Hello everyone and welcome to the ~holiday edition~ of getting lit in the opinions section with Janvi! I hope midterms are going well for everyone and that you haven’t completely dissolved into a puddle of pure stress yet! Yikes, I know, but break is so soon and you’re almost there!
Anyways, let’s keep it moving here. This is something I’ve been meaning to write for you all for a while, and now that the holidays are rolling around, I think it’s the perfect time to debut the topic of, drum roll PLEASE, body positivity!
So first off, what is body positivity? I feel like most of you probably have somewhat of an idea of what I’m talking about, but I want to give you my definition so you know where I’m coming from. Basically, to me, body positivity is all about three things: first, realizing that there is no such thing as a perfect body; second, separating a person’s health and worth from how they look; and third, to translate these ideals into love for ourselves and others. Since the shape of our body and the way we appear are influenced by race, sex, gender, age, disability, socioeconomic status, religion, etc., body positivity is indeed an intersectional issue. Today, however, I’m just going to talk about how society’s internalized hatred for people who don’t look a certain way really begins to emerge around this time of year– ‘tis the season!– and what we can do to overcome that mentality in ourselves and others.
All of this plays into a bigger picture of accepting everyone for who they are, and as a part of that, eliminating fatphobia and diet culture. It is so wild to me sometimes that these things still exist and are so ingrained in our minds, like imagine being conditioned to be afraid to exist in a certain shape, to feel uncomfortable taking up space in the world? Sounds ridiculous when it’s said aloud, and yet we all are. Wow! But let me save the soapboxing for later, I digress.
The reason I wanted to bring it up around now because what with all the events happening, from religious holidays to Thanksgiving to NYE, a major aspect of winter involves parties, and FOOD. And during this time, it’s pretty easy to adopt a mindset that associates food with being fat, and being fat with being yucky. So we’re going to talk about how to recognize and try to prevent that mindset from reflecting back on ourselves or others.
Also, disclaimer– when talking about body positivity, especially when focusing on fatphobia specifically, I feel it’s important to mention that yes, according to gross traditional thinking, I am conventionally pretty thin; I could never try to speak for someone who has actually been the victim of fatphobia, and I will never try to speak over someone with that experience and the courage to voice it. And yet, I think it’s important for me to kind of shed a light on this topic right now because even with my societally “advantageous” build, I STILL sometimes feel insecure about the way I’m shaped or how much I weigh or any number of arbitrary things, and my body-anxiety definitely gets ramped up around this time of year. I know that there are people more slender than I that still feel the same– THAT’S how ingrained beauty standards are. So while I know that fatphobia and diet culture are far-reaching with ugly roots twisted in nearly every part of our lives, I hope that if we can all try to be aware of it, that’ll be one step towards getting rid of them.
Sure, Janvi, you say, I’d like to become more body positive during the holidays, but it seems super hard. Do you have any specific advice for staying aware? And lucky for you, my friend, yes I do! Here’s a couple of suggestions for things you and I can do to keep it mindful o’clock.
First, don’t bargain with your eating. It’s not fair to yourself. You shouldn’t have to think, “okay, if I eat this now, I won’t eat anything later”. You especially shouldn’t think, “if I gorge myself during December, it’s alright because I’ll lose all the weight after New Year’s”. This kind of thinking places weight versus food on a scale (haha) where you have to do some kind of “work” to compensate for each side. But Janvi, you say, I’m just looking out for my health! What’s wrong with eating a bunch now and going to the gym later? Good question! The answer is… nothing. There’s nothing wrong with, say, creating a New Year’s resolution to visit the gym more often. However, there IS something wrong with making a resolution that “I’m going to the gym a lot after the New Year’s because I ate a ton this month/I have a goal weight/I just need to slim down”. Do you see the difference? These turn exercise into a punishment or “payback” of sorts for eating “too much” or weighing “too much”, instead of an activity that one pursues for fun or because of the general health benefits.
In the same vein, eat what you want! It’s holiday season, baby, no limits! (Okay, maybe some limits, but you know what I mean). If you want to indulge, indulge. If you’d rather not then you don’t have to! But there’s no such thing as “deserving” to have snacks or whatever because you were really good about a diet or anything. You needn’t withhold food from yourself, I mean, like I said, ‘tis the season to go all out. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you eat or drink so much that you become physically ill, but if there’s something you want, go for it! Basically, it’s all about finding a balance with what’s comfortable for you, but making sure that that balance is separate from worrying about a “weight consequence”. You should also implement this newfound mindset on your perception of others– don’t judge someone for eating however much they want during the holidays (but maybe DO stop that two year old from having a gallon of sugar before bedtime or tell your, ahem, enthusiastic friend to lay off the eggnog).
During the holidays, it’s easy to get wrapped up (haha again) in the subconscious fatphobia and diet culture which unfortunately exists to some degree inside all of us. But, at the end of the day, it’s so important to remember that a single “perfect body” doesn’t exist, but that your body is already perfect. That the way someone looks has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of their character. So if you want to shift that focus this holiday season, then if you can, get in the giving spirit. Maybe the Hallmark movies DO have a point! Donate meals and clothes (socks are especially needed!) to homeless shelters, give to charities (but not Salvation Army– do your research first), or write kind notes to people who don’t get them as much as they should. Those actions are what are ultimately going to define you, not some numbers on a scale. And if you do find yourself or someone else in an unhealthy relationship with food, please don’t hesitate to talk to a doctor, a trusted adult, a friend, or the school nurse. But no matter what, this holiday season, show others, and yourself, some love; you’ll be just fine. And now, with all my love: until next year, stay woke!