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'Eat, drink and be merry!' Christmas and the dieting mindset

As we approach Christmas, thoughts turn to the time we will spend with family and friends and the fun and community that this can bring. For those struggling with negative thoughts about their weight, shape, eating behaviour or appearance, this annual event - centred around food and drink - can be torturous.

Perhaps you have managed to stick to a strict dietary regimen and fear 'falling off the wagon', or perhaps you had hoped to lose weight and are approaching Christmas with a 'last supper' mentality (I may as well eat it all as I'll be on a strict diet in the New Year). Wherever you may fall on this spectrum, constant and overwhelming thoughts about your weight, shape or appearance, can prevent you from enjoying all that life - and Christmas - has to offer. 

For many, multiple diets have been trialled and failed. Indeed, whilst dieting has been shown to have poor long-term outcomes no matter which diet you choose, when weight isn't lost or is regained, it is the dieter who is blamed or who blames themselves. Whilst there is an understanding that diets don't work, and that weight cycling is bad for our health, the promise of a weight loss quick fix is never far away. For chronic or yo-yo dieters, these 'quick fixes' can become almost a pastime, a habit that is so ingrained it feels impossible to give up.  

Often, at the centre of this chronic dieting behaviour is a sense of 'when', the type of mythical thinking that leads us to believe that 'when I'm slim, life will be perfect', or 'when I'm slim I'll do x, y, or z'. The low success rates of commercial diets, coupled with our magical thinking mentality, can lead us to continually push back the start date on life. Looking back, how many parties/holidays/dates/shopping trips/meals out or job promotions have you avoided because you were waiting until your body was different?

Giving up our dieting habit, or our mythical thinking about 'what I'll do when', can be frightening. Perhaps you fear being confronted with your life as it is or wonder what you will think about without the constant calorie counting, weighing and planning. It can feel like a risk, but letting go of the toxic diet mentality may be the only way to take hold of life with both hands. 

But how do we begin to let go of our 'old friend' the diet? Perhaps a quick mental lifeline will help to start a shift in your thought process. 

Thinking ahead to your later years, what would you like to see when you look back on your life? It may be a loving family, a career that made a difference, or an inquisitive spirit. Whatever you would like to see speaks to your values and I am willing to bet that you won't look back in your dotage hoping to see that you maintained a low weight, or that society thought you to be attractive.

Once you feel able to disinvest in the belief that your weight or appearance is indicative of your worth as a person and begin to invest more time and energy into your values, a new purpose in life, a sense of being connected to other people, you will begin to thrive. 

Might 2021 be the year that you allow yourself to enjoy Christmas, entering 2022 having left dieting behaviours behind?

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Leeds, England, LS1 2NL

Written by Lauren Hawley

Leeds, England, LS1 2NL

Lauren Hawley is a BACP Registered Counsellor and a National Centre for Eating Disorders Master Practitioner in Eating Disorders & Obesity. With first-hand experience of the anxiety and isolation that dieting can bring, Lauren is passionate about helping others to overcome negative thoughts and behaviours around food, weight, and appearance.

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