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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Surviving the holidays with disordered eating

Maricarmen Becerra-Gonzalez

I was only 13 years old the first time I starved myself. It was the height of the holiday season, and that year for Christmas I was going to ask Santa for an eating disorder.

It was 2014 and the social media platform Tumblr was reaching its peak. I was a part of the last wave that endured the thigh gap epidemic.

The “thigh gap epidemic” is a phrase I like to use to describe the digital obsession with thinness — particularly on Tumblr — which then bled into other social media platforms.

From viral pictures of thigh gaps to pictures of protruding collarbones and hip bones, the message was clear: thin was in.

“Thinspo” riddled my Instagram and Tumblr feeds. Thinspo is an abbreviation for the term “thin inspiration” and refers to content across social media that promotes thinness and methods of achieving it.

This content often promotes unhealthy methods of losing weight, including long periods of fasting or starving yourself. I was hooked.

I spent hours reading articles upon articles about calories and diets. I downloaded apps meant to track my food intake and time my periods of fasting. All of this combined was my one-way ticket to disordered eating.

Disordered eating refers to unhealthy behaviors related to food or dieting that do not meet the criteria for a diagnosed eating disorder, but can be just as harmful to one’s mental health.

These behaviors can be particularly difficult to cope with during the holiday season.

Holidays such as Thanksgiving are fiercely food-centric. From food chains advertising their family meal packs to grocery stores running sales on key ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner, the holidays are designed to make you want to eat.

In response, diet-centric media begins to crank out articles on how to avoid “holiday weight gain” and how to eat responsibly surrounded by so much “temptation.” This kind of media is the gateway drug to creating eating disorder habits.

Many of these conflicting messages are muddied by toxic diet culture. Diet culture is a system of unhealthy food and body habits created to presumably achieve what is deemed the “ideal” body.

Diet culture often disguises itself as “healthy living” or detoxing, but can quickly spiral out of hand. It usually has to do with restricting oneself to some degree.

As the holiday season looms, it is important to be conscious of the conflicting messages that bombard us every year at the dinner table.

Eating disorder habits, including restrictive eating, are often generationally transmitted. More often than not, disordered eating behaviors begin in the home where a parent or caregiver also engages in disordered eating or negative self-talk. This development is more common among young women.

Growing up in a female-headed household, I was exposed to these messages from a very young age. I listened as the women in my life criticized their bodies for changing after experiencing childbirth, aging, weight loss, weight gain, or even just the motions of life. It was more important to blame your body for not looking “perfect” than to understand why it was changing.

I am not the only one who experiences this. For many, the holidays mean more time surrounded by family or those who engage in negative self-talk. Listening to remarks about each other’s bodies and stress from engaging in negative self-talk are all ingredients in a recipe for triggering disordered eating behaviors.

Though there is no fix-all for dealing with the shock of the holiday season to disordered eating, it’s important to remember to take time for yourself and understand that media messages about food and body are contradictory, especially this time of year.

These messages are not curated to make sense, they are made to make you feel guilt and shame, two emotions that are not synonymous with the holidays.

This season, consider closing that tab or ignoring what the social stream has to say. Instead, focus on surrounding yourself with support systems and bask in the knowledge that diet culture is toxic and invalid.

As for me? This year for Christmas I’ll be asking for a nice pair of socks.


Maricarmen Becerra-Gonzalez can be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Maricarmen Becerra-Gonzalez is a fourth year at Chico State majoring in journalism and minoring in criminal justice. Being born and raised in San Jose, CA, Chico has been a change in scenery for her. While on The Orion she is interested in exploring queerness, culture, and all forms of art. Outside of the newsroom, you can find her exploring new music, reading, or cross-stitching for fun.

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