July 19, 2024

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Health Can Do

Tips for Navigating the Holidays and Favorite Recipes from 12 Anti-Diet Experts

9 min read
Tips for Navigating the Holidays and Favorite Recipes from 12 Anti-Diet Experts

Do you enjoy the holidays, but not the diet talk that is often a part of holiday celebrations? We have compiled tips and recipes to help your holidays be free of diet culture! Or at least, help you feel supported with information during this time that can often be filled with diet-centered comments about bodies and food.

We asked anti-diet colleagues for tips and recipes for this holiday season. We love what they created and are thrilled to share their wisdom with you!

Speaker, Educator, Author of 14 Talks by Age 14 and Middle School Makeover 

Instagram: @michelleicard

You should enjoy this holiday season as much as anyone else in the family. You don’t need to perform a role this season as the ideal hostess, parent, or child only to make everyone else’s experience great and yours miserable. Think about what causes you stress around holidays and if possible, drop it. If not possible, talk to someone you trust about ways to cope. You deserve a fun holiday, too!

Holidays at our house almost always include Ina Garten’s “Grown-Up” Mac and Cheese

Listen to Michelle on the Sunny Side Up Nutrition Podcast! Episode 37: Parenting Middle and High Schoolers with Micelle Icard

Registered Dietitian, Author of How to Nourish Your Child Through An Eating Disorder, No Weigh!, and Raising Body Positive Teens

Instagram: @wendy_sterling and @platebyplateapproach

Wendy shares with us her favorite holiday recipe for a delicious Rosemary Sourdough Stuffing.

You can find Wendy’s recipe here.

Journalist and Author of Burnt Toast Newsletter, The Eating Instinct, and Fat Talk (available for preorder).

Instagram: @v_solesmith

If you’re worried that holiday gatherings will involve comments about your body, your eating habits, your kids’ bodies, or your kids’ eating habits, memorize this line: “We trust [his/her/their/my] body and we’re not worried.” You can’t stop people from saying whatever diet culture-fueled thing they’re going to say. But you can make sure your kids hear you advocating for them. And you deserve to advocate for yourself too! 

I always make this shawarma-spiced leg of lamb for Christmas dinner. Astoundingly good and I save the bone to make the most amazing stock for soups and sauces afterwards. 

Listen to Virginia on the Sunny Side Up Nutrition Podcast! Episode 14: Parenting Amidst Diet Culture with Virginia Sole-Smith and Amy Palanjian

Founder of More-Love.org

Instagram: @moreloveorg

Don’t be afraid to advocate to keep your child safe from food policing and diet talk, which is so common during holiday events. Identify people who tend to do this and call them before holiday events to let them know that you’re hoping to change this year’s experience. You can say something like: 

“Hi Aunt Beatrice, I’m so excited to have you for Thanksgiving! I can’t wait to see you. This is a little awkward, but I wanted to let you know something that we’ve been working on. We’ve noticed that how we talk about bodies and food really makes a difference to our kids. So we avoid talking about weight, diets, or saying things like “this food is so bad” or “I’m going to have to work this pie off later.” The truth is that we didn’t even notice how often we do it. But I just wanted to let you know that it’s something we’re working on since you’ll probably notice we’re going to try not to do it this year.” 

Even if your family member enthusiastically agrees with you, these are hard habits to break. You may still need to redirect, interrupt, or set a firm boundary with family members who are food and body-shaming during Thanksgiving. You can say things like: 

Redirect: “Hey Uncle Cornelius, did you get that promotion at work?” 

Remind: “Hey Dad, remember we aren’t talking about diets today. How was your visit with Uncle Fred last week?” 

Set a boundary: “Patricia, when you talk about my body like that, I feel bad, because it seems like you are criticizing my weight. If you continue to do that, we’ll need to leave.”

New York Times Best Selling Author, Author of the Cookbook Simply Julia, and Sunday Night Virtual Cooking Class Teacher

Instagram: @turshen

Julia shared her delicious and versatile recipe for Easy Apple Crisp.

Listen to our conversation with Julia Turshen on the Sunny Side Up Nutrition Podcast! Episode 54: Redefining Healthy Cooking.

Registered Dietitian specializing in adolescent nutrition

Instagram: @adolescent.nutritionist

Holidays can be so overwhelming, with parties, lots of people, going off schedule, more than usual food, and the expectations of celebration. Try to plan ahead activities or times that you can replenish your energy. That may look like making time for yourself to relax and rejuvenate, or plans with people who fill you up.

Try to plan these times and activities BEFORE you burn out.

Educator, Parent Coach, Parenting Without Diet Culture Advocate

Instagram: @oona_hanson

My #1 piece of holiday advice is to resist the pressure to “healthify” beloved family recipes. Lean into the joy and tradition–and remember that food nourishes us in ways that can never be fully captured on a nutrition label.

For food traditions, we do a mini “Thanksgiving 2.0” for dinner on Christmas Eve. We make just the sides that are most loved, and we get a rolled turkey breast (not a whole bird) that cooks quickly and is a crowd favorite!

Listen to Oona on the Sunny Side Up Nutrition Podcast! Episode 19: Myths and Truth about Eating Disorders with Oona Hanson

Licensed Physical Therapist and Body Image Coach

Instagram: @healthyphit

Photo of Lisa Folden, a woman with brown skin and brown curly hair and a purple blouse.

