Aside from the cross-country travel and general unpleasantness of being in an airport during the days before and after, I never considered holidays, or the feasts that accompany them, stressful. I knew what to expect, and could plan for, or around, all the food. I thought I “enjoyed” what I wanted to, and I “didn’t like” most of those traditional holiday foods, anyway.
Actually, I ate what felt safe and what would protect me from judgment. I ate enough so as to not draw attention to my plate, and just the right amount to satisfy both my ego and expectations.
I rarely worried about eating too much—if anything, I had regrets about eating too little, because my eating disorder voice convinced me I didn’t need most of it. I knew my own will power; I was proud of it. I could just “eat with my eyes” and decide what was “worth it”—as the standard healthy eating tip goes. I was usually training for a race, or enjoyed a run before or after these feasts anyway. I stuck to my routine. It was safe and comfortable, I thought.
When someone commented on the contents of my plate(s) or cup(s), I tried to laugh it off and make some joke about nutrition. I was just “eating healthy,” as Orthorexia had convinced me. I could justify it all—the “good” and the “bad” stuff. I was confident in those choices, and my own health status, either way. In those moments, Orthorexia feels like a friend who has your back.
But later, that same eating disorder voice that answered unsolicited food and drink comments confidently and with pride, will be ready to break that facade down with distress and comparison. Did I eat more than so-and-so? Was that dessert really worth it? It didn’t even taste THAT good. I won’t have it tomorrow. How many glasses did I have? I can’t even remember. TOO MANY, then. I’m just drinking water tomorrow.
And the cycle continues.
“I hate when someone comments on what I’m eating.”
I overheard this at a holiday family meal a few years ago, and quietly laughed. It didn’t come from my mouth, but it certainly could have. I wanted to high-five this person for keeping it (VERY) real. The commenter meant no harm when they chose to verbally acknowledge the variety of desserts on someone else’s plate—sometimes food is just a go-to conversation starter, like the weather or “how I got here” or the score of the game that no one actually cares about. But when you’ve had an eating disorder voice trying to convince you to put one of those desserts back, or ready to lay on the GUILT immediately upon finishing that plate, you know why those comments dig.
Commenting on someone’s food is hardly different than commenting on their weight.
It’s hard to shake it off when you’re on the receiving end. It’s unhelpful, no matter the context. What someone is choosing to eat during one meal, on one day, should have no effect on anyone else.
Yet, the eating disorder voice is quick to convince the mind that these comments matter. And it won’t forget them. Instead, it uses them as guidance for future food decisions. It plays them on repeat, as any holiday party buffet or family meal is approached. It conjures them up too quickly, as a reminder to restrict, to stay within the bounds of “healthy” or safe eating. Anything to avoid someone commenting or judging. Really, anything to avoid someone noticing.
Give yourself permission to not hear these food comments.
(And PLEASE don’t dole them out.)
Permission to poke the eating disorder voice. Give it a hearty STFU as you push back. Stand up to it. Remember that its one and only goal is to control and manipulate the way you eat, to remove the joy from eating, and to then provide you with a false sense of pride and joy from sticking to “the rules.” Remember that it’s not right, or true.
Give yourself permission to refrain from comparing your plate to someone else’s.
Enjoy the salad and the turkey and the green bean casserole with fried onions on top and the roasted squash and the stuffing (MY FAVE) and the dinner roll and the jello pudding (IDK, some people love it). Or pick and choose your favorites! You do you. Regardless of food comments, eat what sounds and feels good to you.
Give yourself an out when someone dishes out food comments.
A smile and a nod. A conversation-changer. Or a simple, “I hate when someone comments on what I’m eating.” That’ll do.
Give yourself permission to take the Intuitive Eating Holiday Bill of Rights as your own.
The authors of Intuitive Eating—registered dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch—anticipated most, if not all, possible holiday eating situations. They gifted you with a protective Intuitive Eater’s Holiday Bill of Rights. Your diet-focused voice will hate it, which is all the more reason to hold it close and employ it as needed.
Ignore these food comments, as best you can.
They’re not about you, they’re about diet culture. They’re not truth, they’re opinion. They’re not yours to absorb or digest. Save that room for the pie.
Personally, I’m ready to enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast and show the tiny human what American feasts are all about.