As much as everyone may love the holidays, there’s certain parts of the holiday season that every fat person (and even most non-fat people!) dreads. The (generally) once a year family get together where you’re bombarded with oh-so-many personal questions such as:
“Do you have a boy/girlfriend?”
“What are you studying in school?”
And of course, the dreaded:
“Oh dear, you look like you’ve put on some weight!”
“Do you really need a second helping of that?”
“You should be wearing something that flatters your tummy!”
Your mileage may vary, some families are much more considerate and some are much less, but the common theme seems to be that where family is concerned, your body is everyone’s business. And no one should have to worry about spending what should be an enjoyable time worrying who’s going to judge how much you have heaped on your plate.
So, with that in mind, here’s some helpful advice to navigate this treacherous topic.
1. Just say no.
Family members tend to feel that since you’re related, they have a say in what you do with your body. That’s simply not true. If a family member starts, de-escalate the situation with a simple “You’re welcome to your opinion, but what I choose to do with my body is not up for debate.” Most family members are not used to hearing something like this, so it’s usually enough to diffuse the situation. But if they continue to press the topic, something a bit more firm might be needed. “My body is my business and I don’t feel comfortable discussing it with you.” If that doesn’t work, do not feel obligated to stay in the situation. Get up and walk away. It is okay to remove yourself from a situation in which you don’t feel comfortable. And in some very drastic situations, if you find that you get ganged up on by multiple family members, it’s okay not to even put yourself in that situation to begin with. Spend the day with good friends, instead. See if you can tag along to someone else’s party. Even staying home is better than putting yourself in a situation that you know will cause you to feel badly about yourself.
2. Don’t engage in diet talk.
A common exclamation you’ll hear during a holiday dinner is “Ugh, this has SO many calories/so much fat/so many carbs/etc.,” “I really shouldn’t eat this, I’m on a diet,” “My New Years Resolution is going to be to stop eating like this!” You’ll notice that we live in a culture where people tend to bond over judgment of what they’re eating. You don’t have to partake in that, either. If you hear comments like that, don’t engage or respond to them. A simple “I’ve been looking forward to grandma’s apple pie all year!” should do the trick.
3. Change the subject.
If you hear something about diet/food/weight loss/body talk that you’re not comfortable with, it’s okay to redirect the conversation. “So I hear you went to Germany this year/got a new job/volunteered/etc. Tell me all about that!” Chances are these are people you don’t get to see often, and a lot goes on in most people’s lives, getting them to talk about their lives rather than what they’re currently putting in their mouths (or not) is a great thing to do. It also has the added bonus of making you into the family member who is actually interested about what goes on in your relative’s lives. That’s super awesome!
4. Remember that it’s not about you.
As silly as it may sound, a lot of times when people direct diet talk at you, it’s less to do with you and more to do with them. Chances are they’re not feeling so hot about their own body, or they’re on a diet, or they’re guilty that they ate something, and they want someone to commiserate with. It’s okay not to want to participate in that. Don’t weigh yourself down thinking that you’re wrong or bad or that you’re being picked on. Don’t internalize it. Chances are, it’s not you.
5. Don’t feel guilty.
This is a big one, which is why I saved it for last. And of course, it’s SO much easier said than done. But if anything else, let this be your mantra. It is OKAY to eat a lot on the holidays. It’s okay to eat things that aren’t healthy. It is okay to have seconds. The holidays are only once a year. Don’t concentrate on how many calories you’re consuming. Don’t concentrate on how much weight you think you’ll gain. Food is not inherently bad, and worrying about it can easily ruin what can be a joyous time with family and friends. If you really feel like you overdid it, wrangle up a few family members and go for a walk around the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights. But do it with family bonding, holiday cheer, and catching up being the main goal, not to burn calories.
Also, don’t feel guilty for employing any of the above mentioned techniques. Don’t feel guilty for changing the subject if diet talk upsets you. Don’t feel guilty for walking away. Don’t feel guilty for having boundaries.
The best part about this is if you use the above named techniques, and if you do it not just during the holidays, but at all family functions/get togethers, eventually your family members will know that it’s not something you’re a willing participant in, and they won’t try to engage you.
As I said, it’s so much easier said than done, but all you can do is try! I hope this helps some of you out there!