We become right nosey bastards at Christmas don’t we???
What are you getting for your boyfriend? What is your mum getting you? What does your house look like? How big is your tree? What time do you get up on the 25th? What do you do on boxing day? Are you a turkey family or a goose family? Do you like mince pies?
Perhaps it’s thanks to the outrageous amount of small talk required at this time of year. Between office parties, carol services and the general panic that Christmas Day is actually Armageddon and we MUST GET TOGETHER BEFORE THEN, we do end up talking a lot of shit.
And one of the things that gets brought up time and time again, is food.
Whether it’s someone telling us how to avoid piling on the pounds or someone telling us to fuck the system and eat so much chocolate we can’t stand up, you can’t go far without someone telling you what to do.
And it’s really easy to piss people off.
Tell someone in the marketing department of Nutri Bullet how you didn’t eat a vegetable for six days in a row, you must be prepared to have protein balls thrown at your head.
But then you tell someone who has brought out the maternity pants in anticipation of the Christmas Day feast that you might go for a quick run, you’ve gotta be prepared for a tirade of abuse: “but why? Are you trying to make the rest of us feel bad? How stupid! What’s the point? You’re weird.”
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
None of us are safe and it’s really starting to grind my gears.
Because actually I’m a bit of a do-er and a bit of a don’t-er and I feel like I’m getting it in the neck from all angles. So before I get into it, here’s a little run down of my do-ings and my don’t-ings, or as I like to call it, my living, this Christmas:
Exercise is, once again, taking a backseat. I haven’t had the time to go to the gym in the evenings (just too popular, whaddup!?) and to be honest I can’t be arsed to go in the mornings; it’s cold, dark and I’m normally a bit hungover.
Diet wise, I’m not banishing fruit and veg from the house in a bold stand against diet culture, on the contrary I am making a conscious effort to eat more, since I know it is at this time of year more than any other that I get rundown and poorly.
Alongside this I am eating whatever is put in front of me, ordering what I normally would from restaurants and basically cracking on with a slightly more festive version of my ordinary life.
If I’m perfectly honest I suspect I’ve popped on a couple of pounds so far this December and I’m not really expecting my jeans to fit this comfortably come January, but I’m fine with that.
This time last year I was really quite ill, any longtime readers will remember I was suffering with a stomach condition that was, as of then, undiagnosed and whilst they worked out what was wrong with me I was living a very strict diet of no alcohol, caffeine, red meat, sugar (even naturally occurring) in addition to the no-gluten-no-dairy life I’ve been cursed with for years.
I missed a lot of festive magic last year and I hated it, it was a really hard time for me, psychologically as much as anything, it was creating an incredibly difficult relationship with food and I found myself obsessing.
We pieced together a delicious Christmas Dinner but I did miss out on all the other things I’ve come to love in December; alcohol, chocolate and even the satsumas that start exploding out my house at this time of year.
I suspect my absolute I-DON’T-GIVE-A-SHIT crusade this year might have something to do with that. Not that it matters where it came from, I think it’s healthy, and if not that, at the very least it’s jolly good fun.
So I’m playing by my own rules. Dancing to my own tune. Indulging, chilling, enjoying myself. I’m lucky, I’m fine with my body at most sizes, I’m happiest when I have chocolate and I know that if I go absolutely mad and put on a stone in a month, I’ll probably spend a bit more time in January with trainers on.
I’m living for the now, I’ll deal with the rest of it later.
But, understandably, a lot of people don’t want to do what I’m doing and throw the rule book out the window at this time of year.
There are people out there who want to watch what they eat. Who want to keep exercising. Who do care.
And that’s OK, obviously.
With that in mind, YouTuber and Personal Trainer Carly Rowena (who has created the 12 week fitness programme I am loving but have had to press pause on while I ignore my gym membership and blame it on Christmas and not my laziness), published a blog post earlier this week entitled ‘5 rules to prevent holiday weight gain’.
Since, you know, she specialises in exercise and healthy eating and weight loss, I deemed it to be a very sensible post.
