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MediaDecember 15, 2017

‘Tis the season for the weight gain guilt trip


It’s as predictable as your uncle saying something off-colour during Christmas lunch: the annual slew of scare stories about the risk of gaining a few kilos over the festive season. Let’s make a pact to ignore them all, suggests Kristin Hall.

One of the last things I remember my mum saying to me before she died was “are you really having another bowl of dessert?”

It was Christmas day, and despite my less than aspirational skills in the kitchen I had spent the best part of 42 hours making an Annabel Langbein-worthy feast for my family of six that, thanks to an aggressive bout of cancer, was soon to be five. So the short answer was yes, I did need more fucking dessert.

My mum was a kind person. She was selfless, a wonderful listener and a better Christian than I had ever attempted to be. I am sure she said some nice things to me before she died a few days later, but I don’t remember them, because that comment stuck in my head, and has done ever since.

Perhaps that’s because the sentiment in the sentence I heard that day has been repeated to me, in multiple forms, via multiple mediums every Christmas, New Year, Easter, winter, and any other time of the year when a woman might commit the grievous sin of putting on some weight.

If you follow enough news websites, a simple scroll through Facebook during the entirety of the New Zealand summer is pretty much like standing in front of an unnecessarily condescending personal trainer who is a Twitter egg in his spare time.

‘The season of overindulgence is upon us!’ the Herald helpfully informs along with a stock image of a slim woman pinching some skin.

The opening line is an absolute abomination which suggests not only that possessing a muffin top and going to the beach are mutually exclusive circumstances, but that attempting to do both would throw us all muffin-first into the deepest chasms of hell.

Then there are the less catastrophic, but nonetheless annoying examples brought to you from the ‘No Shit Sherlock’ Department of the exercise industry.

“Christmas is approaching fast, and many people not only tend to ruin their usual diets, but they also gain a few extra pounds. Based on studies, most people tend to gain additional weight during the holiday season helped by lack of physical activity and exercise.” (source)

Ask a fat person what causes weight gain, ask a skinny person. Everyone knows the answer, but we just don’t want to hear the answer when it’s nearly the end of the year everyone said was going to be better than last year but wasn’t, and we all just want to be muffin deep in trifle for a few goddamn days.

And remember, this is pre Christmas, which means post Christmas there’ll be so many panicky headlines you’ll be chanting ASHY BINES BIKINI BODY while attempting to laugh and eat salad in your sleep.

Here’s a sneak peak of what you’ve got to look forward to:

I spoke to some friends and internet strangers about how the summer season made them feel about their bodies. The resounding answer was ‘not very good’, and given the sheer volume of chia infused fitspo bullshit you’ve got to wade through each Christmas and New Year, that’s hardly surprising.

There was a time I dreaded the first day back at work after the summer holidays, not because of the harsh realities of tuna scented microwaves, missing forks and workplace farts but because of the inevitable onslaught of weight related chat.

Female colleague 1: “Omg I ate so much I look gross”

Female colleague 2 (sometimes me): “No babe you look amazing, I look gross”

Female colleague 3: “You’re both so skinny and I am definitely the grossest.”

And so the circle jerk of self flagellation in exchange for compliments continued until we all hated ourselves a fraction less and could continue with our work until Easter.

None of this happens by itself. It happens mostly because of shitty articles and shitty advertising but if we can’t convince news outlets to stop republishing trash from the Daily Mail, we could start being nicer to each other and to ourselves. If you are in a position of influence in someone’s life, give them the gift of heavenly silence this festive season and don’t comment on what they eat, if they’ve gained or lost weight, or how many calories you think three plates of cheese platter has in it. Sally knows it’s a big slice of pav because she cut it herself and put it on a dinner plate instead of a saucer because the saucer was too small. If Sally later feels guilty about the pav, remind her that Jesus died so she could eat that pav (or something like that) and that you love her.

Christmas should be a time of irreverent fun and abandon for everyone, and yet, for many, it’s a time that signifies guilt and self hatred that has been internalised for so long we barely blink an eye when it’s still two weeks away from Christmas and we’ve got articles, friends and family members telling us how to get rid of that dastardly centimetre of stomach fat that may or may not accumulate from a unmercifully short period of having a good bloody time.

Your dad didn’t win three hams in three separate Christmas raffles for no reason, that’s the world telling you it’s your civic duty to eat the ham because you deserve it.

Have a Merry Muffin Christmas.


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