As the ber months approach, memes shared on social media shift from preparing your body for the beach to preparing your body for the food you’ll be eating. A social media favorite of the season is always a photo of Honey Boo Boo staring at her belly, matched with the caption: “same.”
“Ang taba ko,” was a phrase I used to always catch myself saying at least once a week, but mostly during the summer and the holidays. I’d look at the mirror, strip off my clothes, touch my stomach, poke at it, laugh, and then heave a sigh. Then, I’d head for a bath and go on with my day. After scrolling through my social media feeds, I’d repeat that sentiment again. Even though I’d always tell myself, “Lose weight now para sa pasko wala silang masabi,” come Christmas and New Year, I’d still be the same as before and receive the usual “tumaba ka” comments from various relatives.
I was 17 the first time I attempted to watch my weight during the holidays, and it was hell. While everyone else was munching on the crispy skin of the lechon, roast beef, and potato marbles; I was fiddling around with my salad (mayo on the side) and chicken breast. Desserts were unforgiving, too. A selection of cakes, flans, and various chocolates were always available, but I’d only have a piece or a bite of each.
Feeling victorious over how I monitored my weight, I would look at the numbers on the scale, only to find out that nothing much had changed. One year, the scale even showed that I gained. To top it all off, I returned to school the following year with classmates teasing that I must’ve had such a great Christmas because of the growing food bump on my belly. On another year I was more successful — I did lose weight, but I didn’t feel fulfilled. The truth is, I only felt like I missed out. While everyone else ate what they wanted, I was taking mental notes of how many bites I’ve taken. Even if my cousins and I were all seated on the same table, bonding over the Japanese prank shows we’d just watched, I was debating with myself whether or not I deserved to eat later that day.
This whole stigma on holiday weight has been highlighted in the media for far too long. A study conducted from the Texas Tech University in 2013 already debunked the whole holiday weight gain myth, stating that on an average, people only gain one to three pounds maximum during the season. Dr. Traci Mann, author of the book Secrets from the Eating Lab, also shares that your body adjusts to your eating habits especially if done during short periods of time.
Because we choose to read articles that tell us not to eat, and compare ourselves to other people on social media we end up conditioning ourselves — even just subconsciously — that we shouldn’t be eating much over the holidays. Even just sharing a meme over how your body looks during the season (as funny as it may be) can subtly change the way you and other people think about putting on some pounds over the holidays.
Since when did holiday weight become such a negative thing, anyway? It’s the holidays. It’s a time to celebrate and be festive. The whole point of the Noche Buena is for your family to greet Christmas Day with an intimate celebration over good food. It’s that one time in the year where everyone is given a chance to reunite — so why stop yourself from enjoying it?
In the two years that I worried about my weight during the holiday season, I’ve learned that worrying over it was unnecessary. If you’re doing it to be healthier then that’s great, but if you’re like me who did it out of anger and pity for myself, then it won’t do you any good. With every bite I took, was guilt and resentment. It wasn’t until that one fine lunch on New Year’s Day, at my grandma’s house that I finally got over it and just enjoyed the feast and the company of my family. Sitting down with my cousins, seeing them enjoy my lola’s famed kare-kare and eating without a care made me realize that I was being too harsh on myself. I may have not eaten much, but I did eat enough to fill me that day. No feeling of guilt, no getting jealous over what others were eating, and no care was given over that tito who kept teasing me. At the end of the day, I realized that what mattered most is what I felt inside, and that I was enjoying what the holidays had to offer.
The holidays aren’t meant for us to torture ourselves. They are meant for us to share and spend time with family — to celebrate what’s good, to indulge, and to #treatyoself. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get a second helping of roast beef, and there’s also nothing wrong with not wanting to get one. If you’re really trying to take care of yourself and be healthier, go for it but don’t put your emotional health on the back burner. The times are changing, and people are beginning to learn that it’s okay to be yourself, to do what you want and look however you do without having to fit a certain mold.
Remind yourself that every time you catch yourself contemplating over what you just ate, pause, and smile. Take it easy. No one’s counting.