Intuitive Eating Holiday Playlist:  Tunes + Tips to Support Your Divestment From & Survival of Diet Culture’s Seasonal Shenanigans.

Remixed by Amanda Villescas, RDN & Kristina Schumacher, MA, LLP

CW: Theme of/references to the detriments of diet culture and traditions of Westernized, Colonial Holiday Traditions

Reject the Festive F*ck It Mentality

OG principle – Reject the Diet Mentality

Throughout this time of the year, seasonal wellness messaging is often overt and quite conflicting, oscillating between diet culture’s blatant demonization of buttery, sugary treats and the pressure to overindulge in anticipation of the new year’s resolutions with insidious messages promoting ‘balance’ and the morality of ‘moderation.’   This could look like: ” “Who cares?  It’s the holidays! You can get back on track in January.”  This is conditional permission – what’s implied here is that indulging is only okay because it’s the holiday season. 

PSA:  We can eat whatever we want, 365 days a year.  Perhaps more familiar to many of us might be the fully intended or subtle subconscious End-Of-Year ‘last supper mentality,’ because come 2024, you’re going to reign things in once and for all!  Spoiler alert – this will not be the year that this resolution sticks – not because you lack willpower, but because you will get hungry and have cravings and desire pleasure and comfort because you are a living, breathing person with genuine basic needs that your brain and body will go to vast lengths to get met.  

Twinkly Tinsel Tip: The limited seasonal availability of specific products/flavors of products can invoke a food scarcity mindset. Pumpkin spice everything might not be easily accessible all the time, but fun-size candy bars are not a Halloween-only novelty. I can bake Grandma Tresie’s pound cake in April instead of December!  And if you feel so inclined and have the budget/space, consider stocking up on a few preferred peppermint treats and pop them in the freezer to savor whenever a minty mood strikes. 

Rudolph Reminder:  Intuitive Eating doesn’t mean gulping down all of the holiday goodies all the time, even when it doesn’t feel good.  It’s about approaching and embracing nourishment from a place of self-care <3

Honor your Humanity By Honoring Your Hunger.

OG principle:  Honor Your Hunger 

Amid the hustle and bustle of the season, it can be easy to forget that you are a human being who still requires the aforementioned basic needs to be met. And let’s be honest – most of us need to be reminded from time to time that food is an essential, completely non-optional human need.  Nobody is exempt from requiring food to function, including you.  

The heightened stress and chaos of current world events may intensify the already dysregulating impact of this time of year for many folx. Seasonal depression, specific emotional triggers related to past plum pudding traumas, and the various “I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone” lists can significantly alter the volume of hunger cues, making hunger even more challenging to navigate.

Twinkly Tinsel Tip:  Sound the sleigh bells by setting reminders for hunger scans, schedule daily deep breathing breaks in Santa’s workshop, and package up an emergency snack kit – but don’t wrap tightly with a bow because you need to have easy access to this gift to yourself at all times!

Reindeer Reminders:  

  • A nourished brain is a less anxious and stressed brain.
  • Fed is always best, even if your only option is fruitcake.
  • Prioritizing rest is a radical form of nourishment in and of itself. You are a mere mortal, not an elf who can work around the clock for a seemingly rich white dude with the sole purpose of making others happy this season.

Make Peace with Food:  Don’t Put Foods on the Naughty or Nice List

OG principle – Make Peace with Food

Food is morally neutral all year round.  However, when bombarded with messages from diet and ‘wellness’ culture, believing in this neutrality can be challenging regardless of the season. From October through January, the food police (next up on the playlist, so stay tuned!) often patrol more frequently and loudly, intensifying this challenge.

The surge in food judgment during this period is partly linked to the rise in social gatherings, particularly those involving family.  Growing up, the way our families discussed and approached food may have been confusing and disconcerting (at best for some of us), even when caregivers tried their absolute darndest to avoid invoking any fear, shame, or judgment. If specific foods have been frequently touted as wicked, you might feel self-conscious eating them for fear that something snarky might be said about your plate. Or, on the flip side, you might find yourself fending off a guilt trip from Grandma because you didn’t help yourself to seconds of the delicacies she’s just labored on for weeks. Navigating these dynamics can be difficult, but it’s important to remember that you are allowed to put whatever you want on your plate without judgment or conditions, no matter what the food police tell you. 

Additionally, it makes sense that your old copy of the seasonal naughty and nice list has been hanging out at mealtimes, albeit uninvited. Holiday treats are often marketed as “overindulgent“ or “guilt-laden,” and Auntie’s legendary dumplings are deemed “delicious but super unhealthy.” Hence, holiday food becomes only acceptable and “guilt-free” because the detox supposedly starts in January (see principle #1, reference to “the End of Year Last Supper”), and so continues the charged, conflicting pandering of other people’s food beliefs on you. All food, all the time, is guilt-free. Even eggnog, despite its controversial palatability, has not committed any sins or heinous crimes. 

