How To Stay Body Positive During The Holidays, When We're Told To Diet & Indulge At The Same Time

Ad failed to load

For some of us, late fall and early winter are often the best of times and the worst of times. If you're anything like me, staying body positive during the holidays becomes imperative as a result. It starts with Halloween, as supermarkets, billboards, subway ads, television advertisements, and a great aunt or two begin to epitomize contradiction. As I walk into the local ShopRite in my dad's neighborhood, for instance, I'm greeted by baskets full of every candy I can imagine. Nerds, Milk Duds, Hershey bars, Milky Way, and Twizzlers are all there, plus some I've never heard of but instantly want.

The very essence of Halloween is overindulgence. Trick-or-treaters of all ages compete to acquire the most sweet treats on the block, as adults sip autumnal cocktails packed with double cream and Baileys. Yet in that same supermarket, the tabloids and glossy magazines are arguably more aggressive than at any other time of year. How to lose 10 pounds in two weeks. Avoid holiday weight gain with these 400-calorie substitutes for Thanksgiving favorites. Drop the belly fat now, before Christmas dinner comes to bite you. How to hide your double chin while eating that roast dinner (OK, I may have made that one up).

Holiday season is indisputably intertwined with food. For many families, it's the prime time of year for reunions with loved ones. We come together with friends, family, or chosen family, and we consume. We tell stories at the dinner table, laughing over gravy-drenched turkey. One grandmother might spend weeks home baking cakes, brownies, and Tiramisus for the occasion, while a nephew brings his prized cheesy potatoes to the forefront. Food is the epicenter, as those same tabloids and glossy magazines tell us. Yet all at once, we are told not to allow our "gluttony" to show. We are conditioned to eat and eat more, but to not look as though we have. We're told to diet and calorie-count and waist-cinch. And once it's all over and the new year is reigned in, we're spoon fed our biggest aspiration for the year: We must resolve to lose weight.

Ad failed to load

It can be incredibly difficult to navigate this time of year if you're a person who's struggled with body image, if you're a person whose figure does not align with aspirational tropes of beauty, or if you're a person who's subjected to body policing by those around you.

For me, Christmas was always the worst part. I'd look forward to seeing my cousins, aunts, uncles, and the countless members of my mother's large, Colombian family. My mouth watered at the thought of arroz con pollo and tres leches cake. Even so, I could never enjoy the anticipation for long. I knew that once we were all crammed into a house far too small to accommodate us all, my belly would be on display. By 10 years old, my weight was already a prime subject of conversation. Was I exercising enough? Why was I letting the beauty of my face waste away? Didn't I realize I had potential?

Ad failed to load

Then someone would hand me a second or third portion of pie. Food was bonding. Food was love. Food was the thing that had brought us all together. We should be so thankful. We should, all at once, be so thin.

So how do you stay body positive during all of that? The mixed messaging hasn't changed since I was a kid. Hell, in some ways the advent of social media and endless interconnectivity online make all those contradictions instantly more accessible. How can you just enjoy yourself? How can you continue to love yourself when so many voices around you insist that you are unloveable if you gain weight, or eat too much, or don't resolve to drop five sizes come January? How can you appreciate your "holiday body" if and when you do gain weight?

Ad failed to load

The most valuable tool for me, personally, has been controlling my media intake. I may not be able to swap the billboards or the magazines, but I can curate my Instagram page and news feeds. I can avoid tags and headlines that I know will be full of diet talk. I can search only for affirming, uplifting hashtags instead. Whether that be #sizeacceptance, or #fatpositive, or #healthateverysize, or #goldenconfidence, I can inundate my life with beautiful people living beautiful lives at all sizes. I can blind myself with the radiance of other humans' self-love, until my own is never far from my grasp.

Setting those parameters IRL isn't impossible, either. Some families or friends are harder to crack, but many will at least budge an inch or two. Before coming together with the people you know are prone to body policing and criticizing, try having a conversation. Try telling them that you'd appreciate if your body, weight, or calorie intake were untouchable subjects. Explain, in earnest, that your body and what you do with it are of no concern to anyone who isn't living in your body. You may have to set those boundaries again — reminding them when they slip up (and they will). But anyone who genuinely cares for you should hopefully listen, in time. They may never understand. Many of my relatives certainly never will. Even so, most of them now know not to talk about my body. I consider that a win.

