I don’t know about you but I am exhausted with “how to stay healthy over the holidays” articles that appear this time of year. If you haven’t lived in a cave for the past few years, you likely don’t need to be reminded that eating fruits and veggies is a good idea and that too much chocolate can leave anyone with gut-rot.
So, what should a nutrition blogger write about at Christmas when the holiday parties and cocktails are in full swing?
I think we should forget about the holiday bloat and write more about what really matters. Write more of what comes straight from the heart – what gives more than it receives.
As I pondered what to write, I wept for the women that I have met over the years who have shared some of the darkest moments in their lives with me. Moments of being told that they were too fat at the tender age of eight, conscripted to attend Weight Watcher’s meetings in junior high, exercised until they fell over in high school, skipped breakfast and lunch every day at university just to shrink a little smaller, because maybe, just maybe, changing their size would change their luck.
I don’t want this to become my daughter’s narrative so I wrote the following letter to her (and to your daughter, and to all the daughters out there) so that perhaps their stories one day will read much differently then the stories I have heard one too many times.
(Practically speaking my daughter is 3 years old and so will not read this for a long time … but I just needed to get it all out!)
Please use this letter to pen your own letter to any young lady in your life. The more we can spread this message to the next generation, the better the world will be.
There are many gifts that I could give to you this time of year but one that we moms rarely get to give in the busyness of life is the gift of a letter. There is something so precious about a hand-written note. My mom wrote one to me before you were born and every time I read it, it evokes a flood of tears. Happy tears because I know how much she loves me and it reminds of the special bond that mothers and daughters share.
Love writes its own letter.
These words poured out onto the page because they mean so much to me – not only as your mom but as your friend.
There are a few things that I want you to know about yourself, about your body, because I want you to love your body, not hate it. I spent a short period of time hating my body and a long period of time recovering from it.
Even if what I write doesn’t mean all that much to you right now, I hope you can keep this little love letter in your pocket as you journey down the road of life.
As the book of Proverbs says, “my daughter, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.”
Your size does not change my love for you. You are my daughter and I will love you always. You do not need to look a certain way to earn my love. You are valued and cherished for who you are on the inside. Your body will change its shape as you grow and develop - embrace your changing body and what God has given to you! Rejoice in the blessing of hips that can dance, legs that run, arms that can embrace. Be kind to it and it will be kind to you. Respect it and it will respect you.
Don’t judge others on their body size. We all make mistakes but misplaced words and actions can have long-lasting effects on others. If you have ever made fun of, or knowingly excluded someone because of his or her size, please apologize, no matter how long ago it was. Words and actions inflict deep wounds but the power of a heartfelt apology can move mountains. As you journey in life, become aware of your biases and how they influence and shape your behaviour.
Humble yourself. Instagram may not exist anymore when you read this but posting images of your body or your outfit of the day on social media will not help you to develop a good relationship with your body, nor will it help others. Humbling yourself doesn’t mean putting yourself down; it means being completely comfortable with who you are and therefore, able to put others first. Humility is more about strength then weakness.
Respect your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Life is too short to constantly be starving or stuffing yourself. Get in tune with your body when it is telling you to eat and when your body says it has had enough. To do this, you may need to slow down the pace of your life to listen to the subtle hints it is giving you. This is one of the greatest skills you can develop to keep your body healthy.
Nourish your body instead of restricting it. Fuel your body with whole foods as often as you can. Put less food in the microwave and more on the cutting board. Cook meals with friends and take time to savour the taste. Resist diet culture and what it stands for. It’s okay to want to achieve health but counting calories or tracking macros (or whatever the flavour of the month is) for 99% of women does not end well - it becomes a god. Don’t fall into that trap. Make healthful choices and let your body determine what its best weight is. Your worth is not defined by your weight.
Join us at the table. We want to have you at our kitchen table as often as possible! Please invite your friends – you know that anyone is welcome at our table, any time of day. Never be afraid to show up at suppertime unannounced; we always set an extra place. Come as you are – filled with joy or sadness, wounded or worried, we want to hear about everything and support you however we can. Wherever life leads you in the future, never forget the power of a shared meal with loved ones around a table. Light the candles, set the China plates and enjoy the company of friends and family.
Find joyful movement for your body. Your body was made for movement! Find a type of movement that is enjoyable for you. You know how much I love to lift weights and breathe the fresh air outside on a run but this is not the only way to enjoy movement. Whatever you do, try to do it regularly. If you don’t have time, then let go of something to create space and time. Movement is about being the best and healthiest version of yourself, not fitting into a dress.
Angle your mirror. Most women have a mirror somewhere in their room and I do too. But a mirror that hangs on a wall can only do one thing, which is to reflect your image to yourself. Take your mirror and tilt it on a 45 degree angle so that the focus shifts from yourself to reflecting your beauty and light to the rest of the world. Be a mirror-angler! Help other women to angle their mirrors too. Reflect outwards and focus a little less inwards - not to the detriment of yourself or your health but to keep your life in perspective. In the end, it’s not all about you.
Finally, please accept my apology for any words, actions (or lack thereof) that may have made you think oppositely over the years to what I have written. It was not intentional but likely a reaction that came from a place of struggle in my own life.
Your flower has only begun to blossom my love! I can’t wait to see the impact that your choices, made in truth and light, have on our world which is so desperately seeking light.
So be kind and brave.
Be a leader and a helper.
Be a counter-cultural mirror-angler.
And most importantly, remember that you have only one body that deserves to be nurtured, respected and loved.
Merry Christmas my love,