I feel like we’re more aware now of body shaming, eating disorders and the pressure to be perfect than we ever have been. And some things have started to change for the better - there’s massive outcry whenever influencers promote laxatives that are supposed to make your stomach flat, there are more and more diverse bodies featured on fashion websites and there’s generally less desirability placed on that “heroin chic” ideal of the ‘90s and early 2000s.
But there are, of course, still huge problems: fat people are still shamed and attacked for speaking up, for being happy in their own skin and for simply existing. Fatness is still far too often seen as the punchline of a joke, rather than an underprivileged and underrepresented body type. And eating disorders are bred into all of us, younger and younger, through every possible media outlet - from magazines to Instagram, TV to Tik Tok.
And, in a more general sense, almost all of us - even the ones with relatively healthy relationships with our bodies - still associate food with guilt.
And almost every day, we unconsciously pass that guilt on like a Christmas gift to the people around us - our friends and family, our loved ones and, in particular, our children.
Think about it: how many times have you heard someone saying “Oh, I really shouldn’t!” as they reach for their third chocolate thin? Or “This is naughty” as they order dessert? How many of you have heard yourself say, “Calories don’t count on Christmas!” out loud? How many times have you heard people describe certain foods as good and certain foods as bad?
This is all relatively subtle, almost unnoticeable to the untrained ear, but it drums the same message into all of us: some food is virtuous, some food is shameful. And the assigned value or lack thereof seems to be directly related to how much weight said food will make you gain or lose.
This time of year is ripe for shaming ourselves and shaming others about the food we’re eating. Because it feels like we’re constantly eating, and how could anyone resist? Why should they?
Christmas brings with it ham and brandy snaps and pav, trifle and roast potatoes and scorched almonds. The days after Christmas bring leftover ham sandwiches lathered in butter and mustard and endless bottles of leftover champagne. New Years through February 1st flashes by in a blur of chips and kiwi onion dip, camping meals of two minute noodles and gin and tonic, cheese platters and real fruit ice creams and still, leftover ham.
Why should we deny ourselves any of those foods? Who decided that brandy snaps are “bad”? Because my taste buds would beg to differ.
But it’s not just the food that proves problematic for us. It’s the contradictory idea that everyone is supposed to be at their fittest, at their most slim, with firm abs and a thigh gap, at this time of year. It’s bikini season! It’s time to rake in Instagram likes and hope you’re making other girls feel as insecure as they make you! It’s time to eat ham while simultaneously looking like you’ve never eaten ham in your life, let alone third helpings of dessert!
All of this is enough to give the most mentally healthy among us a complex. We need to reject the messaging entirely. When someone says they’re going to have to work off all the calories on Boxing Day, gently remind them that they’re allowed to enjoy themselves, guilt-free. When you hear someone say, “Oh, I shouldn’t!” as they reach for another chip, another cracker, more cheese, gently remind them that they should do whatever they bloody well like. When you find yourself shaming yourself, trying to restrict yourself, regretting every mouthful you’ve had that day - ease up on yourself. You’re allowed to indulge. You are not obligated to deprive yourself of things that will make you happy just to fit into some arbitrary image of what a body “should” look like.
Eat whatever you want. Sure, you might put on a little bit of weight. Is it that important? To turn Kate Moss’ fateful 90s adage on its head, nothing tastes better than… delicious holiday food.Support Villainesse