How to deal with negative weight & food comments at Christmas
It’s Christmas! Yay, who doesn’t love an excess amount of tinsel, fairy lights and time off work. All good things. But among the merriment there can be a LOT of challenges for those of us on a body acceptance path.
If we’re lucky, for 99% of the rest of the year we can create our own worlds. We can detox from negative people and avoid situations which makes us feel uncomfortable but at Christmas, it’s different.
At Christmas, we can be put into situations with people who feel it's their right to say something about your weight or what you're eating. Well, fuck that.
Come the end of December we can be put social situations with old friends and family (who we may or may not get on with) that we might not have control over.
This can understandably lead to increased anxiety knowing that you’re encounter people who feel it’s their right to make comments around what you’re eating and your body. I have experienced my own share of insidious comments, (the worst one, ‘you have such a pretty face’ haunts me to this day) 'harmless' suggestions and unsolicited 'concerns' about my body the years.
No one has any right to say anything about what you’re eating or what your body looks like. But at those times when Uncle X or Auntie Y feel it’s alright to make a comment, you want the world to swallow you up.
Even an innocuous ‘have you lost weight’ or ‘you look well’ comment from old friends can leave a sinking feeling in your belly. The bizarre flush of pride (god damn you fat phobia society) and shame. Before you know it you’ve said, ‘Err… I dunno. Maybe? Thanks?’. Even innocent, well-meaning comments like this are not ok. And you have every right to put a stop to them.
At this time of year it's straight up war keeping healthy boundaries around comments on our bodies.
Here are some tips to help you stay strong in the fight against diet culture and weight bias this Christmas:
You have the right to eat and enjoy yourself. This is hella important. This is your mantra amongst the bullshit. You have the right to eat, the right to take up space and the right to enjoy yourself. One of the Intuitive eating principles is pleasure. Food is pleasure! I know that it’s super hard to let go of those fears that people are making judgements around what you’re eating, but try to push those negative thoughts to one side. It’s none of their god damn business and you have every right to enjoy the food as anyone else.
Have a strategy. A few days before an event, set aside 20 minutes to an hour to create a game plan around how you’re going to take care of yourself before, during and after. Write a few strong one liners for when critical comments come up so you don't have to panic in the moment and scramble for something to say. For example, you could go straight in with simply, ‘Thanks but I’m not discussing that with you’. Or go quick, smart and funny, such as: Them: ‘You’re going to eat that?’ Me: ‘Fucking yes I am!’
Here are some more suggestions:
Them: ‘What about your health?’
Me: ‘You do you Uncle X, I’ll do me.’
Them: ‘Sugar is addictive’
Me: Yeah I used to think that too but I realised that actually being overly restrictive and cutting out whole food groups was what made me feel much worse. I tend to feel my best when I eat a variety of different foods’
Them: ‘I’m trying this 5:2/paleo/SW/WW/detox cleanse’
Me: ‘I’m loving this new Intuitive Eating thing I’m doing. It helps you tune in to your body’s natural hunger and satiety cues and allows you to have a healthier relationship with food. No foods are off-limits and you don’t have to count things or feel weird about food, it’s great!’
Them: ‘I’m trying to be good this Christmas’
Me: ‘Eating for me isn’t about moral value. But good for you. I’m really enjoying all the joys of this time of year’
Them ‘have you lost weight?/you look well’
Me: ‘I know that comment was well-meaning so thank you - but I would rather you complimented me on my <insert excellent party trick here> and not on my appearance. And I’ll agree to do the same’
Stick to your boundaries. You may not be able to get out of going to Nana Doris’ house but you CAN get out of individual conversations. You are never obligated to spend time around people who bring you down. If you feel you would like to educate the ignorant folks around you, then explain how you’re rocking this body positivity thing and you would appreciate if they would respect that by reigning in the negativity.
Tell it how you feel. You totally have the right to articulate your feelings and be unconcerned about how others feel about it. If someone is being insensitive, rude or inappropriate saying things about what you look like or how you eat then you 100% have the right to say that you aren’t accepting their shit.
Walk away. You do not owe anyone anything and you do not need to make a stand unless you want to. I know, it’s exhausting. You are multi-dimensional unicorn of a human being - fuck anyone else’s opinion.
Don’t forget you are not just a number of scale. Don't waste time or energy thinking about how you look through other people's eyes. Those comments reduce us to only thinking about our bodies. This is total BS. Try and stay in the present moment to stop those unhelpful thoughts spiralling and remember that you’ll be back in your own world soon enough. Make a list of all the things the people who love you would say about you.
Remember that this society’s ignorance. Diet culture is everywhere. Often when someone is making a comment it’s about their own insecurities and internalised ideas around health, beauty and food. It’s not about you. (This doesn’t make it right but it can be helpful to remember that this is a war that will take a long time to win).
Follow positive inspirations. Fill your social feeds with body positive bloggers, non-diet nutritionists and other awesome body acceptance accounts. These will help give you strength when you’re feeling on your own. (And detox from anyone who triggers you.) And unfollow anyone making you feel shit about yourself.
You may not have total control over where you are at this time of year but you don't have to allow anyone to make you feel shit about yourself. Stay strong. I believe in you.
Get in touch if you'd like to chat more about a strategy this Christmas or into the New Year.
Love Harri Rose x