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How to Politely Handle Comments About Your Weight or Food During The Holidays

Politics might be off the table at your family get togethers this holiday season, but seeing friends and relatives you haven’t in a while can bring up comments about your weight, or the food you are eating and go on to affect 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.

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 your body. Use these responses and realizations to politely respond and never let a comment ruin your experience at a holiday get together.

Some situations may merit a conversation in private to let that person know that certain types of comments are impacting you more than they might think. Everyone 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 food because we simply don’t know their whole story.

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.

It can feel exhausting to have to justify your food choices or feel like you are being monitored for what you are and or are not eating at a holiday get togethers. Since food is the focal point, it’s hard not to talk about it but when it seems like all of your choices are being dissected, the food and food talk starts to lose it’s luster.

In most cases I believe that the people making the comments truly have no idea that they could cause harm to you. However, there are some instances where people do 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 the way they have been making you feel in private.

This raises the question: How do you handle people who comment on your weight and not let it affect how enjoy the rest of the night and see yourself?

How To Handle Comments About Weight Loss or Gain

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. That’s human nature!

If this person is truly concerned about your health I believe they would approach you in private and not publicly make a comment, knowing there might be something going on. That’s one way to tell the difference between someone who is truly concerned about weight loss that is unhealthy versus someone who might be envious of the way you look and wants you to feel bad about it.

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. 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.

“You’re too skinny you should eat more” or “Are you sure you should be eating that?” can be equally as detrimental to your happiness around the holiday table and quickly knock down your confidence in your food decisions. Trust me I’ve been there.

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

Take the High Road.

Of course it’s hard– in any situation you are told to “take the high road”, it’s never easy but always worth it. In most situations people are not trying to be deliberately mean with their comments, so don’t get snippy (I definitely have in the past) but in the spirit of the holiday season, keep the peace and move on to a different conversation topic with responses like this:

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 if I still feel hungry later.”‘

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

Response: “I think everyone is different when it comes to food choices and you have to do what works for you! I feel good when I eat this way.”

**Should you validate someones negative comment about themselves when it’s sorta part of a negative comment aimed at you? The answer is it’s up to you. I think you don’t need to address it, or in the past I’ve said things like “you look great and should give yourself more credit”. Win, win.

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

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

Cut. It. Off. The minute 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. If it’s a party you don’t have to be around that person if you don’t want to, or simply change the subject next time you’re around them to something not about the food or what you each are eating. The weather is a great topic! 😉

Comment: ” …… big girl”

Response: Open for interpretation.

Maybe they don’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 come into play.

In my personal experience being 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.

Never wanting their kids to not have enough food, my mom projected this onto me the moment she thought I wasn’t eating enough, etc. This was hard me but but today I can say I don’t fault her for it because she didn’t grow up at time when all bodies are celebrated and with all these different food choices. It was eat whats on the table or don’t eat, which is so different from now. We have two totally different outlooks on food and it’s taken a long time but we respect each other and I’ve made it clear to her that comments about my body are not ok. She didn’t know these were hurting my body image, so getting on the same page with family members about things like this is important. Communication around this topic is so hard but so worth it in the end.

Maybe your mom or aunt were very into diet culture in the 80s and 90s when low-fat foods were all the rage and bread was bad. They might not fully understand your food choices and that could definitely warrant a different private conversation. Maybe she got a lot of comments similar to the ones she’s saying to you and doesn’t even realize she’s doing it.

In some cultures it’s a status symbol to be “bigger” {whatever that definition may be}. 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.

Comment: “Look at Maggie, she’s eating a cookie”

Response: It’s delicious, have you tried one?! I baked them! (or whatever!)

This cuts it off and completely changes the tone of the conversation. Which is the best you can do in most situations.

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.

Your food choices do not have to be up for debate or display.

Bring Your Favorite Dish To Share.

If you feel left out because you’re not a fan of Aunt Joan’s {insert whatever classic holiday dish here} make your own version and bring it to share with others.

Perhaps someone else at the table is trying to make small dietary changes to improve their health too, but feel as though they can’t speak up or refuse any of the food because that would be rude. They too would be thrilled to have a healthy alternative at the table. In my experience no one ever turns down the offer to bring more food to a get together.

How to Handle Someone Else Talking About Their Diet

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” when you hear this other person talking about it. Chances are the people you are with don’t know about this journey you are on and just want to talk about themselves, aka their diet.

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 follow! Leave the room if you don’t want to be part of a diet conversation and unless your relative is an RD you don’t have to take food or diet advice from them!

Comment: ” I haven’t eaten all day, I’m so ready for this meal”

Response: “All the food does look delicious!”

Don’t acknowledge it and don’t start thinking back to all the food you ate during the day and feeling bad about it! The last thing I want you to do is put yourself down for eating food that our bodies NEED to function all day!

It’s actually smarter to fuel the way you would any other day even if you know you are going to a big meal that night. This prevents over eating and from literally being hangry all day waiting for food. You’re more in control of your food choices if you don’t show up famished. Just remember that!

Interested in gaining more confidence in your food choices and getting personalized nutrition information tailored to you?! Sign up to get exclusive updates when my Food Confidence course drops in 2020!

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"Maggie did a great job of listening to my needs and offering practical, cost-effective, and sustainable solutions."
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