The holidays are here and many of us are seeing relatives that we have not seen in a while. We all gather around delectable buffets that include family recipes. After initial “hellos,” we all start to share what we have been up to over the last few months with jobs, children, houses, travel, and diets. Yes, we talk about diets at holiday parties.
Maybe it is because I am a dietitian but it seems like every party I go to someone wants to talk about their diet. Let me let everyone in on a news flash: when I am at a social gathering, I am not judging what you eat, and you do not need to explain your food choices to me.
One reason for this is because I am trying to relax, and I am not there to work. Another reason is when people talk about food, the conversation immediately goes to “good” and “bad” foods or diet terms like “keto,” “paleo,” “whole 30,” and “low carb.” When the conversation turns toward dieting, then it sometimes seems to be an invitation for everyone to start talking about how unhappy they are with their body or make comments like, “I am going to have run a marathon to work off this dessert” or “I will regret eating this cookie when it goes straight to my hips.”
Reasons why diet talk needs to stop at holiday gatherings:
- Our children are listening. When both young boys and girls hear adults constantly talking about what diets they are on, it leads them to believe that dieting is a rite of passage to be an adult. When I grow up, I will get a job, buy a house, and go on a diet. Research shows that when individuals are constantly going on and off a diet, causing them to cycle their weight up and down, it can lead to early mortality.
- Constantly hearing adults talk negatively about their bodies can lead to children thinking that they should start to be critical of their bodies.
- When young children hear terms like “good” and “bad” to describe food, it can lead them to think that they may be “bad” if they eat the food.
- Some studies have shown that up to 1/3 of some grade school children have already dieted. Early dieting can lead to nutrient deficiencies in children during their growing years and may increase their risk for eating disorders later. A child’s view of dieting can be formed by observing their parent or caregiver.
All families need to be encouraging healthy habits in their children. Around the holidays, these healthy habits include not skipping meals, taking time to be active and drinking plenty of water. As parents, we need to model for our children how we desire them to eat. If you would like your kids to take fruits and vegetables off the buffet, make sure they are on your plate. Do not force them to take them or eat them, but model how you include them. While you are making your plate, serve the sugar cookie beside those fruits and vegetables. This demonstrates balance for children.
Enjoy your family and enjoy the food. Exercise because it makes you feel good, not because you ate dessert. Talk about the weather, sports, or hobbies, but do not talk about your diet.