Learning to be thankful for your body in time for the holidays

Photo by Johnny Silvercloud via Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Johnny Silvercloud via Creative Commons

Story by Toriana Williams / Contributing Writer

The holidays are right around the corner, and there are plenty of reasons to be excited. You’ll have the chance to spend time with your loved ones, make special memories and eat. And I mean eat a lot. Yet, just because you’re excited doesn’t mean everyone else is. For many people, the holidays are accompanied by a hovering cloud of negative emotions such as food guilt, pressure, fear of weight gain and more.

For those who are self-conscious about their weight or appearance, food-filled holidays can be tremendously terrifying, especially if they’re spending it with others.

“I feel like if I eat too much, everyone is staring … (because) I look huge,” said Leonna Reel, an MTSU student.

In today’s society, even though it is starting to be accepted, “fat” is still a bad word and something to be avoided at all costs, as if it’s a plague.

“Because I’m a plus-size woman, I feel as if society thinks that my body is everyone else’s issue,” Reel added. “I can never wear (what) I want without being judged.”

As a result, many people feel pressure to not indulge during feasts, to workout intensely afterward or starve themselves the following day to “make up” for previously eating so much. Not only will their body be affected but their mental health is affected as well. However, the recent body positivity movement has been helping and empowering those who suffer from the shame they feel because of their physical appearance.

Body positivity is a social movement that encourages everyone to accept and love themselves and their appearance, wholly and unconditionally. In a movement like this, beauty is seen as a social construct, and advocates take it upon themselves to speak up and defy the traditional standards.

“I would consider myself a body-positive person,” said MTSU student Morgan Lewelling. “Although, it can be really hard (to stay) positive … But I always try to tell myself that it’s perfectly okay to not always feel 100 percent confident.”

This movement teaches us to throw expectations, guilt and pressure away. There are even public figures within the movement, specifically known for their confidence and love of body positivity. One woman, Megan Crabbe (@bodyposipanda on Instagram), said, “For anyone sitting with a full stomach and feeling like that fullness makes them a failure – it doesn’t. You are not a better or worse person depending on how much you’ve eaten today.”

Some students have some thoughts on the relevance of body positivity on campus.

“I’ve seen some examples of MTSU promoting (positive) body image, but I think they could do a better job of this … There aren’t many healthy options available, and unhealthy food can make you feel much worse about yourself,” said MTSU student Sarah Besand.

A large part of the body positivity movement is about overthrowing diet culture, not intuitive eating. Diet culture is the part of society that equates thinness with beauty and completely ignores all other body types. Intuitive eating encourages being conscious about what you eat but not for the goal of weight loss, only for overall health.

There are also tips and recommendations that people who are a part of the community suggest to help you overcome any negative emotions you may feel toward your body or appearance: Unfollow every social media account that makes you feel like you need to be, or look like, someone else. There is no reason for you to stare at photos until you feel ashamed of yourself or until you feel guilty for looking the way you do. Guilt is a petty thief, stealing your confidence and time.

Another suggestion is to set goals that have absolutely nothing to do with your body. Set a goal to read at least once a day, whether it be a book, an article or even a recipe. Set a goal to keep a plant alive for longer than a month. Whatever it may be, spend time fixating on things other than your flaws.

You are worth so much more than your waistline.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Sydney Wagner, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Life.

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1 Comment

  1. Allison Borrell
    November 30, 2018

    This is a really important topic to be addressing during the holidays. Many journalists and publications tend to want to focus only on the uplifting aspects of the holiday season, but I think it’s just as vital to address the difficulties that it can bring on for some people. I love how this story combines both sides of the coin by taking a topic like this and putting an uplifting spin on it by referring to the body positivity movement brought on by our generation.
    I think a story like this is something young women (and men) everywhere need to read and absorb. Having an open dialogue like this about the anxiety that family-oriented holidays can bring on for people struggling with body image can be so helpful for those who are on the brink of forming long term negative relationships with food and their bodies, particularly through eating disorders.
    As someone who struggled with an eating disorder throughout the majority of high school, I relate to this immensely, and I wish I had read something like this years ago when I was trapped in that mindset. Even now, although I’ve recovered and my body has changed into something that I’ve come to love and accept, the holidays can still be triggering for me, and an article like this is a nice reminder that the food I eat and the weight I carry doesn’t define me and I should be thankful for my body and the food that nourishes it.