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Body Image, Self-Esteem and the Holidays

By HERWriter
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Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

Women have always had a difficult time accepting and loving their bodies, and that certainly doesn’t change during the holidays.

There is always so much food during Thanksgiving and Christmas and other winter holidays that it’s hard not to gain weight and then feel guilty and then vow to lose weight for a New Year’s Resolution. But is this guilt and shame and low self-esteem really necessary?

Sharon Fountain, the president of National Association for Self Esteem, explained how women can learn to accept themselves for the way they are, despite all the conflicting messages that surround them daily.

“A big piece of it is to realize that we are okay as is,” Fountain said. “If we decide we want to lose weight, we do that for very specific reasons. And maybe it’s for health, maybe it’s to help relieve the stress on our joints, maybe it’s because we just feel better, we have more energy and more strength when we’re thinner, but not because I need to be thin in order to be okay.”

Although the summertime might make women more obsessed with their appearances because of more skin exposure, the holidays can have a different effect – guilt over food and other things.

“If we know we shouldn’t do it because it’s not good for us but we do it anyway, it’s a rare person who accepts that and says ‘I’ll just start again after the holidays,’” Fountain said.

There is also a lot of holiday stress women have to deal with.

“Women I think still take the major burden for honoring the traditions that people have during the holidays,” Fountain said. “There’s an awful lot of caretaking of other people and a lot more being demanded of that woman to pull it off … and I think that increased stress during the holidays also contributes to poor eating choices.”

For women, self-esteem is commonly linked with body image, but changing appearance doesn’t necessarily improve self-esteem. Fountain mentioned an extreme makeover show, “The Swan,” as an example. Participants would undergo plastic surgery as part of the makeover.

“They realized very quickly that just because they improved the outside, doesn’t mean that they had worked sufficiently on the inside,” Fountain.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.