Do Comments About Your Weight and Diet Abound During the Holidays?
The aroma of turkey, dressing, and appetizing dishes permeated the house. Laughter and conversation created a warm atmosphere and seeing relatives I hadn’t seen in years gave me flashbacks from years ago. It was Thanksgiving, the holiday that brings family & friends together from far away places to enjoy warm company and delicious food. I had just finished getting my young daughters situated at their kid-sized picnic table outside and was walking back into the house ready to serve myself. We had traveled to Florida for the holiday and were gathering with many family members you only see on occasion (and via Facebook). Just as I closed the door to walk inside someone made eye contact with me. As I walked over to give her a hug she said,
“You really should read that book, ‘Eating For Your Blood Type’. If you did, you wouldn’t be feeding those babies of yours the way you do. It’s great that they eat spaghetti squash and all (referencing a Facebook picture I had posted a few months ago), but you really need to read this book. You’d look at nutrition differently.”
It was almost as if we were already in a conversation, but we weren’t.
She then went on to tell me how this book has revolutionized her life and helped her lose weight and get rid of bloating.
When holiday gatherings turn into open mic night for weight, diet, and food critics
Comments about your weight gain, weight loss, what you should be eating, body type, body size, looking good, looking tired, food, eating too much, eating too little, what we should be eliminating and trendy diets are fairly common at parties and gatherings, especially during the holidays.
To be fair, we ALL do this from time to time. In fact, I find myself using the word ‘should’ more often than I would like to acknowledge in conversations with others. We are inundated with diet culture and it would be erroneous to think we never fall into rhythm with it, sometimes with good intentions. It’s okay to have opinions and it’s natural to want to insert them into our conversations.
There are probably a few reasons why diet culture seems to show up unannounced and unwelcome at our holiday gatherings. Often, people haven’t seen each other for long periods of time, making any changes in appearance feel more pronounced. Certain holidays are centered around food gatherings and many types of fun foods that are delicious but rich. Many individuals feel compelled to share their latest weight loss strategy, assured it is the “golden ticket” for humanity. Of course, sometimes comments and critique come from deep places of insecurity, regret, and personal inner struggle.
The wisest opinions and critiques are often not shared.
But this doesn’t give anyone permission to comment, insult, praise or share their opinions – about your body, what you are eating, how you look or the food you and your family choose to eat. It’s really just not their concern – or at least, it shouldn’t be.
In our house, one of the things I am teaching my daughters is how to care for and be responsible for their bodies. As kids, they need a parent to teach, train, and help them practice. They will grow into women that know that their body is their own temple – they are in charge of it.
Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it. 1 Cor 6:19-20 (TLB).
I am in charge of stewarding my body. I am teaching my daughters to steward theirs. Your aunt is in charge of hers alone. Your grandma doesn’t get a say. The only person who has the right to decide what is good for your body is you. And, those who are truly concerned about a friend or family member’s health or behaviors would be wise to speak with that person privately.
But sadly, many people feel the need to make direct, indirect, passive-aggressive and all sorts of snide remarks about our size, food choices, and appearance. And by the way, commenting on someone’s thinness (or weight loss) isn’t always smart either as it may reinforce unhealthy eating behaviors or excessive restriction – behaviors that keep that person bound to diets and far from freedom.
This research study of more than 2,000 adults showed that 36% of young women and 25% of young men received some form of hurtful weight-related comments from family members. And these sometimes ‘teasing’ and sometimes direct comments can increase the risk of disordered eating, poor body image and related emotional outcomes including binge eating and purging.
Chances are, you have heard some type of hurtful remark. Someone might have commented on your weight, saying, “You look a little fluffier than I remember.” Maybe someone asked, “Should you be eating that?” Or maybe a family member has a hurtful nickname that they gave you as a kid and they use it on occasion as a jab when they see you.
There could be a controlling family member who is overly concerned about her own weight and feels everyone else should be too.
First, I just want to say that I am sorry about these comments on your weight and diet.
You don’t deserve that.
Solomon reminds us,
Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit. Pro 18:21 (NKJV)
There are a lot of different ways to deflect, ignore, or address these types of critical remarks. And because something might come up this holiday season, it’s important to consider ways to respond (verbally or non-verbally) that feels right to us. To be honest, I was totally caught off guard by my situation. I don’t want you to be too.
Please know this: nobody has the right to make decisions for you and your body nor do they have the right to comment on it.
God has given you full responsibility over your body, your temple. But IF someone has concerns or sees behaviors that cause alarm, there are ways to kindly and gently reach out.
And unless harm is being done to your children OR this individual is a mentor or in your inner circle and you have given him or her the right to speak into your life, they don’t have permission to comment on your kids or parenting style either.
How should we respond to these unwelcomed comments?
I have seen a lot of dietitians and healthcare professionals offer guidance on this topic, but the key is finding the right phrase or response that works for you. It still might require a little courage, but it has to feel like it is your words.
Here are a few ideas:
- Totally ignore it and change the subject. How is Lydia enjoying the singing lessons she began this fall?
- Again, totally ignore it and change the subject. What was one of your favorite books that you read this year? ()
- Acknowledge concern, but deflect from weight/diet talk. I am going through a really stressful time right now but I am working toward taking better care of myself.
- Be blunt, PERIOD. Don’t say anything else and leave the conversation. I really appreciate your concern.
- Be even more direct, then end the conversation. Thank you for your concern. I am in charge of my health and my body.
- Be a little snarky. There are much more interesting things to talk about than my body! What have you been up to lately?
Remember that while we are ALL called to live a life of love, we don’t have to engage in conversation that isn’t uplifting, productive, or kind. If someone is really concerned about your health – if they really care about you – they won’t embarrass you, use passive-aggressive language, call you names, or use a social setting to talk about a deep concern.
So, what is the play call?
Team, we are daughters and sons of the Most High God. You don’t have to participate in hurtful, discouraging or belittling conversations about your food choices, body size, or weight. You are a child of the King. He calls you Beloved.
Henry Cloud, co-author of Boundaries states, “You get what you tolerate.”
Let’s not tolerate diet talk and unproductive criticism at our holiday gatherings. Let’s invite the presence of God and refuse words that aren’t life-giving. Let’s move away from commenting on our physicality and move towards noticing our character.
We are all in process and learning to steward our body in a way that honors God, allows us to live out our calling with vigor and is practical for our season of life.
Jesus, we welcome you to our holiday gatherings. May the words of our mouth and the unspoken thoughts of our heart be pleasing to you (Psalm 19:14).