Slow down and enjoy it. Indulge and be present. Don’t allow shame or comparisons to make you miss out on the joy of this season. And don’t spend a second contemplating any new diets or “lifestyle programs” for the new year. 2023 doesn’t need a “new you,” because you’re pretty amazing already. Happy holidays.

Certified Personal Trainer, RD2Be, Sunny Side Up Nutrition Podcast Co-Host

Instagram: @anna_k_mackay

Diced roast potatoes on a sheet pan

One of my family’s favorite holiday recipes: 

Roast potatoes! This is the one dish that we will always, always have at family holiday celebrations. This is how I do mine:

You can find Anna’s recipe for roast potatoes here.

3 pieces of advice for navigating the holiday season: 

  • You do not need to exercise in order to enjoy your meals throughout the holidays. 
  • Move your body because you want to, not because you feel like you have to. 
  • You do not need to earn your food or burn what you eat over the holiday. 

You can listen to many episodes of the Sunny Side Up Nutrition Podcast with Anna Mackay. We learned so much from her in Episode 18: Understanding Weight Bias and Weight Stigma with Anna Mackay. 

Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Size-Inclusive Fitness Specialist

Instagram: @foodbodykath

Photo of Kathleen Terracina, a woman with light skin, blond hair and glasses.
(photo credit Alyssa Hogan)

Make a plan for staying connected to yourself. A busy calendar, travel, and stress, are constantly pulling you out of connection with your body. On busy days (or every day!), consider setting an alarm on your phone for every 1-2 hours to (1) check in with your body and (2) meet a need. Find a quiet moment to check-in. What do you need? You might need some water, to take a walk, to leave, to eat, to get some fresh air, to talk to a safe person, to cry, to take a deep breath and lower your shoulders, to set a boundary. This practice will leave you feeling more grounded and connected when it’s all said and done.

When I think of the holidays, I think of my Grandmother’s Salmon Chowder:

You can find Kathleen’s grandmother’s Salmon Chowder recipe here.

Certified Eating Disorders Specialist, Host of Therapy Rocks! Author of No Weigh! and Raising Body Positive Teens

Instagram: @noweighguide and @therapyrockspodcast

Best tips for body boundaries over the holidays?

“If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”  -Ram Dass

The boundaries you have with friends/family over this holiday season will vary depending on your relationship to the person. For example, if comments about your body are coming from someone you are around often, we suggest speaking directly to that person, using a simple formula for effective communication (from The Benefits of Boundaries Chapter 10 in Raising Body Positive Teens):

  • “When you comment on my body without my consent, I feel angry, and hear in my mind that you are scrutinizing my body.”
  • They say, “Well I just thought you looked great and wondered if you had lost weight.”
  • You say, “That may be your perspective, but I wanted you to know how these comments affect me.”

If the comments are coming from a relative you see once a year, maybe engage in the art of redirection: “What have you been doing for fun this year?” And don’t forget you can also excuse yourself to go to the bathroom for a respite anytime.

With comments directed to a child, don’t wait for the situation to take care of itself, it rarely does. You can let family/friends know ahead of time that body comments are off-limits in your home. You can also redirect the comments in real-time by saying, “Suzie’s body is off limits, why don’t you ask her about guitar?”

For more on the basics of boundary setting, tune into the Sunny Side Up Nutrition Podcast, Episode #58: Boundary Setting and Parenting Your Teen with Signe Darpinian.

A registered dietitian nutritionist and the author of several cookbooks focused on feeding babies and toddlers. 

Instagram: @toddler.testkitchen

Don’t Bake your Latkes!

I won’t disrespect you, reader, by simply copying Jamie Geller’s latke recipe and passing it off on my own. Latkes are not a thing I do from scratch. They are just never as good as the ones from Trader Joe’s, so I’ll stick to my brisket (you can find that one here), while introducing you to Michael Twitty and his Lousiana Style Latkes. Enjoy. L’chaim!

We all know the story right? They tried to beat us, we won, let’s eat! The Maccabees defeated Antiochus’s army and had enough oil to last eight days and nights. That was a long time ago. During the past 2,000 years, plenty has happened. For example, the New World was… ummm… made known to the Europeans. They brought potatoes back home and the latke, formerly made of cheese, got potato-fied into the familiar version in the freezer at Trader Joe’s. Jelly-filled donuts, sufganyot, are traditional celebratory fare in Israel, while our Maghrabi cousins enjoy sfenj and Mizrahi Jews crunch on zoulbia

The common denominator in all recipes is the oil. The point is the oil! The tradition is the OIL!

Why?

Under siege by the Syrian military, Judah Maccabee leads a revolt. He leads his army into Jerusalem to reclaim it. The Maccabees cleared out the Temple and actually found plenty of oil. The issue was that none of it was sealed, ensuring it was pure enough for ritual use in the Temple. Except for one bottle. It remained sealed and pure. It should have lasted one day, but it continued to burn for the length of time required to make and seal more oil.

If we try to go to 1980s in this story by removing the fat, we end up with something quite dry and crumbly. Like a Snackwell’s cookie.

Unless there is a real reason to reduce the fat in your holiday dishes, enjoy them as they are. Food is so much more than nutrition. By modifying meaningful traditions in an attempt to modify our body shape, we lose the spirit of the recipe. Holiday recipes are passed lovingly from one hand to another, and preparing and enjoying those recipes is akin to bringing back those loved ones just for a moment.

Enjoy the lights of the season,

Yaffi

What advice helps you enjoy the holidays? And what’s your favorite holiday recipe?

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