Twinkly Tinsel Tips: To avoid a food choice shame spiral when the inner or external food police visits, Inhale, Exhale…, and speak out loud to yourself or anyone participating in diet talk around you – ”it’s just food.” 

Rudolph Reminder: What you choose to eat or not eat throughout this season and beyond is not reflective of your moral character.  

Stuff Your Stocking with Strategies to Navigate Diet Talk with Food-policing Family & Friends 

OG principle – Challenge the Food Police

There will be parties for hosting (or ghosting) and family and friends for roasting and toasting.  It is valid to feel angry, uncomfortable, and anxious about the atrocity that anti-fat chatter is – and it can also be helpful to accept that there’s a high probability you will be exposed to some this season. Acknowledging this, and perhaps even expecting it, might help you freeze and fumble a little less if or when it happens.

Twinkly Tinsel Tips:

  • Jot down a few diet talk rebuttal scripts for any commentary you anticipate. Take a moment to review these before you head into this year’s Ugly Sweater party.

→Bonus Tip:  Consider donning some anti-diet fashion to a seasonal shindig this year, such as the trending tee shirts that declare something along the lines of “I don’t care about your diet, Susan.” (a moment of respite for Karen!)

  • If accessible to you, round up another anti-diet culture-aligned person or two for mutual support: this could be a close friend, a therapist, a dietitian, a virtual or in-person support group, a Facebook group, dialing into a one-off Instagram live event, establishing a group text chat, etc.  
  • If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned up/curated your social media feed to be as non-diet & body-inclusive as possible, there’s no better time than the present. 
  • If the holiday season has you feeling generous, give folks some grace – many of your friends & family probably are not at the same place in their relationship with food and your body as you are; we’re all on a journey. 

Reindeer Reminders:  You can always opt out of fatphobic conversation by simply excusing yourself or walking away. If you end up freezing and fumbling, that’s ok, too – by no means does this mean you’re anti-diet fraud or body liberation advocacy failure (see principles 2&8). 

Lowering Satisfaction Expectations

OG principle – Discover the Satisfaction Factor  

To be clear, this is not to suggest being a grinch around prioritizing pleasure!! If you’ve been exploring intuitive eating for some time now, you know that permitting and pursuing pleasure with food can be revolutionary, empowering, and healing.  Also, if you’ve been deprived of pleasurable food for a long time or are a recovering perfectionist, it can be easy to hyper-fixate on achieving and experiencing the utmost pleasure from every meal. But it’s simply not always possible for every morsel we consume to culminate in ecstasy and delight.  There are many reasons food sometimes doesn’t hit the satisfaction mark – and in social gatherings, the food sitch often doesn’t cater to our preferences and is far beyond our control.  

Twinkly Tinsel Tip: If this year’s potluck doesn’t deliver due to some folks in attendance radiating serious Scrooge vibes, or if the gingerbread you’ve been anticipating for months significantly lacks spice, then give yourself full-on permission to pout for a moment. It’s okay to be bummed when a meal or treat ends up being disappointing.  

Reindeer Reminder: Tell yourself you’ll likely have the opportunity to eat your favorite festive food again and move on with your day. 

*Extra-twinkly Tinsel Tiding Tip:  Lowering expectations for/on yourself can be a gift that keeps on giving*

FaLaLa Fullness – Remember that Fullness Will Fade

OG principle – Feel Your Fullness

It is normal to eat beyond comfortable fullness every now and again, especially at a celebratory feast. Eating past fullness is not some sort of moral failing. Even so, eating to the point of extreme fullness can be super uncomfortable, so it makes sense that you might want to avoid this because most of us don’t particularly enjoy physical discomfort and pain.   

Twinkly Tinsel Tips: 

  • Try to be intentional to remain consistent with daily adequate nourishment, and keep snacks on hand to avoid going into social gatherings completely and utterly ravenous.  Being too hungry can naturally lend itself to eating more than might feel comfy because our bodies are brilliant and don’t want us ever to experience any kind of nourishment deficit.  
  • Although it can be really tough, you have permission to fend off food-pushing family members and ask to take a Tupperware home.  
  • If you know you tend to eat to the point of physical discomfort in specific environments and/or to binge eat to numb yourself, take some time to tweak/refill your emotional toolkit (cue up the next beat!).

Reindeer Reminder:  Fullness is always temporary.  