Ad failed to load

As for the holiday weight gain, writer and body image activist Melissa A. Fabello put things into perspective recently. "When the weather turns cold, we often find ourselves in a (false) predicament: On the one hand, we’re craving heavier, fattier, more calorie-dense foods," she wrote on Instagram. "On the other, we’re being told that holiday season weight gain is practically sinful."

"Stop and think about that for a second," she added. "Our environments are becoming cold af. Our bodies need insulation to literally save us from freezing to death. And yet, we’re denying our bodies’ natural, evolutionary needs in order to avoid a few pounds. WHAT!? You’re going to gain weight in the winter. Not because you lack willpower or self-control or because Thanksgiving leftovers are in the fridge. But because fat protects us from the elements. 🌨 And that’s actually an incredible thing that our body does for us!"

This is something worth thinking about. Gaining weight — regardless of how many cheesecakes you did or didn't shove into your face — may naturally happen at this time of year. There are evolutionary reasons for this, all rooted in survival. While it's true that some of your new pounds may come down to the cheesecake, and not some mammalian predisposition, the point stands: That fat will protect you from the elements. It'll encourage hibernation and rest, in anticipation for a new year likely filled with new challenges and adventures. It'll be soft and warm and cuddly. As all fat is, regardless of the weather.

Ad failed to load

Staying body positive during the holidays often comes down to unpacking and reframing our deeply rooted ideas about bodies and fat and beauty. Sometimes this kind of work — the mental, emotional kind — is the most difficult of all. Sometimes, that's what makes it a necessity. A life-changing necessity.

And so, the one message you need to listen to this holiday is simple: It's a time of year for love, for happiness, for hope, for reflection. None of that requires a smaller waist line. None of it ever will.

Ad failed to load

Must Reads

These 3 Zodiac Signs Will Have The Worst Mercury Retrograde, But Here's How To Deal

Starting on Mar. 23, 2018, the dreaded Mercury retrograde will permeate our world with confusion. If you don't know what this astrological buzzword means, it's when Mercury appears to be rolling back in its orbit around the sun. Since this planet rul…
By Roya Backlund

7 Women On The One Thing That Finally Made Them Feel Like An Adult After College

How does one "adult?" From the minute second semester hits senior year and they hand you your diploma at graduation, you're wondering just what the real world is going to be like. You started applying for jobs and scoping out cute apartments with you…
By Marisa Casciano

The Perfect Festival Look For You, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

It's officially spring, but the only season that's really on my radar is festival season. April showers bring May flowers, and it's a good thing because I need all the daisies in the world for oh-so-chic and classic crowns. You've scrolled through th…
By Marisa Casciano

Here’s Everything Coming To Netflix In April

Another month, another batch of new shows and movies to binge on Netflix. The streaming service just released its full list of the iconic favorites and new originals that will be showing up in your Netflix queue in about a week and a half, and it als…
By Dylan Kickham

Why It's Totally OK To Not Have A Game Plan In Your 20s & Just Wing It

One of the worst questions you are faced with in your 20s is: What is your 10-year plan? It's like people expect you to hand over a detailed map of your destiny when you reach a new decade in your life, and want you to be able to elaborate your coord…
By Jasmine Vaughn-Hall

These 10 Dreamy Travel Quotes Are Perfect Tattoos For The Girl With Wanderlust

Travelers are curious, wild, and free. They're always in pursuit of the next big adventure and they never fail to share the value of discovering the unknown. However, sometimes life gets the best of us. Sometimes, our greatest passions get pushed to …
By Ciara Johnson

I Rejected The Idea Of "The One" & Found A Whole New Method Of Self-Care

After my third date with a guy I met by swiping right, I had one question burned into my brain before I agreed to a fourth. Was he the one? Now, before you call me a total stalker, hear me out. In New York City, third dates were rare. I'm talking blo…
By Brittany Leitner

