In this article I offer my point of view on how to deal with diet & body talk at the Christmas table.
Conversations about body dissatisfaction, weight-loss intentions & food guilt are often dominant at the Christmas table.
Just like the weather, these seem to be popular topics when people get together, especially when they haven’t seen each other for a while.
When talking or commenting about ours or someone else’s weight, body shape, eating habits, often we take for granted that this kind of conversations are harmless, just another topic to keep the conversation going.
Truth is that for many being exposed to this kind of conversations and comments can hurt…a lot.
Especially if you’ve got an eating disorder or you’re recovering from one and these comments trigger very strong feelings.
Particularly if you’re already coming to that table with your own anxiety around the food you are going to eat or the stares from others at your plate.
Raise your hand if you’ve never received one of these comments:
“It’s great to see you. You look different. Have you gained/lost weight?”.
“Oh no that’s got too much sugar for me. I have to watch what I eat, or I’d be the size of a whale. But you go ahead and enjoy it for me too!” (Said with half disgusted, half pitiful, judgmental look in their face while they look at you).
Now these comments might not touch you at all, but if you’re here, chances are that to some extent they do.
And even if they don’t touch you personally anymore as they used to, you might be at a stage of your journey where you are getting more and more conscious of the importance of using a weight neutral and diet-free language in your family or with your friends.
What are some ways you could use to disengage from this kind of conversations or, if you like, use the diet talk to educate your friends and family about their potential harm?
1. Practice compassion
First of all, it’s useful to address any comments/remarks with compassion.
As Lindsay & Leslie Kite point out in their book More than a Body:
Our little splashes toward each other in the form of body comments are often friendly and well-intended, but they often reflect exactly what we have been taught to value in ourselves and others: smallness, thinness, youth, and all other narrow ideals about beauty.
Not everyone might be at your same stage of awareness of what diet-culture is and how it influences the way we think and feel about our bodies.
When their comment on their body or yours, they do that based on their own level of awareness, their own experience of receiving similar comments or simply living in a society where thin equals beautiful.
2. Politely reply or disengage
You’ve now considered with compassion that most of those comments are well-meaning, even though they might be expressed in a harsh way.
Ways to politely reply or disengage in these situations might be:
- “I wouldn’t know if I gain/lost weight because I don’t weigh myself anymore. So how is work going for you?” (Disengage from diet-talk and direct conversation elsewhere).
- “I’ve been learning a lot about people commenting on other people’s body and I’ve found that it can be useful to avoid it, as it can trigger strong feelings. You never know the reason behind their losing/gaining weight.” (Let people know it’s potentially harmful to comment on people’s body).
- “It’s great to see you. I’m currently working at improving my relationship with food and my body. And this work is very important to me. Do you mind if we don’t discuss my weight?” (Setting your boundaries on the fact that this is a no go topic for you).
- “It’s super tasty. If you feel like eating it, you should! It’s always best to listen to your body. I’ve found that the more I force myself to avoid something, the more I want later!” (Positively educating on the importance of not restricting the food choices for fear of gaining weight, or not classifying food as good or bad).
- “Can we try to stay away from diet-talk this year. I genuinely want to enjoy this meal, not feel miserable about it?” (A firm reply, for the most difficult situations).
Feeling at home in your body
I hope this article is useful for you and I’ll leave you with this lovely quote from the book Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison:
“For however long we’re on this planet, our bodies are where we live. They’re our original homes, the ones we carry with us wherever we go, from the womb to our deathbeds. Feeling connected to and at peace with them is crucial to feeling safe in the world.”
I wish you mindful festive season, filled with all the peopla & things that matter the most to you.
This Jan, I’m offering my new Workshop Nourished & Balanced: a Visual Board Party. to help you create your health & wellbeing vision for 2022, moving away from the need to shrink your body and go on a diet.
I look forward to seeing you there!