November doesn’t just mark the beginning of cooler weather and Thanksgiving celebrations; it also signals the arrival of “healthy eating” advice. The advice that reveals a slew of secrets on how to avoid gaining weight during the holidays, what to do when faced with a buffet and, as Self magazine puts it, “how to dodge holiday diet traps.”
The underlying (or blatant) message of this advice is that there’s a danger of gaining tons of pounds during the holidays, and you better run or hide from food because you simply can’t handle yourself.
We’re taught that we should fear food and weight gain. We’re warned against enjoying food too much: If you’re going to “indulge,” do so in little itty bitty quantities.
Since this advice is seriously everywhere, I asked Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel, clinical social workers and authors of the fantastic book The Diet Survivor’s Handbook, to offer some sane advice on navigating the healthy eating tips and tricks.
(BTW, I highly recommend their book, especially for the holiday season, since New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner. And dieting is a big one.)
Q: In November, inevitably we’ll be inundated with advice on how to eat healthy during the holidays and how to prevent the supposedly whopping weight gain. I think all of this advice just makes people more and more anxious about eating and actually enjoying the holidays. What do you think is the impact of this advice on readers?
A: We live in a culture that normalizes the obsession with food, weight and dieting. As you point out, when the holiday season rolls around, the media – especially women’s magazines – gives advice to readers about what to eat, what not to eat, how to get thinner or how to avoid weight gain. This advice is offered as the way to take good care of yourself, but it actually backfires on many levels.