Christmas is fast approaching and today, I’m sharing my thoughts on holiday food and body shaming, plus comments to avoid around the table.
This time of year can be SO difficult for someone that struggles with their relationship with food or their body. Family members commenting about their bodies or eating habits does not help.
I wasn’t planning on sharing this, but this week, I saw a few posts by other great Canadian dietitians regarding comments on body weight during the holidays. I absolutely loved what they had to say and I felt so passionate about sharing the message, that I decided to share my own thoughts here.
So let’s get to it!
Why Is There So Much Food and Body Shaming During the Holidays?
There are many reasons why you may get food and body shaming around the holidays. Maybe you didn’t experience this with your family or maybe you did. Either way, here are some of the possible reasons behind these comments (from experience and observation):
For some of use, this is the only time of the year that we see our family. For that reason, normal changes in appearance may become more obvious. Let’s be real, our bodies can change a lot in the course of a year. It’s completely normal! Our weight naturally fluctuates up and down. Sometimes it may be apparent, sometimes not.
For some, commenting on people’s change in appearance may be a form of small talk. When they first see you, they may say comments like: “You look good” or “You lost weight!” or even “Have you gained weight?”. Those comments have become normal for some, but what some people may not know is that they can be harmful.
Another reason for body or food shaming can be the simple fact that people are reflecting their own insecurities on others. They may comment on weight gain to make themselves feel better about their own bodies. They may encourage you to eat more to make themselves feel better about eating more themselves.
Finally, people can simply make those comments out of genuine concern. Honestly, this may be the case most times. They don’t mean any harm, but it doesn’t make it appropriate. The holiday table, around all of your family and friends, is certainly not the place to express those concerns. It’s often better to keep those things to yourself. That person is most likely aware (and self-conscious) of their weight gain or weight loss.
Comments to Avoid Around the Holiday Table
That being said, let’s go through some comments you should avoid around the holiday table (or ever).
Don’t Comment on Someone’s Weight Loss
You may think you’re giving them a compliment, but you’re not. Most likely, the person will be thinking “did I need to lose weight? Was I too heavy?”. And not to mention the others around you hearing this. They may be thinking “I need to look like her/him, why didn’t they compliment me?”.
You don’t know everyone’s history with food. Maybe they’ve developed an eating disorder. Maybe they suffer from anxiety that’s been affecting their appetite or maybe they’re suffering from grief or depression. It can be triggering and insensitive. Not to mention, it feeds the notion that thinner is better. Think twice before commenting on weight changes.
Absolutely NO GOOD comes out of commenting on someone’s weight loss. Whether the comment is intended as a compliment or not.
Don’t Comment on Someone’s Weight Gain
This is likely more obvious, but you should never comment on other’s weight gain. If you think you’re doing them a favor, you’re NOT.
First, they probably know that they gained weight and they’re probably self conscious about it. Second, you commenting about it is not going to make them change that. If there’s anything, it’s going to trigger negative thoughts and behaviors. It will not help and motivate them to lose weight.
Just Don’t Comment on Other’s Appearance at All
Weight loss, weight gain, age, anything! We’re not defined by our appearance. Instead, compliment others on their accomplishments. Discuss their goals. Find something else to talk about.
Don’t Comment on the Food/Portions on Someone’s Plate
Let others eat what they want! Trust that they’re doing what’s best for them. The holidays are a time to enjoy good food in good company. People are likely going to eat more and enjoy treats. That’s okay! Don’t make them feel bad about it. You probably don’t know how they eat the rest of the year or what’s best for them. Not everyone has the same appetite, preferences or habits as you.
Don’t Justify Your Own Choices
You don’t need to justify your choices to those around you. Just eat the food and avoid comments like “I exercised this morning”, “this is my cheat day”, “I shouldn’t be eating this”, “I’ll start eating better in January”, “I’ll have to go for a walk to burn this off”, “Calories don’t count on Christmas day”. Just don’t make yourself or others feel bad about what they’re eating. Enjoy the experience.
Eating with A Dietitian
While we’re at it, I’d also love to share my own pet peeve as a dietitian. If you ever eat with a dietitian, don’t look at what we’re eating and say “Aren’t you a dietitian?”. We’re human too and we don’t eat a perfect diet. We know that eating perfectly is not a thing and that treats are a part of healthy diet. Don’t come at us for eating cake. Also, we’re not judging your plate, so please don’t feel like you should justify your choices around us.
All that to say, please think twice before you comment on someone’s body or food choices. It’s not helpful and can be very harmful. The Holidays are full of good food and no one should feel bad about themselves and their choices. Let’s all enjoy the holidays without judgment!
And with that, I’m wishing you all a great holiday season!