I just searched Google for the words “holiday weight gain” in the news.
In 0.17 seconds, Google returned about 30,400 results. This isn’t just “evergreen content”—I’m talking about stuff that’s being written right now about holiday weight gain.
What does this tell us?
1. That if you’re looking to boost your page in the search rankings, you’re going to need a less competitive keyword?
2. That if you’re on the internet at all this holiday season you’re most likely going to run across another stupid blog post about the “7 ways to avoid holiday weight gain,” “why holiday weight gain isn’t inevitable,” and “why exercise may not stave off holiday weight gain,” et. al.
Here’s a quick Christmas story for you:
Once upon a time, when I was naive young lass, if you said the word “holiday” to me, I immediately thought of presents and decorations and time off from school.
And then, the big bad (media) wolf came and huffed and puffed and blew my little gingerbread house of cards down, exposing to me the world of fad diets and fear mongering. Despite the fact that this greatly reduced my ability to enjoy the holidays, every time someone dangled the “6 tips for holiday weight loss” carrot, I bit.
And then one day, while being bombarded and blinded by holiday fat loss/weight gain talk on the internet, TV, radio and in my yoga studio, Crossfit gym, company holiday party, neighborhood Starbucks, I realized that, *SPOLER ALERT* much like Santa Claus, this whole “winter weight gain” phenomenon didn’t actually exist.
This whole thing—this whole media machine—this whole concept that holidays are about overindulging, under exercising, and gorging ourselves in preparation for the upcoming January resolution season—is just a cultural construct.
In a way, it’s kind of like primetime TV. It starts out with programmers noticing TV watching behavior—when are people getting home from work and when are they finished washing up from dinner? What days are they more likely to need a TV fix during a stressful week, etc.?—and then they make sure to put shows that are likely to appeal during that time. When people start watching the shows, because they’re of the highest quality or the greatest mass appeal, it validates the programmers, so they make sure to keep programming their best shows at that time.
Now, instead of figuring when people are more likely to watch, they’ve actually programmed people to watch at that time. People aren’t surprised by good programming at 8 pm on a Thursday—they expect it on an unconscious level. (Or, at least that was the case for me and my family…back in the early 2000s, at 8 pm on any given Thursday you could always find us tuned into NBC.)
It’s the same damn way with holidays and marketing. Marketers noticed that people were more likely to indulge around the holidays and then make resolutions about weight loss in January. So they’ve seized on the opportunity to start programming their content to sell us an idea about overeating over the holidays and overexercising come January.
We don’t all just develop an eating disorder as soon as fall hits. Our cultural eating disorder is just a result of strategic programming.
But here’s the thing: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the major TV networks are no longer the primetime meccas they used to be. If my family watches TV at all, it’s usually something in syndication on TBS or a series we’re binge-watching on our iPads on Netflix or HBOGo whenever we have time. When we (the cultural “we,” not just my family) had a NEW way of consuming TV shows—a way that allowed us to program for ourselves and not based on the market research done by networks—primetime stopped having the same power it used to have. Sure, some people will always hold their Thursday at 8 pm TV watching sacred, and more power to ‘em, but now, we have the ability to make decisions and take control of our watching habits.
So, I’m going to pull us out of the world of metaphor for a moment and bring this back around to holiday talk:
There is no such thing as “holiday weight gain.”
There is no such thing as “New Year’s weight loss.”
There is no such thing as “primetime.”
None of these things exist—except as far as you let them.
If all it took to change our TV watching habits was to develop a new language of watching (primetime to Netflix), then all it takes for us to change our holiday food issues is to develop a new language of eating.
Obviously, this isn’t going to be an easy task, what with Google returning more results on holiday weight loss tips than there were probably books in the library at Alexandria; however, if enough of us are out there taking back control over the weight loss/weight gain/food-and-exercise anxiety “programming,” I think we stand a chance.
So consider this my stand against feeding the holiday food machine: I won’t be writing a “X tips on surviving the holidays” post—because, frankly, there’s nothing to “survive” unless we make it so by writing and speaking about it. We’ve got two weeks of vacations and parties and family members and presents and love—yes. But we don’t have to talk about those two weeks as a dangerous time fraught with calories plotting to jump out from under the Christmas tree to derail our lives.
My first step to changing the language? Take “the holidays” and break them down into “one day at a time.” Instead of staring down two weeks fraught with potential binges or forced restriction, peppered with “strategies” for attending parties or dealing with triggers, and marked by an end point where you have to commit to a punishing exercise regimen, why not look at December 16 as “December 16” and not “8 days to lock down your eating before a holiday binge?” Why not look at New Year’s Eve as an excuse to live in the moment instead of dreading the countdown or worrying about what comes after the ball drops?
I know that we’re not going to change there marketing language that has come to define how we live our lives in the course of one season, but I know that nothing will change if we don’t at least start.
The more of us who refuse to use the language that’s kept us scared, unhappy, and dreading this season, the more of us who can go out and influence others to do the same.
So…Happy “One Day at a Time” and enjoy the heck out of the next 15 days, food, exercise, and all.