When You Have to Be Around Body Shamers

none of your businessMaybe it’s at a work function, or maybe it’s at a family event – if you know that you are probably going to have to deal with people who will mistake your body for their business, there are some strategies you can employ.

If you’re dealing with the friends and family food police (think “Do you need to eat that?”)  then you can use some of these techniques.

But if you’re in a situation where you feel like you can’t set a boundary and consequences, or you need some other strategies you definitely still have options.

Create a mantra

I recommend this one regardless of what else you choose to do. Come up with  simple phrase that you can repeat to yourself to remind you that these people are out of line, inappropriate, and don’t know what they are talking about.  Some examples:

  • You don’t know what you’re talking about
  • Wow is this inappropriate
  • Feel free to yammer on about things you don’t understand
  • So sad that you’ve bought into all this
  • This is bullshit! (my personal favorite)

Hey you, look at you!

Try to redirect the conversation by asking questions about them. Often people who feel so self-important that they think everyone will welcome their unsolicited advice are also people who love to talk about themselves.

  • What do you do?
  • That’s a great [article of clothing/accessory] where did you get it?  Follow up with how they have great taste and where they like to shop.
  • So what do you do outside of work?
  • Ask questions related to anything you know about them – kids, pets, hobbies, anything

How about that local and/or college sporting team

Redirect to common subjects, either your conversation will turn to common things, or they will move on to someone else.

  • How about that weather?
  • How about that sports team?
  • Did you hear about completely unexciting thing in the news?
  • Do you watch [insert television show]? If not what do you watch?


Move the conversation to something juicier – maybe politics, religion, or sex.  You’ll either start a much more interesting conversation, or they’ll move on.

  • Can you believe [that politician] did [that thing?]
  • Did you hear about that [awesome thing] that [celebrity]
  • How about that thing the Pope said?
  • What do you think of that Supreme Court Decision?


You can do this in an actual attempt to educate, or just to derail the conversation.

  • Have you heard of Health at Every Size?  Let me tell you about it.
  • Have you heard of Size Acceptance?  Let me tell you about it.
  • How do you reconcile the views your expressing with the findings of Wei et. al, Matheson et. al, Mann and Tomiyama, and the Cooper Institute Longitudinal Studies? Maybe we should just talk about something else then.

Not recommended but fun to think about

Burn the house down.

  • How are your bowel movements?
  • What’s your favorite sexual position?
  • So, how is being a completely inappropriate busybody working out for you?

Regardless of what you decide to do, I think it’s really important to remember to place the problem where it belongs – which is far away from you and your body and right smack dab on the person who feels like it’s ok to wax poetic about their thoughts on you, your body, your habits or anything else that you haven’t asked for their opinion about.

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Looking for more skills to deal with being fat in a fat-phobic word?  Check out the Fat Activism Conference. Three days, 38 amazing speakers, teleconference style so that you can listen from wherever you are by phone or computer, and downloads of the workshops so that you can listen live, or on your own time. Only $39 bucks with a pay-what-you-can option to make it affordable for everyone!  Join us and let’s talk about tools for the revolution!

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21 thoughts on “When You Have to Be Around Body Shamers

  1. And it’s also lucky that sometimes you can see someone you simply HAVE to talk to across the room. No, really, you do. Right. This. Minute.

    Need for a bathroom break can also be amazingly handy.

    I think my favorite mantra is: Look at it trying to logic, bless it!

  2. What if I don’t feel like talking to people who disrespect my body and therefore disrespect me? I mean I find it hard not to make a scene when somebody thinks they can lecture me about what I should eat and “when I will die from >artery disease<" or call me a "little piggie" in front of everyone. The sex position one is great though 😛 Burning down the house is also a favourite 😉 Great blog I like to keep coming back to.

  3. May I add my personal favorite (which you’ve mentioned in the past)? “I am not the asshole whisperer.” With practice I’ve learned to keep a straight face.

  4. I love the ‘what’s your favorite sexual position’! My husbands family would be the only one making these comments in the spirit of truth and concern (yeah right) but they are so obsessively private about everything about themselves especially sex which is taboo…it’s just hysterical in my mind 🙂 they are beyond educating because they are always right! I think my husband was adopted. Thanks, for all you do.

    1. If would also be incredibly funny to be a fly on the wall watching you have that thought in response to their antics.

  5. Needed this one at work today: Feel free to yammer on about things you don’t understand. How do I spell relief? R-A-G-E-N.

  6. It’s all about context, isn’t it?? In German, they call that “escalation”…Germans, as you probably can guess from stereotypes, are pretty closed-mouthed about personal things until they REALLY get to know you (and even then, they don’t discuss personal stuff at work). But once you socialise with them, then it’s sometimes a free-for-all with that lovely German bluntness: “You are too fat. I know a good exercise program…here is the number. I go on Tuesdays. You should come with me.”

    Yeah, it really is like that, but the difference is…it’s not personal, usually. But what they consider personal and what Americans consider personal can be worlds apart. And sarcasm is lost on them.

    Having said that…if someone makes a comment that I feel is too personal or just plain shitty, I use my fabulously trained opera voice and say quite loudly, “You know, you really shouldn’t discuss anal sex quite so freely. It might offend someone. Although I am glad to hear things have loosened up for you.”

  7. HAH. My husband’s family does that thing where all they talk about is food and carbs and good food/bad food but never actually say anything overtly fatphobic to me except to ask every. single. time. we eat together: “Do you like vegetables?”

  8. At a family gathering, my husband’s son kept questioning what I ate, how much I ate, wasn’t I worried about my waistline, etc.. Finally, I thanked him for deciding to take on the responsibility of worrying about my food intake and weight because that relieved me of the burden of having to think about them. Then, every time he made a similar comment I thanked him again and ate whatever I wanted to. Eventually he got the message that nothing he said made any difference to me and shut up.

  9. My personal favourte to use is “Are you done with the verbal pollution yet?” I have had many people stop and look at me then completely shut up. I find being direct works very well for me. Though I may have to use the bowel movement one.

  10. OMG – love these ideas. I use the scandalous to get out of conversations with my family. The latest one I used on my catholic nana was after i visited her on my holiday (for rest at a friends place as I was unwell and have 4 homeschooled special needs kids – so rest at home isn’t an option) and she was asking how many more times she could see me (in 4 days) so I said “did you know they have discovered the clitoris is actually a lager sex organ than the penis?” and then called a cab while she and my very catholic uncle (who has never dated) sat there in stunned silence. I felt so mean afterwards. But there was no call after that to ask me back and so I spent the next 4 days in my pjs.

  11. Many years ago after I’d gained 100 lbs in 10 weeks from taking a medication, I was at my sister-in-law’s house & she’d made this really delicious pie. I went for a second piece, which one would think she’d take as a compliment. What she said was along the lines of “Do you really need another piece of pie?” My reply, which I’ve used often since, completely shut her up: “Yes, I do!! You wouldn’t believe how many calories are required to maintain a body this big!!!”

    I am totally confident no matter what my body size is, & I’ve weighed as little as 125 & as high as 275 over the years of my adulthood. I don’t see my body size as relevant, so most people I talk to don’t see it that way either. It’s amazing how having a certain attitude will change other people’s actions & reactions. *Huge grin*

    1. I’d like to add that I am a very direct person. I don’t do well at playing social games with people, plus subtlety doesn’t always get one’s point across.

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