(Trigger Warning: Diet talk)
“Can you PLEASE hurry up and help me bring all the food to the car? We’re already so late!”, mom yells from the kitchen.
My family is notorious for being the last to arrive at every family gathering.
Dad rushes over in an attempt to calm my mom and says, “Relax honey, I’m on it. Cam, let’s go before we all get in trouble!”
I for one am in no rush to get to the family Christmas party. To be honest I’m dreading it a little.
I’ve been in recovery for a while now, but social situations are still hard. Especially family holiday get-togethers where there are triggers at every turn: food, alcohol, conversations about diets and weight loss… It can be overwhelming.
“Ready to go?”, Finn asks as he gently grasps my hand. Finn is my boyfriend of 5 years. He is my rock. I don’t know that I would have ever made it this far in my recovery without him. I’m so relieved to have him as my sidekick, especially for situations like this.
“As ready as I’ll ever be!”, I say with phony enthusiasm as I follow him out the door.
When we arrive at the party, we’re greeted by my Aunt Dee who eagerly passes us each a piece of paper and a pencil. “You’re just in time! Sit!”, she exclaims.
Finn and I help my mom bring the food inside from the car. As we walk into the living room I notice everyone holding matching paper and pencils. We end up choosing a seat in the corner of the room.
“Okay! Before we begin, those of you who just arrived jot down what your new year’s resolution is, and bring it up to me when you’re done! Don’t forget to write your name on it too!”, Aunt Dee yells excitedly.
My new year’s resolution? I haven’t given it any thought. Heck, I don’t think I’ve had a new year’s resolution since I was 12. I vowed back in 2011 to be able to fit in a size 0 pair of jeans... I wanted to look like all the young celebrities I saw on the cover of Seventeen magazine. Now that I think of it, that was around the time my eating disorder started. Not the best new year’s resolution I’ve ever had.
To keep it simple, I wrote: “I want to read more books in 2023”. This is something I want to do more, but I wouldn’t say it’s my top priority for the new year. My true resolution would be to continue to have success in my recovery plan. But, I’m pretty sure 90% of the people in this room have no idea that I’ve struggled with an eating disorder to begin with. I’d like to keep it that way, so books it is.
Finn finishes writing his resolution and takes both mine and his paper up to Aunt Dee. My dad is close behind with his and my mom’s resolution in hand.
“Now that everyone has written down their resolution, I’m going to pass out new sheets of paper that are numbered. One by one I’m going to read each resolution aloud, and the goal is to guess who wrote it! Whoever gets the most correct wins this mystery prize!”, Aunt Dee yells as she holds up a small red gift bag with green tissue paper poking out of the top.
Once everyone has a numbered paper, Aunt Dee begins reading the first resolution. “The first new year’s resolution is: ‘I’m going to start going to the gym 5 days a week’! Write down the name of who you think this resolution belongs to next to the number 1!”
Everyone starts looking around the room. “I think a lot of us would benefit from sticking with that resolution in the new year!”, my uncle shouts. Laughter fills the room.
“Hilarious…” I say sarcastically under my breath. Finn has a look of disapproval on his face and starts to fiddle with the corner of his paper.
Aunt Dee waits for everyone to quiet down and says, “Okay are we ready for the next? Number 2 is…. ‘I’m going to start following a keto diet’!”.
It stays quiet for a few seconds.
“Well we know it’s not Danny- he couldn’t even walk past the kitchen without grabbing one of the cookies before dinner!”, someone shouts from across the room. Everyone laughs again, including Danny.
“Alright, alright…. Number 3 is: ‘I want to lose 20 pounds’!”, Aunt Dee exclaims.
I’m starting to get annoyed- what’s with all the resolutions about weight and dieting? I haven’t even started to play along yet.
Aunt Dee goes on, “Ready for number 4? It says, ‘exercise more’! Boy, this is hard- we’re all thinking the same thing! Okay, let’s just jump right into the next one… Number 5 says ‘I want to read more books in 2023’.”
“Ha, who’s the nerd?” someone from across the room jokes. Everyone laughs.
That was enough for me. I’m lucky to be far enough in my recovery where I can tell myself that there are more important things to prioritize in the new year other than the size of my body, but someone else in this room could be thinking how I used to think. All this stupid game is doing is encouraging people to fixate on what their bodies look like, which can lead someone to fall into an eating disorder. Like the covers of Seventeen magazine did to me.
I get up, stand next to Aunt Dee in front of everyone else in the living room and say, “Do you guys not see what’s happening? Literally everyone in the room is only worried about how much they weigh in the new year, and the one person who isn’t, you criticize them? You know what, we’re playing a new game.”
I pick up the stack of blank papers we used to write our resolutions on and start passing them around the room while everyone watches, confused.
“Okay. Let’s try this again. Everyone do the same thing you did before, but this time, think of a new year’s resolution that has nothing to do with your appearance. Be genuine, don’t just write something random. What kind of self-improvement do you want to work on in 2023?”
The room goes quiet as everyone sits in thought. Slowly, one by one everyone brings up their new resolution. Once everyone is finished, I hand the papers over to Aunt Dee, keeping my original resolution in the pile.
Aunt Dee stands up and says, “You know Cam, I never would have thought twice about everyone having a new year’s resolution about their appearance if you wouldn’t have said something. It’s always the same thing every year! So let’s start again from number 1. The first one says, ‘make more time for self-care'. That’s a great one! Who do we think came up with it?”
The game went on, and my family came up with some really amazing new year’s resolutions. These were my favorite:
Practice gratitude more often,
Have more quiet time with fewer screens,
Create and follow a morning and night routine,
Find a new hobby, and
Read more books in 2023.
I won the game, by the way. What was in the small red bag with green tissue paper poking out? A gift card to our local bookstore.
That innocent party game had consequences I never would have guessed I was going to face that day. Because I took a chance and stood up for what someone else in the room may have needed to hear, or not hear, I changed the way everyone in that room thinks about new year’s resolutions. I got to have conversations about diet culture and why making comments about what people look like or how they eat feed into its toxicity. I may have encouraged someone to prioritize self-care over how many pounds they were planning to lose in the new year. Although it was a small change, it felt amazing that I was responsible for it.
Even if I wasn’t able to get through to as many people as I did that day, it still would have been worth it to hear Finn say at the end of the day, “I’m proud of you”.
I’m proud of me too.
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