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Opinion

Loving your body during the holiday season

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December 9, 2011

Now that Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is just around the corner, many worry about weight. Naturally, most people add a few pounds over the holidays, yet the media continues telling them to look thinner, eat less, and appear more attractive with special ‘holiday fashion.’ The problem resides in the fact that Western society expects every person to look like this unattainable image of thin perfection. This holiday season, instead of hating yourself for not looking like pictures in the magazines or for taking that second cookie, learn to love your body and treat it well.

The first step to accepting yourself is to change your initial judgments of how beautiful looks. Ignore the media’s portrayal and reflect on the important people in your life. What qualities make them beautiful? Perhaps their smile, their sense of style, or the way they walk exudes beauty. Whatever it is, know that these unique characteristics hold the key to recognizing qualities that are truly important. Value these features above the distorted images with which the media bombards us.

Often, we hear messages about loving your body before trying to change it. To me, they always seemed to contradict each other. Why change a body you love, and why love a body you want to change? The resulting answer is simple: by appreciating your body, you are less likely to abuse it. On the contrary, when you hate something, you have no motivation to take care of it. By looking at all the tasks your body performs each day and the features you love, you will feel grateful toward your body and experience more motivation to take care of yourself.

Some studies promote the idea that loving yourself makes a healthy lifestyle easier. They show that people who feel happy or confident choose healthier foods and more active activities. However, when people feel sad, angry, or self-loathing, they turn to junk food and sedentary activities because of the associated hopelessness. Therefore, if you love your body, you will naturally turn to healthier options because you want to care for it.

Despite taking the right steps, sometimes you may be too hard on yourself. To eliminate the negative self-talk, pick a frequent thought (such as, “I’m too fat,” or “I’m not pretty”) and ask yourself if you would say that to a friend. When you realize you would not say such phrases out loud, stop saying them to yourself and consider what you would say to her. Perhaps you would offer to join a gym together, or gently discourage her from going back for more dessert. Realize that you need to be a friend to yourself.

By defining real beauty and loving your body, you can make this holiday season a healthy one. With the proper mindset, you will not feel deprived when turning down large desserts or feel hopeless when you choose to indulge. As long as your overall lifestyle holds a balance between delicious holiday foods and healthy decisions, you will not start your New Year’s resolution list with needing to lose the weight you gained during the celebrations. Remember to make decisions that induce pride, not guilt or regret. And most of all, enjoy the festivities!

Jaime Haines is an exuberant puppy-lover and “House” addict and plans to use her psychology degree to encourage activism and well-being through counseling, workshops, speeches, and the written word.