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The Myth of the Good Body

No, You Don’t Have to Go on a “Post-Thanksgiving Diet”

The post-Thanksgiving period is a rough one. Every sponsored Twitter post, email subject line, and invasive YouTube ad is screaming at you to go on a diet, “shed those pesky holiday pounds,” or something else mildly infantilizing and grossly insulting. 

I remember a few years ago going to a post-Thanksgiving yoga class where the instructor kept referring to our “turkey bellies” in a way that became more and more vindictive as the session wore on. Back then, I was deep in the throes of an eating disorder. I spent Thanksgiving not eating, rather arranging and re-arranging my plate to make it look like I had eaten. Still, I was convinced that I, too, needed to go on a diet to shed those “turkey pounds.”

Now that I’m in recovery, I have to wonder–why the fuck is this culture so obsessed with people not gaining weight? Why does every holiday have to be viewed in the depressing terms of indulgence followed by abstinence? Why can’t we just be okay with eating food and gaining weight?

Well, there are plenty of reasons, and they all suck. America has always hated fat people, specifically fat women, and very specifically fat women of color. Need proof? Just look at the bullshit our queen mother and icon Lizzo has had to put up with for simply existing on social media. When she celebrates her body, she’s shamed and censored. When she drinks a smoothie on TikTok, she’s viewed as a traitor. It seems that, when it comes to fat bodies, everybody feels entitled to their truly shitty opinions.

Why does every holiday have to be viewed in the depressing terms of indulgence followed by abstinence?

But that’s just the part of it we see in the media. The other depressing aspect of fatphobia in our culture is that it finds a way to infiltrate even the spaces we might think of as safe and private. For instance: the family unit. Many queer people, regardless of their relationship to their bodies the rest of the year, dread returning home for the holidays due to a fear of unasked-for comments or bitchy observations about weight gain. We think of it as acceptable to say things about each others’ weight because it’s framed as being an aspect of concern. “I just want you to be healthy,” people say, not realizing that you can’t actually tell how healthy or unhealthy someone is simply by looking at them. 

It seems like basic good judgment to avoid commenting on the bodies of others, and yet so many people feel emboldened to say horribly rude, unnecessary things about another person’s weight. Perhaps the worst part is that there’s nothing you can really say back. Even if you’re totally fine with your body and how you look, how do you serve up a witty rejoinder to “hey SOMEONE’S looking FILLED OUT!”? 

Bottom line, it’s not fun. Even if you’re at a place where you’re feeling okay with yourself, it can be hard to handle the relentless messages about “losing those holiday pounds” that come at you from every angle. So here are a few suggestions for surviving the next few months without a relapse and with your sanity fully intact:

  1. Eat Whatever the F*** You Want

I’ll admit that this year, I’ve had a really hard time dealing with Thanksgiving. In the past, it was a meal I avoided. After I spent this Thanksgiving eating whatever I wanted and putting zero limits on how much I could eat (a big breakthrough for me!) I instantly felt guilty. The desire to instantly restrict my intake kicked in in no time. I heard myself saying, “you need to lose weight.” How did I counteract it? More often than not by screaming “NO I DON’T!” to an empty room and then proceeding to eat whatever the earthly fuck I wanted. Because guess what? Eating food feels good, and having some weight on you can be a really awesome, healthy feeling in its own way, especially after years of restricted eating. 

2. Feel Free to Be Rude

People who come up to you and try to talk about your body TO YOUR FACE are rude. That’s it! And while some believe that it’s better to turn the other cheek, I believe that it’s best to fight rudeness with rudeness. If someone tries to “gently” imply that you’re eating too much or that you’ve put on weight, you can simply give them the ol’ stink eye. You can also (my preferred method) simply walk out of the room. Remember: when people try to make you feel bad about yourself, it is your right and privilege to ignore them! In the words of Tony Soprano, “those who give respect, get respect.” It doesn’t matter if they happen to be your relatives: rudeness is rudeness, and should be answered with—you guessed it—rudeness! 

3. Follow Fat and Body-Positive Influencers

What’s the best way to feel like you’re not alone during the holidays? Find examples of other people who have figured out how to cut out the toxic messages of diet culture from their lives and thrive. Need some suggestions? Have no fear, because there are plenty of awesome queer creators out there, from Yoga instructor and Out 100 influencer Jessamyn Stanley to plus-size trans model Shay Neary to disability activist Annie Elainey. Need some more suggestions? How about J. Aprileo of Comfy Fat Travels, Jazzmyne Jay, Lord Troy, and Enam Asiama?

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Jessamyn (@mynameisjessamyn)

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by 💅🏽 Marquis Neal 💅🏽 (@marquimode)

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Annie | Disability & LGBT (@annieelainey)

4. Surround Yourself with People Who Love You 

It might not always be easy to stay in touch with your queer community over the holidays, but it’s worth putting in the extra work to keep those lines of communication open. Remember that no matter what your family thinks, you have people in your life who love and understand you, and if you give them a chance, they’ll show you just how valuable you are, no matter your size, no matter what you eat, no matter how you look. 

Obviously none of these things are foolproof, and the holidays are hard on everyone. But if you can tune out all the crappy messages about what the culture wants you to be, there’s a good chance you can start accepting yourself for you who are. 

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