The last two months of the year can be an extremely busy, fun, and full experience. It can also be wildly anxiety-producing, with everything from financial expectations to end-of-year deadlines, and the constant messaging from diet culture (often in the form of well-meaning relatives) to obsess over the way we look. This year, you don’t have to go it alone. I’m here to equip you with 6 ways to address comments on your body during the holidays — and all year long!
Changes to your body are your business and yours alone.
Pretty much the only guarantee about our bodies is that they will change over time. What those changes look like can be influenced by a TON of different factors, including but not limited to — what you eat, movement, illness, life changes, stress levels, and SO MUCH MORE.
Your body might get smaller, it might get bigger, you might gain or lose muscle mass or get some additional wrinkles or lose some wrinkles or some hair or add tattoos or body piercings and so on and so forth. Here’s the thing about these changes – they’re YOUR business, and you get to choose whether or not you’d like them to be a topic of discussion.
These changes are also going to be a lot more obvious to someone who hasn’t seen you in a year or more, as is the case with a LOT of folks we see around the holidays. And for whatever reason, a lot of people just can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to saying things about other people’s bodies, food choices, habits, etc., regardless of how ill-informed they may be. The good news? You don’t owe anyone anything. The bad news? That’s not going to stop people from opening their mouths.
Remember, it’s probably not about you.
Anti-fat bias presents itself in an astounding variety of ways. It can be outright (trolls, bullying, etc.), internal (“oh I think YOU look great, I just want to lose weight because I don’t carry it as well as you do”), or disguised as concern.
It’s incredibly sneaky, and the truth is we all harbor at least some anti-fat bias; but once you start to see it, you can’t UN-see it. That means a lot of people probably don’t even realize they’re being jerks when they make comments about your body or food choices. Does that excuse their behavior? Nope! But it does explain it a little.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you on this topic or pretty much any other is – try not to internalize someone’s actions as a failure on your part. Just because someone may have good intentions, that doesn’t mean you have to entertain their comments.
So, here are 6 things YOU can do when someone makes an unsolicited comment about your body or habits relating to your body.
So, what do we do?
There are a variety of options, but here are some tried-and-true solutions (with examples!) that work during the holidays and the rest of the year:
- Redirect the conversation
- I’d rather hear all about your vacation!
- Oh talking about weight loss is so boring – what movies have you been to lately?
- Surely we can come up with something more interesting to discuss than that!
- Be direct, and set very clear expectations
- I won’t be discussing my body, and any additional comments on my body are inappropriate.
- Oh I actually don’t talk about my eating habits, it can be really harmful. I trust that you’ll respect that.
- I don’t appreciate unsolicited commentary on the way I look. Please keep those thoughts to yourself.
- Put them on the spot
- Why do you want to know?
- What would prompt you to say something like that?
- Is that something you’re asking everyone at this gathering?
- Make it awkward
- I’m really surprised you feel comfortable asking/saying that!
- Wow, that’s such an inappropriate thing to say! I hope you aren’t too embarrassed when you think back on this moment.
- Is that supposed to be funny, because I don’t get it – can you explain it to me?
- Make it a teaching moment
- You know, diet culture has such a sneaky way of showing up this time of year! I’m sure that’s not your intention, but did you know statements like that are rooted in anti-fat bias and can be really harmful?
- I know it can be really common to talk about how people look and what foods are “good” or “bad” at family gatherings, but you just never know who is battling something really horrible like an illness or an eating disorder, so wouldn’t it be best to keep those thoughts to ourselves?
- Ignore them
- You can literally just ignore them. Pretend you didn’t hear them. Walk. Away.
You’ve got this
Friends, there is SO much pressure to scrutinize your every move this time of year. We are assaulted left and right with diet ads, advice on how to “be good” during the holidays, how to “get in shape” for the new year, etc. The last thing we need is people who are supposed to be in our corner (or at least not actively causing harm) bringing us down because they can’t edit their thoughts.
You may not be in control of what other people say and do, but you get to decide what you say and do in return.
I hope these 6 ways to address comments on your body help you out during the holidays, and all year long.