‘Diet starts tomorrow’

Olivia Grefenstette, Opinions Editor

It starts with a comment as simple as, “Are you really going to eat that second plate?” 

The holidays are known for gratitude, peace, and time spent together. However, there is a pressing issue that goes unaddressed. Unhealthy and triggering comments about food and diets plague the holiday season. New Year’s resolutions, judgmental “almond moms,” and tumultuous family dinners turn what should be a joyous and festive season into a walking anxiety attack. Setting healthy boundaries and practicing self-compassion is as crucial this time of year as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Creating a safe and stress-free environment during the holidays is easier said than done. The stomach-churning discomfort of confronting family members can be paralyzing. No one wants to start “drama” during the few times a year everyone is all together. So, what is the big deal if you let a couple of comments slide? You can take one for the team, right? If these comments go unaddressed, they can spiral into something more. The younger generation learns by example, and if these unhealthy comments become the norm, kids and teens internalize these messages. This generation is already at a vulnerable and susceptible age of development, hearing loved ones label certain foods as good or bad can stick with them for a lifetime. Furthermore, if a family member develops or has been struggling with an eating disorder, the prevalence of unhealthy comments can create a toxic environment that prevents them from opening up and asking for help and support. 

Instead of making jokes about how you’ve just “gained 10 pounds,” there are plenty of ways to make the dinner table welcoming and joyous for everyone. First, establish boundaries. Before the festivities begin, hold intentional conversations to discuss what is acceptable to joke about and what is not. While this may seem scary, it is a crucial step to developing a healthy food relationship within your family. People can’t change if they don’t know what’s wrong, so be honest and straightforward about what makes you uncomfortable. 

However, remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation; if something is triggering to you, you don’t need to defend yourself and your emotions. Real loved ones will be understanding, not perfect, but willing to try to change. 

All of these emotional and personal conversations can be really draining. Remember to be patient with yourself and practice self-compassion. You are only human and doing the hard work to create a safer environment within your family takes strength and courage. Take care of yourself and listen to your needs: self-care is not selfish but essential to one’s well-being and mental health. So it’s okay to have that second plate if you’re still hungry. Diets don’t have to start tomorrow. Food is meant to be enjoyed and to bring people together, don’t let diet culture get in the way of that.