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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Holiday eating shouldn’t require guilt

In case you haven’t heard (in which case, you are deaf, dumb, blind and live in a cave at the bottom of the ocean — lucky you) the holiday season is upon us, and, with it, a dizzying array of holiday treats. Unfortunately, with all those cookies, cakes and pies comes the holiday juggernaut of weight loss products and advice. It’s not just from so-called health and wellness industries, either; most major publications will find a way to spin the tired how-to-avoid-holiday-pounds story before New Year’s Day.

So if visions of sugarplums are currently dancing in your head, consider this dire warning from Hana Feeney, a nutrition counselor from the UA’s own Campus Health Service: “”That two to five pound gain (that most people experience during the holidays) doesn’t automatically come off the first of January.””

Feeney advises students to avoid overeating, especially foods they’re only eating for their sentimental value, like “”mom’s cookies”” or “”grandma’s stuffing.”” “”You have all these reasons to eat that are not hunger-related. And that’s detrimental, no matter what time of year,”” she told the Daily Wildcat.

Come to think of it, though, that advice is just plain sad. That attitude, which is echoed across the nation this time of year, only further underscores America’s bizarre, unhealthy relationship with food. Americans, by and large, see food as merely a means to an end; either something they proudly avoid in order to look a certain way, or something in which they guiltily indulge, knowing it will prevent them from looking that certain way. No matter how you slice it, food is the enemy; you’ve merely overcome your desire for it, in which case you’re a better and more beautiful person, or you haven’t, you poor sap.

Maybe centuries ago, when our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed calories merely to stay alive, eating for reasons that weren’t “”hunger-related”” wasn’t an option. But today, we’re lucky enough to have a bounty of reasons to eat other than starvation or saving up blubber for cold winters. We’ve elevated excellent food to an art form, and can engage in food-related traditions that transcend the physical act of eating and signify something much deeper. We eat for enjoyment, for adventure, for camaraderie, for family and for that deeply warm, satisfied feeling that follows a truly wonderful meal.

Unfortunately, we have allowed the weight loss industry to rob us of the joy good food can bring. Suggesting that hunger is the only acceptable reason to enjoy a meal drives our unhealthy obsession with extreme self-limitation. While it’s true that overeating contributes to obesity, a major health problem in this country, the billion dollar weight-loss industry would like even healthy, if occasionally indulgent, people to feel like they’re committing a cardinal sin every time they don’t pass on a second piece of pie. After all, reminding people that they’re fat, and getting fatter, is how scores of companies turn a profit.

Don’t let them do that to you. Of course, enjoying food in a way that promotes good health is important, but that doesn’t only mean limitation. As evidenced by the ubiquity of eating disorders in our culture, especially among young people, equating severe limitation with self-control and success can be deadly. Food does not have to be a foe, and meals don’t have to become battlegrounds if you don’t let them.

Instead, this holiday season, try to foster a healthy, joyful relationship with the foods you love and the body you’ve got. Enjoy treats for a variety of reasons, from sentiment to tradition to just plain delight. Meals should taste good and provide a time to relax and share with family and friends; they shouldn’t bring about waves of depression and guilt.

So, for at least a few of weeks, ignore the shrill sounds of the weight loss industry telling you how much you’ll regret every decadent morsel. For once, it’d do us all some good to tune out all that body hatred and guilt and eat a damn cookie.

— Heather Price-Wright is the opinions editor of the Daily Wildcat. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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