Food Shaming Rituals Around the Holiday Season
The prevalence of food shaming rituals around the holiday season presents an absurd contradiction. This time of year is undeniably food-centric, and there are both positive and negative implications for that. I will first address the positives—a shared meal is enriching, communal, intimate, and nostalgic. The experience is social, the atmosphere is filled with connection, and the memories created at the table become cherished family traditions. But in many cases, eating seasonal foods like mashed potatoes, biscuits, turkey, and stuffing can punctuate the mealtime with guilt, remorse, or insecurity. And that's when food shaming comments or behaviors materialize. This ritual is often distressing for people who face issues with body image and disordered eating, so I want to examine why food shaming intensifies around the holiday season and how to mitigate its adverse effects.
The Link Between Food Shaming and the Holidays
Western culture's approach to food during the holiday season is rife with paradox because the unspoken message tends to be: "Gorge your stomach to the point of discomfort, then berate yourself for all the excess calories you just consumed."
This attaches self-reproach to the activity of eating and leads to the demonization of certain foods. When a drizzle of gravy or a slice of pumpkin pie is deemed shameful, the subtext of this assumption is that whoever ingested it must now be considered a failure. That kind of thinking is irrational, but it's also pervasive, and too many conversations at holiday gatherings focus on the shame of indulgence as opposed to the enjoyment of food—and each other.
Counteract Food Shaming Around the Holidays
In my experience, the most effective method to counteract food shaming rituals is not to participate in the behaviors or reciprocate the comments, so they won't gain traction around the dinner table. Instead of snickering or nodding in commiseration when someone remarks, "I shouldn't have that second piece, but I feel like cheating today," remind that person, they can eat whatever they choose ("How to Talk to Someone with Disordered Eating Around the Holidays").
When the discussion turns to calories, point out the delicious scents, textures, and flavors permeating the room. When the mention of a "failed diet" or "post-meal workout" enters the conversation, emphasize that connecting as friends and family is more impactful than maintaining a dietary plan or exercise routine. Just because food shaming rituals are normalized around the holiday season doesn't mean they should be tolerated. All it takes is one person to redirect the spotlight off food shaming and onto the pleasure of togetherness—which is the core theme of this entire season.
Schurrer, M. (2018, November 14). Food Shaming Rituals Around the Holiday Season, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2018/11/food-shaming-rituals-around-the-holiday-season