Combating Holiday Weight Shame

You Forgot Your BullshitThe article “Tell Loved Ones They are Overweight This Christmas” is making the rounds again. I will not be linking to it because I have no interest in driving traffic there. I will say that should my loved ones take this advice the follow up article will be “I Told My Loved One She Is Overweight and She Told Me to Sit Down, Shut Up and Mind My Own Damn Business.”

The article says that in a poll of more than 2,000 people, 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds would not tell a loved one they should lose weight because of a fear they would hurt the other person’s feelings.

According to the article, this suggests that ” too many people shy away from the issue”.  According to me this proves that 42% of 18-24 year olds have common decency and/or realize that it is impossible for a fat person in our culture to not know that society has a negative opinion about our size.  Stated another way, 58% of 18-24 year olds did not eat their bowl of No Shit Sherlock Flakes on the day that the poll was taken.

According to their so-called expert (who works for an organization that appears to make money pretending that they successfully make fat people thin), “if someone close to you has a large waistline then as long as you do it sensitively, discussing it with them now could help them avoid critical health risks later down the line and could even save their life.”

No, it won’t.  Discussing it with them will do nothing for their health but may very well ruin their holiday and your relationship, so there’s no need to put on your “Concern Troll Man” tights and cape and self-righteously pretend that you are the super hero who saves fat people from ourselves.

Every person who deals with this kind of bullshit (whether it’s holiday related or not) gets to decide how they want to handle it. You are, as always, the boss of your underpants.

Let me suggest that you don’t have to put up with weight shame (during holidays you celebrate or any other time). You don’t have to put up with body snarking, body stigma, or concern trolling. You don’t have to allow a running commentary on your body, health, or food choices from anyone.   You don’t have to accept treatment you don’t like because people are your family, friends, or because they “mean well”.  And you don’t have to internalize other people’s bullshit, you don’t have to buy into the thin=better/healthier/prettier paradigm or be preached at by people who do.

Loving your body is an act of sheer courage and revolution in this culture. Instead of another article about how to avoid holiday weight gain, here’s what I would like to see all over Facebook, and hear on the radio, television and at gatherings all over the world during the holidays and every other time of year:

My body is not a representation of my failures, sins, or mistakes. My body is not a sign that I am in poor health, or that I am not physically fit neither of which is your business regardless. My body is not up for public discussion, debate or judgment. My body is not a signal that I need your help or input to make decisions about my health or life.  My body is the constant companion that helps me do every single thing that I do every second of every day and it deserves respect and admiration. If you are incapable of appreciating my body that is your deficiency, not mine, and I do not care. Nor am I interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter so, if you want to be around me, you are 100% responsible for doing whatever it takes to keep those thoughts to yourself. If you are incapable of doing that I will leave and spend my time with people who can treat me appropriately.  Please pass the green beans.

As always I think that preparation is the best friend of the fatty. If you suspect that you may be the victim of holiday weight shame then I suggest being prepared.  Here are some ideas:

Know what your boundaries are and decide on consequences that you can live with ahead of time.  Don’t threaten things that you won’t follow through on.  So try something like “My body is fine, your behavior is inappropriate. If there is one more comment about my weight, I am leaving.”  Practice it before you go so that you are ready. The common thread among my friends who have done this is that they’ve only had to do it once and then their bodies (and wishes) were respected, and they all report feeling incredibly empowered.  As always, your mileage may vary.

Consider talking with members of your family who have been repeat offenders prior to the holiday.  Or send out a holiday newsletter e-mail explaining your commitment to Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size and that comments about your weight are not welcome.  Remind yourself (as often as necessary) that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you – their concern trolling behavior is inappropriate.

Do what it takes to take care of yourself, have a friend you can call for support, create a mantra, or keep an index card or note on your phone with inspiring quotes.  Keep putting the problem where it belongs – which is on the concern trolls and not on your body.

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63 thoughts on “Combating Holiday Weight Shame

  1. A woman went off on me on a friend’s Facebook page, when I suggested that such conversations were inappropriate. She was bitter and angry that her husband has health problems and that he’s not eating right, therefore it’s totally OK for her to demand that he listen to her tell him the specifics of how wrong and messed-up he is, what she thinks he should do/feel/eat/think, and anyone who thinks he isn’t entitled to her non-stop opinion is just spouting some politically correct party line. She flounced after someone pointed out she seemed more interested in being right and berating everyone, including her husband, with her bitterness.

  2. If the people you spend time with during the holidays spend a lot of their time berating you for your weight, perhaps it’s time to spend the holidays with someone else.

    There’s a reason my brother doesn’t get to come to my house for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

    Do whatever you need to do to stay safe for the holiday season, and that includes your emotional safety.

    1. Absolutely! If they can’t act right, then they don’t deserve the pleasure of your company, and you don’t deserve to have to suffer their obnoxious comments.

