Dealing with Body Image During the Holidays
The holiday season is right around the corner, which also means the pants may be fitting a bit tighter for some of us. Although there are a lot of traditional family feasts coming up, this can be a particularly difficult and triggering time for those that struggle with body image issues. From social gatherings to family members making weight comments to pressure and judgment all the way around, there’s no wonder why the holiday season may contribute to more intense body image issues.
Body image is something that inherently affects people from all ages, all genders, and all walks of life, although particularly more intense with teenage girls and females when it comes to gaining weight. We develop core beliefs about our self image early on in childhood from social media to our upbringing and experiences in our past. We inherit false ideas of what we “should” look like, who we’re “supposed” to be, and what it takes to be “good enough.” This, in turn, makes us self-conscious and more hyper-aware of our appearance and/or bodies which influences how we behave and socialize. We may miss out on events and social gatherings because we think we look fat or have an intense fear of eating those holiday cookies that go “straight to the hips.” Either way, it becomes more than just body image insecurities as it may start contributing to anxiety and depression. One side of us wants to be able to just enjoy our time with friends and family whereas the other side of us holds us back out of fear of judgment and criticism.
We all have something about ourselves that we don’t like but when that turns into obsessive and ruminative thoughts about our appearance, it becomes more of a barrier to living our lives than we’d probably like. Self-confidence starts to feel like a foreign concept and is perceived as unachievable. I’m here to tell you that is absolutely NOT true. There are ways that you CAN change your thinking, improve your self-esteem, and crush these unrealistic ideals of what it means to have a “perfect body” or look “beautiful.” Here are just a few tips to conquer this holiday season without the constant worry of weight gain or appearance haunting you.
- Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. You can’t go wrong with self-care. Make a wellness plan for yourself with small goals you’d like to achieve in each dimension of wellness (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, lifestyle). Place self-care as a priority and see your life shift, including your self-image. Caring for yourself is not selfish as you can’t pour from an empty cup.
- Use Self-affirmations. Using mantras that remind you of your strength and beauty can help in increasing motivation and self-esteem. Having simple statements such as “I am worthy…I am enough…I choose to put energy into my growth, not shrinking my body…etc.” on sticky notes in areas you frequently encounter can start to subconsciously register and replace negative self-talk. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come and how much love you have for your body.”
- Limit Social Media Use. Now we can’t completely avoid social media and society tabloids as they are all encompassing…however, we can limit our personal use of social media accounts ourselves. You can also curate your feed to include more body positivity and self-love messages rather than images of unrealistic ideals.
- Establish Assertive Boundaries. It’s okay to say no. Whether it’s activities, social gatherings, food offerings, or invites…it’s okay to say no, thank you if you feel like that would benefit you most. You are allowed to limit your time at events, you are allowed to choose what you would like to eat or not, and you are allowed to excuse yourself from a triggering conversation if needed. It’s important to recognize and establish your voice in setting boundaries in order to take care of yourself.
- Have a Support Network. Make sure you have someone to call if you need to when feeling too bad about yourself. Surround yourself around people that you feel comfortable talking to and being vulnerable around. The holidays can feel pretty isolating if you aren’t around your friends, especially during a pandemic. However, sometimes we need to just gain the courage to talk to our family and friends about our body image. Little do you know, you probably aren’t alone and you can gain mutual support by having a conversation.
- Coping Skills. Healthy coping skills come in a large variety, however, don’t forget you have them just because the holiday season comes up. If you find yourself ruminating and overwhelmed with negative thoughts about yourself, try mindfulness exercises, walking outside, challenging your thoughts, or listening to some music. Experiment with different coping skills to find what works best for you.
- Get Professional Help. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help. Find a therapist that specializes in self-esteem, body image, or eating disorders. Seeking professional help can guide you in the positive direction by challenging those rigid core beliefs and learning healthy, more positive core beliefs to replace them with. A therapist can help you explore your self-worth from within as it is not contingent on a number on a scale or pants size.
If you are struggling with body image issues this upcoming holiday season or during any time of year, please feel free to contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our mental health professionals. We are here to help you gain back control over your life and be the best version of yourself.