Rotate Emotional Eating with Other Melodies (Strategies) on Your Holiday Playlist (Toolkit)

OG principle – Cope With Your Emotions With Kindness

Emotional eating is not the evil coping method that the diet and wellness industries say it is. It’s not wrong, reprehensible, or even unhealthy to eat in response to emotions or to seek out emotional connection via food.  “Emotional eating” is an entirely normal and helpful coping tool in your repertoire! However, having more than one strategy to utilize when navigating difficult situations that catalyze emotional angst can be beneficial. If using food to cope is stuck on strategy repeat for you, and you’re regularly eating to the point of discomfort (see principle #6) and/or noticing your emotional needs aren’t being fulfilled, then consider adding some tunes (such as self-compassion) & hitting the shuffle button.  

Twinkly Tinsel Tips:  

  • Screenshot a copy of a feelings wheel, or see if you can snag a Black Friday deal on a pillow or poster showcasing one for more tangible access.  When you notice yourself experiencing emotional sensations of some sort, refer to said wheel to pinpoint what you’re actually feeling. Then, consider what you might need to meet that emotional need.  
  • It can be healthy to use food as a coping mechanism, but having a playlist of strategies in addition to food may be helpful. Especially ones that are as quick and easily accessible; some other coping tools could be reaching out to a friend, walking to calm your nerves, snuggling in warm blankets and watching a show, having a solo dance party in your bedroom, journaling, etc. 

Reindeer Reminder:  The tool you might end up choosing could still be food, especially if it’s one of the few comforting things available to you, and that’s okay.  

Respect Your Boundaries, Your Body, and Your Body’s Boundaries. 

OG principle – Respect Your Body 

If you’re reading this blog post on a therapy practice’s website, you’re probably not new to the concept of boundaries. Body respect may or may not be a bit more foreign, depending on your exposure to anti-diet language and size-inclusive spaces. Ultimately, this is what the body liberation movement is all about: EVERY BODY (yours, too!) deserves to be treated with dignity.  Every body is worth receiving effort that promotes well-being and care – refer back to principle #1’s Rudolph Reminder – your body is worthy of nourishment rooted in self-care.  And what might nourish our bodies and spirits ebbs & flows just like the seasons.

Twinkly Tinsel Tips:  

  • Prioritize some time to reflect on how your body needs to be respected, cared for, and nourished in the present moment.  
  • Don’t let seasonal hustle & bustle get in the way of any therapeutic support sessions you have scheduled. If accessible to you, set up a specific support session to put a boundary-setting plan in place for any potentially unsafe seasonal spaces you might be spending time in.  
  • To enjoy the season’s magic, you must fill your cup to pour into others. Try to wrap your people pleasing and perfectionism with extra packaging tape, and don’t include a return address.

Reindeer Reminder: Maintaining boundaries can be MUCH easier said than done, especially if you don’t have much boundary-setting/honoring practice. Please be gentle with yourself throughout this process (sneak peek into our festive finale, a tune that will undoubtedly deserve an encore) – it’s not just seasonal; navigating boundaries is a lifelong journey. 

All Aboard the Polar Express for Playtime

OG principle – Movement; Feel the Difference

Embrace the magic of movement, IF you are able to, and if it supports your well-being, especially when it involves moving away from toxic diet talk conversations.Rather than viewing movement as something that must be done, consider moving in ways that feel good and only if it feels good to you. In the spirit of the season, move in playful ways and bring back feelings of child-like wonder. 

Twinkly Tinsel Tips: 

  • When you feel your body itching to move, listen to it! Go sledding, ice skating, building a snowman, having a snowball fight, walking through a city and enjoying their lights, or getting your jingle bell rock groove on.
  • If weather or safe streets where you live are a barrier to getting outdoors, consider cracking your window for some fresh air while you do a few stretches to loosen up tense muscles and unclench your jaw

Reindeer Reminders:

  • Don’t forget your mittens if you’re venturing outdoors!
  • Sitting on the couch and enjoying a cheesy Hallmark movie instead of hitting the gym does not make you a less virtuous person. 

Gentle Nutrition is Lovely. So Is Being Gentle With Yourself. 

OG principle – Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition.

5/5 stars recommend.

Gentle nutrition allows you flexibility and forgiveness for yourself if/when your anti-diet nourishment approach this season falters. It’s hard to be consistent, especially when inundated by holiday gatherings, events, and diet talk that might feel seemingly scheduled just to test you! This journey is a process of progress, not an unattainable quest for perfection. So, be gentle with yourself — with your nourishment choices and in acknowledging that it’s okay not to be a perfectly packaged intuitive eater.   

Twinkly Tinsel Tips: 

  • Letting gentleness guide you into this New Year might just bring more peace, joy, and hope than Whole 30’s empty promises than you ever could have imagined possible on your wonderland well-being journey.

Reindeer Reminders:

  • We live in a society where diet-culture and anti-fat bias live on every corner and in endless advertisements. Give yourself the credit you’re due, a pat on the back for valuing yourself enough to go against the oppressive diet culture grain.

This remixed playlist has been inspired by and adapted from the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Trible & Elyse Resch, 4th edition.