Lifestyle & Wellness

How to Politely Handle Weight and Food Comments During The Holidays

No matter where you go, there is always the likelihood that someone will comment on your weight or food choices, or mention their own issues with food. Here are solutions for those situations so that you can be more comfortable during holiday gatherings.

how to handle weight and food comments during the holidays

Politics might be off the table at your family get togethers, but seeing friends and relatives you haven’t been around in a while can bring up comments about how you look, your weight or lead to unwanted and triggering comments about food comments about what you’re eating or not eating. Obviously those types of comments and dialogue can really impact the way you feel about yourself the rest of the night and beyond.

My goal with writing this post on how to handle comments about your weight and food is to help you maintain confidence in all of your food choices and in your body image when these types of comments arise.

Dealing With Food Comments and Comments About Weight

It can be really hard not to let comments about weight or food from friends and family get to you, especially if you are in the process of healing your relationship with food and loving your body more. Use these responses and realizations to politely respond to the situation and hopefully not let a comment ruin your time at a holiday get together.

Some situations may merit a conversation in private to let that person know that comments and diet talk are impacting you more than they might think. Everyone is at a different place in their health, nutrition and wellness journey and I think it’s SO important to respect others’ decisions when it comes to what they are eating or not eating because we simply don’t know everything that might be going on with them. That is truly so important to remember during the holiday season and year round.

DISCLAIMER: These comments and strategies are not intended to be used to hide or mask an eating disorder. My intention is not to help anyone who truly needs help, alienate themselves from friends and family. If you are struggling with an eating disorder I strongly urge you to seek help from a registered dietitian. You can look for one in your area here.

The Nature of Conversations at Holiday Gatherings

Since food is the focal point of most holiday gatherings, comments on what people are eating or not eating, and diet talk can come up somewhat naturally. While I believe that certain comments are not meant in a harmful way and are more of a byproduct of our culture. I do understand that they can be very triggering for those of us who are trying to love our bodies more and reject diet culture for a better overall relationship with food.

That said, unfortunately there are some cases when people make comments about your appearance with the intention of hurting your feelings to make themselves feel better, and that is not ok.

That is when you have to decide if you want to be around those people, or if it warrants a greater conversation with them about how food or appearance comments make you feel at this time.

In this blog post I did my best to answer the questions:

  1. “How do you handle triggering situations when people make comments on your weight?”
  2. “How do you handle triggering situations when people make food comments and judge your choices?”
  3. “How do you not let either of these affect the way you feel about yourself?”

How To Handle Comments On Your Weight and the Way You Look

If you haven’t seen a friend or a family member in a long time, it’s easy to gravitate toward making a comment about the way they look right off the bat. It’s something us women have been somewhat primed to naturally do.

However, sometimes comments are made that do more harm than good, and can bring up thoughts or behaviors you weren’t anticipating from someone’s comment at the holiday gathering.

Unfortunately, I have seen this happen and experienced it myself. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others and it’s really hard not to do, so perhaps that friend is a little jealous of how you look (or wants to make healthy choices like they see you making) and says something to make you feel insecure to hide their own insecurities.

So how do you ensure that you don’t internalize these comments and that they bounce right off of you?!

Here are a couple of examples of how to handle comments about the way you look and what you are eating in a polite way that protects your peace.

Addressing Comments About Your Health

If a person is truly concerned about your health, I believe they would approach you in private and not publicly make a comment. That’s one way to tell the difference between someone who is truly concerned about you versus someone who might be projecting their own insecurities about the way THEY look onto you.

What to Say When Someone Comments on Your Body Size

It’s more about them, not you. A friend making a negative comment about the way you look can be more of a reflection about how they are feeling about themselves rather than you. You know your body best, and we all go through different phases of life where our bodies can change.

Unfortunately this happens with women all too often and I wish it didn’t. Even a friend who again may not necessarily be trying to hurt your feelings might make a comment about the way you look to make themselves feel better. It’s hard to take the high road and realize it’s more about them and not you, but being able to realize that may help take some of the emotion out of the situation when you’re feeling upset about a comment.

