're going to explore it all and I'm going to give you practical strategies for you to implement for what I hope is a happier, healthier and safer holiday period.

Alright, so kicking off with the most requested area of support here that you asked for eating past fullness. And just recently a client of mine is spending time with family in North America over Thanksgiving had a life changing experience for the first time. They they had an experience with their family eating. That wasn't past fullness that wasn't eating all these special foods that I can only eat sometimes that wasn't feeling pressure to finish it or finish everything on their plate that wasn't feeling stuck in guilt. And instead was this experience of trust permission. And so let's dissect what was present for them in their experience. And as well my practical tips for you to take away and hopefully feel as my client did. So the number one most important thing to kind of get into here. Eating past fullness is not a big deal and your body can handle it. I'm not minimising your emotional experience. I'm letting you know that it's not a big deal in the scheme of your life and your body. It's okay and absolutely your body can handle it. So practically speaking, acknowledge that acknowledge that it's more than okay nothing terrible will happen. And yes, your body can handle it. And now consider what it might be like, you know, go into this meal go into this time in your life, knowing that maybe I do need some supports to navigate this tricky time, especially if you find this very difficult. Maybe it's 30 minutes maybe it's an hour that's quite terrible, quite uncomfortable. Could you have a gentle walk in mind, again with loved ones to distract yourself? A cup or a whole a whole pot of peppermint tea. The second thing to consider here is that coming in hot and hungry is a huge part of why we eat purposefulness, and this is so interlinked with dieting with restriction and often a key connection point that folks don't know and don't make for themselves. And this is fundamental for what my client experienced. So you do not need to come in hot and hungry please don't come in. This is the expression I use. Don't come in hot and hungry to meals around the holidays. And and and then kind of be judging how you're responding. You don't need to intentionally prepare for a meal by eating less or eating differently. That's diet. Culture. Eat enough. always eat consistently. You don't need to cut back you don't need to limit yourself because restriction and avoidance is what leads to bingeing is what is what leads to feeling so uncomfortable feeling out of control.

Alright, so the third thing to really explore here and to take away is that also what can contribute to eating past fullness is not having permission. So feeling limited in what we're allowed to eat to start with. So what we will do is we will seek food we will keep seeking food, and often that we're actually eating everything else before we eat the thing we think we're not allowed to eat. So we actually might be eating more volume than is comfortable for us. But we could have just eaten that thing to start with. There's also kind of like a parallel experience that you might have found where you might have this sense of this is the day I can eat anything I want. Or these are the times in my life that I can eat everything, maybe even a sense that these are very special foods because they're not typical, maybe in your dietary pattern. So these are the special times these are the Christmas foods for instance. These are the new year foods. Now I am not suggesting that holiday meals and occasions can't be special and that food isn't a part of that. Of course I get it. I think that's brilliant. But that has nothing to do with you not being able to listen to your body. And this is again when diet culture just kicks us in the butt and lies to us. You can enjoy those holiday meals. You can even have special holiday things and still listen to your body. Which means maybe you don't eat it just because it's there. You can acknowledge that this is always your call. It is always your choice. Go in with permission. Go in with permission to eat what satisfies you in the moment. And please give yourself permission to eat those foods again, tomorrow. Tonight, the next day the next week. You don't have a pressure to eat it all now.

So let's move on to navigating diet culture with the friends and family around us. Oh my goodness, this stinks. This absolutely stinks. And let's be real it is very likely going to happen. Because even if you are on this brilliant journey go you I see you. Others aren't. And you might also be spending time with people who are new to you are newer to you, or maybe just that you don't see very often and these can bring up really challenging experiences. So I encourage you first and foremost to see the humanity in people's struggles as our collective struggle and to prioritise your own protection. So what I mean here, I know that's a lot of words, but I really mean it. If someone is commenting on let's say like how much sugar we're all eating or are you really gonna get another slice. Do you like that? Do you like that voice? I don't know what that voice was. Or maybe they say hey, have you noticed how much weight so and so has gained? Or Wow, we got to detox you know in the new year. If any of those kinds of comments are around you. I really invite you to see these for what they are. This is a reflection of that person's pain. And whilst the pain deserves empathy from us, it's not actually personal to us. It's not about you. And it's also therefore not for you to take on board. I know easier said than done, but I think it's important to reiterate. So from a practical perspective, what I find is really important here is that you notice what is said and you name it as exactly what it is. So literally as I just said, whatever you're hearing whatever crap is coming out of their mouths. This is an externalisation of how they view themselves how they view food and bodies. What is concerning them what they're focused on. That step if you can do that it is so powerful. Because what I hope it can offer you is a little bit of space again to see their humanity. They deserve your empathy because this is crap that we're all trying to navigate. But I also hope it offers you a little bit of distance between that comment or that conversation and you as an individual. This is especially important if the comment is directed to you personally, you know, like, "hey, Nadia, Wow, you really going to eat that?" Because I assure you, it is not about you. It is about them. So well. I got really I'm just going to take a breath because

