If you've been on the internet the past few days, there's a chance you're already aware that some time this week or next, you'll probably hit your lowest weight of the year. Yes, this is an actual piece of "news" that has been circulating. In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine last month, researchers from Cornell University used electronic scales to track the weight of 2,924 participants in the U.S., Japan, and Germany during the holiday season. The research team wanted to determine whether or not the holidays have an effect on weight gain, and sure enough, they found that participants' weight increased in the 10 days after Christmas compared to 10 days before the holiday. This was true for participants in all three countries. Other holidays, such as Golden Week in Japan, Easter in Germany, and Thanksgiving in the U.S., were shown to have a similar effect. The kicker? Apparently, the American participants' weight hit an annual low point at the beginning of October. These people had only lost about half of their "holiday weight gain" by the end of January and didn't lose the added pounds until after the summer. "Congratulations," the New York Times writes. "If you are anything like the Americans in a study by a Cornell University professor, your weight will reach an annual low this week or the next. But don’t get too excited — you’ll most likely get fatter soon." Here's the thing: Gaining weight during the holidays is nothing to be ashamed of and losing that weight is certainly not deserving of a "congrats" from the media. The sad part is, literally nothing about this is shocking. If you were alive and on the internet last year, the year before that, or the year before that, you probably remember a similar theme leading up to the holidays. Headlines to the tune of "Tips To Survive Holiday Weight Gain" or "Here's How To Not Get FAT This Christmas!" pop up everywhere just as we're starting to get excited for Thanksgiving. (And now, the fat-shaming chorus is starting the first week of October? Honestly, 2016, I'm impressed — you're really beating us all to the punch this year.) Not only do these headlines and stories totally suck the fun out of our holiday cheer, but they can actually be pretty harmful to how we treat and view our bodies. Mindsets that encourage us to obsess over calories, limit food intake, and practice daily weigh-ins during the holidays to avoid gaining weight are unsurprisingly similar to the diet mentality that causes our internal hunger and fullness cues to get out of whack — and can lead to binging and low self-esteem. Not to mention, the fact that we tend to eat fattier, heavier food in the winter just makes sense: Aside from the many parties and social events filled with delicious treats, the days themselves are shorter, colder, and darker. So grabbing warm, comforting foods, like creamy soups and hot chocolate, is soothing and enjoyable — and not necessarily a bad thing or anything to be worried about.
Underlying all of this pre-holiday weight stress, of course, is the assumption that being "fat" or "fatter" is a bad thing. The yummy food traditions accompanying holidays are a threat to our society's standards of thinness and, therefore, must be stopped. Diet companies jump right on us come January 1 to start our "New Year, New You!" weight-loss plans, promising that this year will really be the one. Well, let me tell you: I've been there, I've done that, and I'm over it. So don't mind me — this winter, I'll be over here enjoying my pumpkin pie, tomato soup, latkes, roasted squash, mashed potatoes, and frosted cookies — and giving my body love and compassion, even when it feels like all of the messages around me are telling me not to. The holiday season already brings enough stressors (Can you say "family gatherings?") and I'm not going to let my weight be one of them. And on New Year's Day? My resolution will be to continue flaunting and appreciating my body for all it does, eating intuitively according to my body's needs, and saying "fuck you" to a diet culture that tells me my weight is an indication of my worth — just like I do all year.