Situation: Weight Comments

Comment: ” …… big girl”

Response: Open for interpretation.

Maybe they didn’t call you a “big girl” (or something like that) flat out but these words slip into a comment inadvertently. Here is where I think cultural and generational differences can come into play.

However, if you weren’t sure if you understood their intention in saying that, you can ask them to explain what they meant. That way, it’s a non-accusatory way to open the dialogue and leave room for you to also share how that comment impacted you.

How to Respond to Weight Loss Comments

There is no rulebook for how to handle negative comments about weight.

For those of us who are working on loving our bodies mores, and having a healthy relationship with all foods comments like: “you’re too skinny, you should eat more” or “are you sure you should be eating that?”, can quickly make you feel insecure and knock down your confidence in your food decisions for the rest of the night and beyond.

In most situations I believe people are not trying to be deliberately hurtful with their comments. I also think it’s really important to mention here (and we’ll talk more about this later) the cultural and generational differences that are a factor in certain comments being made about weight.

When a comment is made and you’re starting to internalize it, remind yourself that your body is unique, and if you purposefully lost weight, why you lost the weight in the first place — for you, not any one else!

Situation: Weight Comments Tied to Food Comments

Comment: “You’re too skinny you should eat more.”

Response: “I’m happy with what’s on my plate right now — all the food looks great! I’ll get more food if I feel hungry later.”‘

Comment: “You don’t have to watch what you’re eating because you’re skinnier than me.”

Response: “Everyone eats differently.”

Comment: “Are you sure you should be eating that?”

Response: “Yeah! I know what’s best for my body, thanks!”

In situations where you feel like someones comment can trigger you to be in a negative place about your food choices or body image, cut it off, change the subject or take yourself out of the situation by leaving the room. That is truly the best thing to do in 99.9% of these situations.

Changing the subject the next time you’re around that person or changing the subject as politely as you can the next time it comes up is a simple way to protect your peace and put up a boundary around that type of dialogue. After all, a holiday get together is not the place to debate/ discuss your habits.

Cultural Views on Body Image and Their Impact

In my personal experience, as the child of two Polish immigrants who grew up at a time where food was not always abundant, being skinny at that time might have meant that you were sick or didn’t have enough food. This really impacted the way my mom and dad viewed food.

If you think about it, body positivity, intuitive eating, and the concept of having a positive relationship with food are all fairly new beliefs. Our moms, grandmothers, and aunts didn’t grow up viewing food in this way.

Remembering that there are so many different cultural and generational differences from an older relative who may make a comment about food or the way you look can again help you take some of the emotion out of it and help you realize realize they are probably not doing it to be hurtful, but based on their beliefs and understandings of food they didn’t think twice about that type of comment.

If you find that this happens a lot, I think it can be helpful to sit down with that family member and explain your beliefs around food and your health habits so that they are aware that certain comments may make you feel uncomfortable.

Family Commenting on Weight and Food Choices

Maybe your mom or aunt were very into diet culture in the 80’s and 90’s when low-fat foods were all the rage and bread was bad. They might not fully understand your food choices and that them talking about these fad diets is triggering for you because you have opted out of diet culture.

In some cultures it’s a status symbol to be bigger. So they could be thinking this is a complement {“oh you look so big now”} and now you are super self-conscious about your food choices around them and at the party because in you’re mind you don’t want to be “bigger” based on what they just said because you didn’t see yourself this way. The interpretation is a huge part of it!

Whenever comments like this come from an older relative I just try to remember I have no idea what their definition of big vs. small or skinny or anything really is. I mean this in the best way possible but I just remember their opinion of my body does not matter to me.

Agreeing to Disagree with Parents or Other Family Members

If you find that food or body comments are something you constantly faced with from family members, it may be time to have a conversation about how you feel when comments like that are made. It’s also a good opportunity to explain a little bit about your beliefs journey regarding food and your body so that they understand how certain comments can be triggering and unwanted.

