How Your Holiday Diet Could Be Affecting Your Mental Health

by Rebecca Clark
Brian Powell

A diet is really an eating plan implemented with the intent to lose weight. It includes restrictions on when and where it's acceptable to eat, and what food to eat.

Now that we're clear on what a diet is, let's understand this: Diets don't work.

Study after study has proven dieting doesn't do a thing when it comes to wanting to lose weight.

It may lead to temporary weight loss, but it won't last. Nearly everyone who loses weight from dieting gains it all back because a diet isn't a lifestyle, it's a temporary life change.

In the long run, dieting can only lead to disordered eating and can help foster unhealthy relationships with food.

I've tried dieting many times, and I always end up feeling miserable and developing a short pattern of disordered eating after.

While many definitions exist, I define “disordered eating” as any type of mindset that leaves you feeling worthless, guilty, embarrassed, ashamed or any other negative emotion while and after consuming food.

I'm so much happier and more pleasant to be around when I'm not limiting myself to what foods I'm allowed to enjoy.

There is the rare exception of people who go on diets and manage to keep the weight off, but I believe these people have sacrificed a portion of their mental and physical health to do so.

Personally, this is why I think diets fail: They don't take a person's mental health into consideration.

While yes, we do need food to survive, many foods (especially those for the holidays) exist mostly for pleasure. Sugar cookies, gingerbread men and chocolate truffles are meant to bring pleasure to the person consuming them.

We're meant to treat ourselves to enjoying taste.

Our society is obsessed with dieting, and this obsession only worsens around the holidays. Internet articles with titles like “X Ways Not to Blow Your Diet at Thanksgiving” are abundant throughout November and December, and I'm sick of it.

Who cares if you trade in your kale salad for a sugary sweet potato casserole? Who cares if you trade in a spinach smoothie for some hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles?

You are allowed to treat yourself. You. Are. ALLOWED.

There's nothing wrong with choosing vegetables over sweets, but you should be doing so for the right reasons.

If you genuinely enjoy broccoli more than cake, go for it. But if you enjoy cake more than broccoli, and still pick the broccoli because your inner voice is whispering to you you're a failure if you don't, you have a problem.

Food isn't something we're supposed to obsess over. It's not supposed to dictate how we judge others or ourselves either. It's not supposed to control our lives and our well-being. It's supposed to keep us alive, and it's supposed to bring us joy.

We have enough to deal with in our lives. We should be able to take an extra slice of pizza or an extra scoop of ice cream (or both) whenever we damn well please.

Your mental health is more important than your physical health, so put your brain before your body. After all, you won't have a body to use if your brain isn't in the right mental state to use it.

You are so much more than what you eat and how you look. You don't need to diet to feel good about yourself, you need to eat loads of food you love so you're not hangry at work or at home.

So this holiday season, drop the diet and stuff your face with all the delicious potatoes and cakes and pies your heart desires.