I Tried A Laughter Yoga Class & I Nearly Peed My Pants From Giggling So Hard

There's nothing funny about yoga, except for the fact that, if you look at yourself in the mirror while your body twists like a giant pretzel you'd nibble on at a baseball game, you do look kind of funny. Well, actually, you look a little like you're…
By Jen Glantz

12 Dreamy Travel Goals To Shoot For Before Hitting 30, Because Why Not?

Your 20s is a time to find yourself, try new things, meet new people, and see the world. It's a time when you're still figuring this whole life thing out. Your 20s can be tough, but they can still be whole lot of fun. It seems like you're on a never-…
By Ciara Johnson

Experts Say Doing This One Thing In The Morning Will Make You Way More Productive

I don’t know about you, but I don’t initially wake up in the morning feeling like P-Diddy; that whole “up and at ‘em” mindset takes work on weekdays. I will say, however, that I am a morning person by nature, and fully believe in the benefits of stic…
By Julia Guerra

A Psychic Read My Crystals & Said I'd Die Alone, But Then Everything Changed

I love my girlfriend for many reasons. She's the most amazing person I've ever met. She makes me feel safe. She screams the soundtrack to Dear Evan Hansen with me when we're riding in her car. But TBH, one of the main reasons I love her so much is th…
By Theresa Massony

This Instagram Star's Famous Lip Art Actually Has An Incredible Emotional Backstory

In a post-Kardashian world, every millennial thinks they have what it takes to go viral, but few consider what that online fame actually looks like in a person's daily life. In Elite Daily's new series, Life Behind The Likes, we speak with the people…
By Lilli Petersen

A New 'This Is Us' Theory Claims It's All Happening Inside Jack's Head & OMG

Ever since This is Us revealed how Jack died in their post-Super Bowl episode (damn you, Crock Pot) fans have been desperate to know where the show is headed — and if there are any other major twists they should be prepared for. The Season 2 finale i…
By Claire Spellberg

If You're Broke In Your 20s, You're Doing Something Right

It can be pretty disheartening when you're broke AF in your 20s. The silver lining in that constant struggle with currency is that you are doing what you want during this time of your life. Money isn't everything, and creatively and memorably using w…
By Jasmine Vaughn-Hall

How You'll Be Proposed To, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

Forever and always starts with getting down on one knee. Wedding season is right around the corner, and with it comes a lot of love stories. When you're watching the two do their first dance, or looking through old pictures, you remember where it all…
By Marisa Casciano

Gen Z Yellow Is The New Millennial Pink, So I Tried Wearing It All Over My Face

A few months ago, everything from makeup to clothes and even home appliances simply needed to be Millennial Pink. Being a millennial myself, I totally bought into the color craze, but there's a new hue (one that technically doesn't represent me at al…
By Stephanie Montes

These Theories About What Khloé Kardashian Will Name Her Baby Are So, So Good

The Kardashian family's future is most certainly female. The world was overjoyed when Kim K introduced us to her daughter, Chicago. We cried tears of joy when we found out that Kylie was in fact pregnant all along and had a baby girl named Stormi. An…
By Karen Ruffini

This Pup Is Going Viral Because People Think He Looks Like A Human

We all know our pups at home are beyond special. If you post pictures of your pet on social media in hopes that everyone notices just how cute your furry friend is, you're really not alone. You probably receive a bunch of comments with people gushing…
By Rachel Chapman

This Is What Staring At Screens All Day Could Do To Your Eyes In The Long Run

By now, you’ve probably heard all about how bad the glaring blue light from your smartphone and computer screen is for your sleep cycle. These claims are true, BTW, which means if technology has the power to creep inside your brain and mess with your…
By Julia Guerra

These 3 Zodiac Signs Burn Through Relationships The Fastest

It's hard enough to find love in this dog-eat-dog world. You write the perfect bio for your Tinder profile, dress to impress, go on dates with strangers that your friends set you up with, even fork over thousands of dollars to a professional matchmak…
By Roya Backlund

6 Things No One Tells You About Moving In With Your Partner That You Need To Know

If you’ve reached the point in your relationship where you find yourselves spending most of your time together — either at their place or yours — there’s a pretty big chance you’ve thought about living together. Taking this next step in your relation…
By Tayi Sanusi