That is why people follow her, to help them stay healthy, get healthy, lose weight, keep off the weight they have lost, be fit, whatever it is.
She wasn’t saying don’t gain weight this Christmas.
She is simply offering those people who are concerned, a bit of a helping hand. And title aside, it’s a helpful post and I will be taking advice from it because it will help me remain healthier.
And if it prevents a bit of weight loss while I’m at it? Well that’s just an added bonus.
Not everyone shared my thought process though and there was an extraordinary backlash. From a girl who ironically asked, at the end of her less-than-kind tweet, to be more considerate of others. Whoops.
You can understand why this has happened. As twitter users, as bloggers, hell, as women, we have been exposed for years, years and years to diet culture. We’ve been told that we need to be thin to be beautiful. That we can always be better. That we’re not perfect.
It’s been a tiresome existence eh ladies?
And I speak out about it all the time, I hate it.
So why, you ask, am I defending Carly????
Well put simply, because she hasn’t done anything wrong.
She has made a living out of helping women on their journey to self improvement.
She helps women, myself included, shift some of the belly fat they don’t love. She helps women, myself included, with their weekly shop. She helps women, myself included, be more mindful of what they eat and how they treat their bodies.
To me, self-improvement looks a bit more toned, strong and healthy than I look at the moment.
To others self-improvement looks totally different.
Some people don’t want to lose weight or get fit, some people look and feel great the way they are and they resent anyone for implying otherwise.
AND – THAT – IS – FINE
I am lucky, and ignorant in a way. I am writing about this with no experience, beyond problems that my health created, of disordered eating. I am lucky enough not to struggle with an eating disorder and as a result I don’t find myself being triggered by articles like the one that Carly wrote.
So I say this as a normal girl, one that sees the number on the scale change regularly, one that eats because she loves food and one that sometimes gets pissed off with her body:
We have to be okay with what Carly has written.
You don’t have to read it. You don’t have to adhere to her advice. But you can’t hate her for doing a job that is important to a lot of people.
In the same way that we are learning to accept and embrace the fact that gaining weight is okay, we must remember that wanting to lose it, to be healthier, is okay too.
What we should not be okay with is the tension, the anger and the animosity surrounding all of it.
Because what I eat at Christmas, what you eat at Christmas, is none of anyone else’s business.
If I stop eating after my first helping of desert because I remember reading something in Carly’s post about how you should avoid eating if you’re not hungry, that’s okay. And if I totally ignore her and reach for fifths, that’s fine too.
I might go for a run on boxing day.
I probably won’t.
But I might, and I won’t be shamed for that. For making people feel guilty, for breaking the unspoken rules of Christmas, for being ‘weird’, for shaming people.
Every time I tell one of my smoker friends that I think I am going to quit, you can be sure that one of them will tell me that ‘no one likes a quitter’. When I tell a friend who is heading to the pub that I’m going to the gym, I know that they’ll label me a dry shite. And if I were to tell someone that I was trying to watch what I eat, I know it would only be a minute before someone offered me a sausage roll.
The truth of the matter is this: we often don’t like to see people doing things we wish we were doing.
I’m guilty of it, we are all guilty of it.
We don’t want to be left behind, the only one fucking it up, being bad alone. And we know that at Christmas, more than any other time, we are going to be bad, (not my word, diet-culture’s), and no one wants to do that by their lonesome. It’s a classic case of safety in numbers.
But it’s personal, it’s all so personal. Five mince pies, ten mince pies, no mince pies, as many mince pies as I can fit in my car??? Not your problem. Putting weight on is nothing to be ashamed of. Choosing to keep an eye on it isn’t either.
Never stop calling bullshit on people or organisations that make judgements on other people’s weight. Never stop standing up against a society that tells us that we have to look a certain way. Never stop working towards self love and self confidence.
But don’t mistake individuals who choose to count their calories with the society that prevented you from being okay with your stomach fat. The chances are, you’re coming from exactly the same place anyway. You’re just going to different places.
Let’s let each other do that in peace.
Because whatever you decide to eat on December 25th, and every day that follows it, is your decision and your business and nobody else’s.