At the end of the day you don’t need to agree with everything the other person believes about food choices, etc but you do need to respect each other and understand where the boundary is for talking about this topic. That’s the best thing you can do with family members who have different beliefs about food, body size, and what the definition of healthy means.

Situation: Food Comments with Opinions

Comment: “Wow, look at you, you’re eating a cookie”

Response: “Yeah, it’s delicious.”

To me, this is one of those comments that is aimed at being deliberately hurtful to you and totally inappropriate. I say cut it off, and walk away. This is a good example of realizing they are projecting their own insecurities on you.

By doing this, you started to see what they might have been implying and politely showed them that this topic is not up for discussion in this type of setting in the nicest way possible.

Remember, your food choices do not have to be up for debate or display.

How to Handle Someone Else Talking About Their Own Food Issues

Maybe you are healing your relationship with food and your body and diet talk can be triggering because part of you might still think that going on a diet is the only way to “eat healthy”. Something someone says about a diet they’re eating or not eating can make you feel bad about what you’re eating or not eating.

Remember that when you feel as though their choices are superior to yours, set the example of respecting their food choices and not scrutinizing them and they will hopefully follow. Leave the room if you don’t want to be part of a diet conversation, change the subject in a polite way or if you’re comfortable enough with them let them know you’re on your own healthy journey and you’d rather not be a part of these conversations at the moment.

Situation: Food Comments Someone Else Makes About Themselves

Comment: ” I haven’t eaten all day.”

Response: Nothing OR “All the food does look delicious!”

Here’s the scenario. If your friend/relative shows up at the party exclaiming they haven’t eaten anything all day to prepare for eating food at the party. Suddenly you think back to all the things you ate during the day and instantly feel bad that you didn’t eat less or nothing to “prepare” for eating party food.

First off you should NOT feel bad for eating during the day because our bodies need food to function more than once a day. It’s actually smarter to fuel the way you would any other day even if you know you are going to a party that night. This prevents over eating and from being hangry all day waiting for food. You’re more in control of your food choices if you don’t show up famished.

I also think this type of comment is made to make that person feel better about themselves. They are justifying how much they are going to eat by saying they haven’t eaten all day to unfortunately hide their own food insecurities. When you are able to spot a comment like that, it’s easier to realize it’s not about you.

Bottom Line When It Comes to Weight and Food Comments

Your food choices and appearance are not up for debate or display. Diet talk and comments will unfortunately never go away, but you are in control of how you handle them. Take yourself out of the conversation or talk to a family member or friend in private if you want them to know how those types of comments make you feel.

Remember that most times it’s about the other person projecting their insecurities onto you, and if they have a real concern about your health they wouldn’t make a public comment that could really hurt your feelings. Cultural and generational factors come into play when it comes to diet talk and comments on appearance too. Consider that if the comment is coming from an older relative who doesn’t know that body image and health have different definitions in this day and age.

If you read this blog post and find that it helps you navigate holiday get togethers or any other eating situations with a little more confidence in your food choices and how to handle when it comment is made, I’d love to know! I hope this helps you enjoy yourself at get togethers this holiday season and helps take some of the stress out of responding when different comments arise.

Remember that at the end of the day you know best when it comes to the types of choices you want to make for yourself! Don’t apologize for honoring your body and doing whats necessary to set boundaries in situations that might make you uncomfortable.

Join the Conversation

6 thoughts on “How to Politely Handle Weight and Food Comments During The Holidays

  1. Honestly, I just don’t know why people think they have any right to comment about my weight or how I look, it’s not their business, I eat what I want, I look great, leave me be right?

    1. Exactly! It’s more about them than it is about you when someone says something about your weight. That’s what I’ve found!

  2. Love this!! I don’t get why people feel the NEED to say stuff like this. It’s a party, we should all just be trying to have fun. Regardless, all this is very good to keep in mind!! Thank you

  3. It is definitely difficult not to overreact to the comments we get about food and weight. This post calmly explains how one must control ourselves. Thank you for sharing the helpful post.