I got really into that it is not about you full stop. Alright, so next step once you've noticed a named maybe you got a little bit of space maybe you got a little bit of human you know, common humanity. From here, you now have some options depending on a few things. So how much of a smartass you are, you might tell that I'm quite a big one. How much confidence you have in speaking up. And that's not a good or bad thing. There's, there's no good or bad here, right? It's just important to assess it for yourself. Also the environment that you find yourself in and the relationship that you have with the person or the people. Please remember you are the expert of all of those things. So you need to consider what would best suit you. And here's some examples. Take some notes. Jot down the time so you can come back to this. So again, one of the most common things we're going to hear is someone talking about body size or weight. You know, cousin Sally really started on this year, didn't she? Oh my goodness, poke my eyes out. That's how I feel boring. Get over it. Get over yourself. Like I probably want to say some of those things. Maybe that's not the most suitable or kind thing to say if I'm being real. So you have some options. You can change the subject and just say nothing. Probably not my favourite, but it's an option. And sometimes it's important again, depending on the environment and the relationship. What about something like you could agree, hold on, stay with me, but also diffuse it? So yeah, bodies change? I don't find it that interesting. Can we play some charades? I love charades if you can't tell. You could also challenge this. You could say bodies aren't the most interesting part of us. Hey, tell me about your trip. People love to talk about themselves, offer them that option or you could totally shut this down. I don't want to talk about bodies. You know, not a lot of places to go there but it's an option. What about let's say someone has brought up food foods bad for us. So it might be something like all the sugar we're eating is so bad. So you could actually give some insight this might be an option to take something that says, hey, I'm learning about food in a new way. And do you know food isn't good or bad? You can kind of just place it there. Just float it to see what happens. You could shut it down. I'm all for a shutdown. Sometimes it's helpful. Hey, could we like not talk about this cooked or rather could we not talk about food like this be specific. Let's agree. Let's not talk about food like this. That's a good shutdown. You could again challenge and defuse the conversation. This is kind of maybe like a bit of a middle ground here. And that might sound in this instance like food is good. This is really yummy. Thanks, Bob for preparing it for us who's got New Year's plans. So we're offering a different opinion and we're and we're saying it neutrally or excitedly or however heck you want to say it. And then we kind of we diffuse it and we move on to something else. And a kind of another area that I wanted to cover. So we've covered body size, comments, food comments. This is kind of I guess another food comment but it's around compensation. So if you if you have something directed to you or around you that's like oh, I won't need dinner after this. Oh my goodness. poke my eye out again. That doesn't make any sense. It's so frustrating. And and what people are often seeking is they want camaraderie, right? They want you to bond over how bad they feel. Because it's so awful for them to experience again common humanity. So you could challenge and you could defuse it like we always need to eat food. Let's just enjoy it. You know, just kind of like like no big deal. You all also you can always shut these down. Can we just not talk like this. We don't need to talk about restrictive food ideas. So in summary, when you are navigating diet culture around other human beings I invite you to notice a name what is happening and protect yourself with what up whatever path feels right, whatever I've offered that you might want to pick up and try on. And overall I might ask that you consider ignore the nonsense. Ignore that there will be this harmful normalised nonsense around you and that stinks. And I hate it for all of us, hello, common humanity. But know it know that it's there. Know that you can always talk about other things. Again, you are the expert of every single every single interaction and I want to offer you a brilliant, you know, kind of quotes and brilliant words from Ashley Bennett, who's a body image Art Therapist, look her up. I'll link her in the show notes. So if you contemplate you know, sharing ideas that you're learning with your friends with your family about non diet, nutrition, about Health, Health at Every Size, about body acceptance, because maybe he really wished that they would know what you're learning. Ashley says the following and I quote, "manage your expectations. Most people have spent a lifetime absorbing and developing the narrative about food, health and bodies. It's unrealistic to undo a lifetime of diet culture during a two hour get together. This doesn't even happen in a 15 minute therapy session. Pick your battles this holiday season." Ashley you're brilliant. I couldn't Concur any more. Even even 10 to our get togethers or even 10 therapy sessions. You know, we can't undo it just overnight and so please be kind to yourself and others.

