3 Rules for a Happy Holiday Meal

“Wow, you really tore through that sandwich!”

“Well you clearly won’t need to go back for seconds!”

“Oh man, I am such a fat pig for eating all of this food”

“Are you sure you’re going to eat all that?”

“I skipped breakfast AND lunch so that I could eat tonight!”

These are a couple lines I overheard at a holiday meal hosted by my family last weekend. Do they sound familiar? Chances are, you’ve heard variations of these at your own holiday gatherings, and perhaps you’ve even said some of them yourself.

It should come as no surprise that for many people, mental health is the most challenging over the holiday season. However, with a bit of careful thought, we can change our own dialogue - and challenge that of others - to ensure that the holidays are stress free and enjoyable for everyone sitting at the table.

Don’t shame people for their decisions

Whether you are joking or not, you are adding no value to somebody’s life by commenting on how much  - or how little - they are eating. Don’t pressure people into eating things they don’t want to eat, and certainly don’t make people feel guilty by reminding them how many calories are in the whipped cream, or by making them feel silly for wanting an extra helping of Pavlova

Don’t attach moral value or judgement to food

When we label foods such as ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’, we create space for shame and guilt to grow, and we only complicate our own relationship with these foods further. Avoid using these words to describe yourself, or the food you’re eating, and feel free to gently correct others when they do the same.

Don’t complain about your own eating, if you can help it.

We don’t know what’s going on with the people around us. Often, our comments are well-intentioned, or even a joke, but it’s so important to watch what we say about food around this time of year, even when we’re only making comments about ourselves. While it’s important to acknowledge the benefits of a shared experience, perhaps sharing your guilt with others is not the best idea.

Above all else, it’s important to remember that we can’t control the things that people say to us. However, we can control what comes out of our own mouths, and also how we react to the things that are said by others, even though it may not always be easy. It can be helpful to gently remind your family and loved ones that jokes and comments about food and body are not welcome at the table. It’s equally okay to ignore it, and take some time for yourself to shake off the negative comments. Self care is especially important over the holidays. Seek the outdoors, write in your journal, or spend some time with someone who makes you feel like sunshine. Know that you don’t have to handle things perfectly, and try to remember that you are so much more than what you eat or what you look like.

Happy holidays xx

Michaela Latimer