Numbers don’t belong at the holiday table

This year, keep eating habits balanced

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Numbers don’t belong at the holiday table

Commenting about food and weight can have harmful unintended consequences.

Commenting about food and weight can have harmful unintended consequences.

Quinn Christensen

Commenting about food and weight can have harmful unintended consequences.

Quinn Christensen

Quinn Christensen

Commenting about food and weight can have harmful unintended consequences.

By Quinn Christensen, St. Paul Academy and Summit School

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As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, here is what my holiday calendar looks like:

1. Thanksgiving: Field comments about my weight, my health, and what’s on my plate. 

2. Christmas: Cringe as relatives brag about how “good” they are for refusing a cookie. Try not to let it stop me from eating a cookie. 

3. New Year’s: Watch as everyone and their mother announces their newest diet.

For anyone struggling with food, the holidays are a minefield of numbers and food shame. So when I first started writing this piece, I wanted to say: be careful about commenting on food and weight when you see relatives this holiday season because you never know who in your family might be struggling with food. 

There is just what your body wants – no matter what time of year it is.”

But then I remembered that it’s more complicated than that. 

You do know who is struggling with food: everyone is. It’s practically tradition to eat as much as we can through the holiday season, all of the things we are told to deprive ourselves of all year, and then to jump back to restriction immediately on Jan. 1. Getting into the holiday spirit means eating past satiation for November and December, all the while planning your New Year’s diet. Forget eating disorders – this is cultural. And maybe you’re not addicted to that imbalance (read: battling a full-blown eating disorder) but that doesn’t mean the drug is good for you.

So this year, I want to challenge you to disrupt the cycle. Yes, be conscious of what’s happening around you, of what you’re saying, of what your family is saying. Be conscious of the ways that your holiday conversations may perpetuate judgment of food and body. 

But there’s something else. Something bigger, even. I want you to recognize that the numbers and diet talk and food shaming that rears its ugly head during the holidays doesn’t only affect people with an eating disorder diagnosis. It affects everyone.

I want to challenge you, as you’re sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner today, to remind yourself that food has no morality. To remember that there is no good or bad food. There is just what your body wants – no matter what time of year it is.

This story was originally published on The Rubicon on November 28, 2019.