Opinion: Stop telling me to 'watch my weight' at Christmas

Kristine Tarbert
·Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·4-min read

For years I’ve been thinking Christmas is a time of year filled with parties, family, friends (at least pre-covid), and food. What better excuse to indulge a little bit, right?

Wrong, apparently. At least, according to the hundreds of emails I get every single day in the lead up to Christmas telling me otherwise.

Should we feel guilty about Christmas dinner? Photo: Getty
Should we feel guilty about Christmas dinner? Photo: Getty

As a journo, I see a huge spike in story pitches this time of year, offering interviews and tips from nutritionists, dieticians, and fitness influencers. And almost every single one is pushing this message around ‘watching your weight’ or ‘how not to overindulge’ over the holidays.

To give you a few examples:
Here are our top tips to keep your abs during Christmas
– Top tips for avoiding the food splurge this silly season
– Dietitian’s top tips for perfecting the art of saying no to festive treats
– Clever food swaps to get you through the festive season

And so on and so forth. You get the general idea.

Well, my question is why?

Why this urge to make me think about every single thing that I may or may not eat at Christmas lunch.

Why make me worry about the fact that I might be having a big dinner as well.

Why make me skip having any mash potato because nana put too much butter in it.

Why make me feel bad about having two serves of dessert, because I couldn’t decide between my grandma’s famous Christmas pudding or my aunt’s amazing pavlova.

Because you know what all this watching what I’m eating, and questioning everything I eat will actually lead to – GUILT!

And that, ladies and gents, I would argue is even worse for your health than two serves of dessert.

The answer is no. Photo: Getty
The answer is no. Photo: Getty

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing international fitness influencer and Sweat trainer Kelsey Wells and her mantra of ‘ditch the guilt’ has stuck with me.

She told me at the time that you should never feel guilty for eating something.

“We put enough guilt on our shoulders especially as women, and I promise you that negative attitude towards yourself is worse for your health than the slice of pizza or cake that you ate,” she said.

According to Nutrition Australia, the average Aussie is expected to gain 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas period due to ‘over-indulging’. And this – tiny number – is what sparks the massive push to tell us to watch what we eat.

Aussie is expected to gain 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas. Photo: Getty
Aussie is expected to gain 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas. Photo: Getty

I would go so far as to say that some of the ‘advice’ I’ve read in my inbox is potentially dangerous for young girls and women that might struggle with self-confidence and body image issues.

One ‘expert’, for example, said ‘pre-game snacks’ were their way of not over-indulging at Christmas dinner – the idea being that you eat before you go out so you’re not hungry when you’re there.

This was eerily similar to some advice Aussie Victoria Secret model Bridget Malcolm gave on her blog back in 2017, where she said she would research restaurant menus before going out, or just eat before she went anywhere.

But just six months later, Bridget opened up about the fact she had been struggling with an eating disorder. “Everything I’ve said in the last year and a half about dieting? Don’t listen. Don’t look up to me. I was wrong,” she wrote.

Christmas should be a time to eat what you want, enjoy being with family - if you are able to this year - and not worry about what food is considered ‘unhealthy’.

We should not be made to feel like we need to ‘diet’, or watch what foods we are eating at events, or have to try to come up with food swaps during Christmas dinners, and then deal with the guilt that comes if we fail to so.

I’m not saying that eating nothing but Christmas pudding for two days is the way to go, because it’s not. It’s just about listening to your body, and making informed decisions based on how you feel and not because of what someone else says you need to do.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a lover of (lots of) chocolate and going out for dinners with my friends and family. I’m also a regular gym-goer, and have slowly learned that life is about balance.

But it’s Christmas!

So you’ll find me parked next to the grazing platter, until dinner comes out, and I’ll be the first at the dessert bar after that. Because I won’t let anyone guilt me into missing out on something I love.

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