Approximately 160,000 people died in Australia in 2018. That’s roughly one death every three minutes and 13 seconds.
It’s a grim statistic for the season, but if you’re reading this article, you’re not dead. Congratulations! Your body kept you alive for another year.
Christmas is one of the worst seasons for body-shaming.Credit:Shutterstock
That body of yours, the one you hate sometimes – perhaps all the time – with lines on its face, cellulite on its thighs, curves the wrong size and in the wrong places, carried you through another year of highs, lows, loves, laughter, tears and growth.
It’s a perspective worth holding onto as we head into one of, if not the, most intense body-shaming periods of the year.
If your Christmas is anything like mine used to be, it will start with a sinking feeling as you put on your new Christmas dress – the one that looked barely passable in the artificially-flattering change-room mirrors, but now makes you look like, well, you.
And this is the just the entree to the main course of another year of falling short of meeting your goal weight/shape. As you suck your tummy in and turn sideways in front of the mirror, hoping for a miracle, your mind will race through every time you broke your “rules” and you’ll hate yourself for it.
In the car on the way to your family Christmas, if you’re anything like me of Christmases past, you will regress to being that little child again, the one where your body and your appearance would be scrutinised and remarked upon as soon as you walked through the door.
Even when the comments were positive about your cuteness or how much you’ve grown over the past year, you were acutely aware that how you looked was the most important thing about you. Essentially you were on notice: lose your looks and lose our love.
Even when, as a child, you passed the appearance test, you knew that some of your other relatives didn’t, and you felt their pain. You absorbed your mother’s anxiety and shame as she too was body scanned and judged by the body police.
Things only got worse as you got older. The perfectly normal and natural pre-puberty weight gain was met with cautionary tales and raised eyebrows when you dared to eat your noticeably smaller portion of Christmas pudding.
A few years later you just didn’t know how to react when a male relative or family friend started to look at you differently and make jokes about how your dad needed to buy a shotgun.
Rather than spending the coming year honouring, trusting and loving our body, you will treat it as your enemy.
Now an adult, not only do you have to sit through annual Christmas conversations about who has gained weight, lost weight, let themselves go, or is still looking after themselves, you sometimes even participate in it.
The perverse logic goes something like this: if I get in first with bashing my own body, then it won’t hurt as much when other people do it.
You’ll listen to people make public declarations about how they need to lose weight. “Diet starts tomorrow,” they’ll quip as they guiltily serve themselves another piece of pork crackling. You reflect on how they have been saying exactly the same thing at exactly the same moment for 20 years.
This will be followed by someone banging on about a new wonder diet nobody wants to hear about, or a miracle detox cleanse they read about on Instagram from a 20-something “brand ambassador” who’s most significant “achievements” in life seem to be winning the genetic lottery, collecting Instagram followers and persisting in the ignorance that their body is down to clean eating and vigorous exercise, rather than being 20-something.
And then you will finish Christmas vowing to “fix” your “unacceptable” body for next year so you don’t have to feel so bad about yourself. Rather than spending the coming year honouring, trusting and loving our body, you will treat it as your enemy, as some unruly beast you must distance yourself from, and wage war on.
Or perhaps not.
Maybe this will be the year that we can all call time on this madness. Maybe someone will finally declare a moratorium on fat chat at your Christmas table.
In a world that trains us to mistrust and hate our bodies, it is a bold act to see our bodies for what they really are: our best friend, our constant companions, the only way we are alive.
How about this Christmas we treat them with the love and gratitude they deserve?
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