Alright, let's talk about navigating body image. I really want to kind of talk about here the fact that if you are struggling more than usual right now, I invite you to consider what else is going on. Right. So are you socialising more are you seeing people after a period of time not seeing them? Are you wearing different clothes than your general day to day and do they not maybe fit your current body or you don't feel that great in them? What stories are you telling yourself but also at the same time like what other things are going on? Are you busier than ever because it's this time of year and you're trying to get things done? Maybe you're feeling really burnt out maybe your self care practices have fallen away. All of this contributes to your body image. And so practically speaking, be realistic with yourself. Consider what you have going on. Acknowledge that you will not heal your body image in any short amount of time. Nobody will. And if it is kind of more hurtful or more painful or harder for you at the moment. Be curious about what is adversely impacting, you know is is the people around you a big source of that impact the clothes again that I mentioned, the way that you are really not able to show up or care for yourself. How could you switch that? How could you actually start to protect yourself? So like who you're spending your time with what you talk about? That's kind of all of the diet culture conversation, how you move your body you know you feel good when you move it depends on the movement but you know that right? What about when you feel rested? How much better does your body image feel? What about when you affirm your boundaries, you eat enough food you were comfortable? You know closer you feel Kunin these are all protective factors. So I invite you to be curious about what's impacting you and how you can protect yourself. And in the moment, any moment this is generally speaking, but possibly heightened at this time of year. If you're really struggling please consider popping that thought into a thought jar. popping your experience kind of on a shelf and and acknowledging it's there. I feel it but maybe it's true distressing. So pop it on the shelf. I can see it. I'm going to come back to it when it's less distressing. And I can process that in say therapy or in body image counselling. That's what these spaces are for. But in the meantime, what can you do to support yourself in the here and now some some ideas and things that I talk about with clients? Can you hug a loved one including your pets? Can you cry Can you scream into a pillow if need be? Can you journal your feelings or vent to a friend and ask for again a hug? Can you dance to your favourite song?

Now the final section let's move into navigating food guilt in this holiday focused episode, you know diet culture and the systems that uphold it the ones that make a fuckload of money from our oppression just if you're not clear, this is their big season. This is when they step up. So which is also is really important. We kind of acknowledged that because we might have found ourselves noticing more ads, more conversations and mentioned about the kickstart in the new year, and how we'll finally get back on track and everything will be great then, right? It's the illusion it's the constant illusion. And we've also been taught to control food during holiday periods because you know, we can't be trusted right? And very parallel experience. We've also been ingrained and taught to get really excited about these off limits special foods that are kind of just for holidays. So the thing about food guilt that you need to know and why all of that is relevant is that food guilt only exists when you are prioritising external beliefs about food and allowing those to dictate what you assess your food choices against. So let me give you a practical example. This dessert is bad for me. That's an external belief. It's vague, right? It's just bad for me. It's sugar. It's like I shouldn't want this right. So you feel bad because you want it and or because you eat it. That's the guilt. It's actually not your lived experience necessarily. It's all about the prioritising of these external diet, culture, restrictive beliefs. And of course then you hold yourself to that ridiculous belief. You're not ridiculous, the belief is ridiculous. The one that you've been taught to hold and instead what about you and the cake like do you like a cake? Is it satisfying how much of it is satisfying? Does it suit you and your needs? Like honestly, this is a so a different inexperience and so from from a practical perspective, I invite you to acknowledge that food guilt is the result of prioritising those external beliefs. That's all it is, you know, just that big thing. And also acknowledging that satisfaction is a very core part of eating and nutrition. So what is it like for you to give yourself permission to focus on that? Because you know what, I'm going to come back to my client that I referenced earlier, she allowed herself permission to eat what she wanted. And unlike us in the past, she didn't just pale slices and slices of cake because she was finally allowed to eat them today, even though she still felt bad about it. So she didn't eat past fullness. I covered that. But she also didn't eat as much cake not because it's bad to want cake, but because she was actually able to listen to herself as the priority. You are allowed to eat what you want to eat. I invite you to focus on the experience of the food and your internal signals over any internalised message you have about the food as a concept, because those concepts are not you and they don't reflect your needs in your life in your experience. They never can. If you are getting caught up in the story about how bad this is, how bad you are, how guilty you feel. Just come back to the basic experience. You can ask yourself hey, what is the smell like? What is this tastes like? What do I enjoy the most or not? How is my fullness being impacted right now? You know really you are asking yourself what information is there for you, in your experience to prioritise, focus on that.

I want to just thank you for being a part of whether this is the first episode you've ever listened to welcome whether you are coming back time and time again. I want to thank you for being part of this podcast. When I create these episodes I am imagining you even if I don't know you, I am imagining you I am imagining your struggles and I want so much for you to not have them anymore. And I am so grateful that you are playing in this space of non diet and of body acceptance and of liberation because it is important for all of us and the more of us that are here, the better for all of us. Hello common humanity. So thank you for being a listener of the Freedom body Freedom podcast. I hope that you'll continue to join us in 2023. For now, happy holidays. for all of the links all of the notes from this episode. you can head to my website which is You will also find some links in your show notes on the app, you're listening on. Thank you for joining me, I'll see you next time.

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