  3. In addition to concern trolling, there is also a boundaries issue. Sure, when you love people, it can be hard to see them doing anything that is self-harmful. Drug addiction, smoking, cutting. Even eating things that badly affect certain health issues.

    BUT at some point, you have to recognize that they have ultimate control over their own lives. How any person makes peace with someone they love making self-harming choices is not an easy answer.

    HOWEVER, the things I mentioned above are far different from deciding someone needs to be told they are fat and it is bad for them.

    Anyone who is fat knows it as soon as they try to find nice clothes. Heck, in some cases, they know it as soon as they encounter other human beings.

    Being Captain Obvious by telling someone they are fat is just being a rude jerk. There is no way to be ‘sensitive’ about something like this. There is no denial about being fat. If there is, the individual probably needs the kind of help a random friend/family member can’t give.

    I sincerely wish all the readers here can enjoy their holidays without that kind of ‘sensitivity’. At least in part, if nothing else.

  4. The ‘polite concern’ from my family started when I was a UK 14-16, I’m now a UK 32 which gives me a reasonable fit with small cut clothes and a baggy fit with others which I generally prefer.

    Funnily enough nobody ever bothers policing what I eat any more, they do however nag my little sister who has the same build as me (but carries less weight) hopefully she’ll stop dieting before she gains as much as I did and she’ll stay more active than I did (I walked lots but avoided other forms of exercise due to fat shaming). My little sister who has a thinner build rarely gets asked if she ‘really needs to eat that’ despite the fact both my sisters have very similar eating habits. The thin one, however, will sit there and say how fat she feels after a big meal while I’m at the table – kinda boggles my mind that she doesn’t realise the implications.

    We don’t see each other much these days, keeps me loving them.

    1. Thin people whining about how fat they are really bothers me too. In high school my two thin as crap friends would eat like twice as much as me, still be hungry, and I’m like, on the verge of vomiting I’m so full. The one used to complain about being chubby all the time, to me. I’d say something to her about it, and after a while it switched from “I’m fat” to “I want abs” which was a lot better to hear all the time.

  5. If I have asked for your opinion or assistance with anything pertaining to my body, you have every right to offer it. However,if I have not asked for your opinion or assistance with anything pertaining to my body, I do not expect you to offer it. If you do offer it, I will offer my assistance in changing your regional accent and the number of double negatives you use, as well as your spelling. And I may also inquire about the number of bowel movements you have had today.

    So…in other words…you probably don’t want to go there…

  6. Given that I am the Designated Christmas Cookie Baker in my house, this is how I plan to deal with any holiday weight shaming that my mom might decide to pull out:

    “You really shouldn’t eat that, Lindsay.”
    “Really? Maybe I shouldn’t bake cookies this year either!”

    I think that most of my family, both immediate and extended, would rise up in arms if they didn’t get Christmas cookies. XD I bake ALL OF THE COOKIES, give them to everyone, and they love me for it!

    1. Or, bake some really horrible tasting cookies, and when people comment about something being wrong with them, just smile and say, “Well, since I really shouldn’t eat cookies, I didn’t bother to taste them.”

      You know, something harmless but wrong for the recipe, like switching baking soda for baking powder, or too much salt, or not enough sugar, etc.

        1. After I developed diabetes, I attempted to make fudge with Splenda. There was a recipe and everything. It was the most horrible thing ever. The fudge never set up properly and I’m one of the folks who finds Splenda bitter.

          Now I rely on other people to make fudge and have a tiny piece of it.

  7. *smiles joyously* Absolutely perfect! As always, you’re like a rainbow-colored ray of sunshine from a unicorn’s butt hole!

  8. Tell your loved ones they are loved this Holiday season, because life is too freakin’ short to waste it nagging people about things you think are “wrong” with them.

    I’m going to a Memorial Service tomorrow for a man I’ve worked with off and on over the past 30+ years. He’s had several heart attacks in the last ten years, and two weeks ago went in for an angiogram. His heart stopped during the procedure and they couldn’t restart it. He was 58.

    He wasn’t fat.

    He was strong as an ox.

    He was a husband and father.

    He was a great guy to work with, and his death came as a shock.

    The point of all that is, we don’t know when the Reaper is going to come knocking, regardless of how “healthy” our bodies appear or how attentive we are to “doing and eating right.”

    I would hate to think I’d wasted my last Christmas with someone I love, angry at each other because I’d presumed to tell them what they should and should not do.

    And it could be because I wouldn’t be around for the next Holiday season instead of them.

    1. Hoomi, I am so sorry for your loss. I do not want to make my response about me because I feel so bad for you but I am actually tearing up right now because I am in the same boat as your friend and reminded every day that I don’t know how much time I have left.

      I have had 5 heart attacks since 2004. Yes, 5. I have had 11 stents placed in my arteries to keep blockages at bay. Yes 11. I have a phenomenal cardiologist who keeps operating to keep me alive no matter what. He seldom mentions my weight because he knows that while my weight is a factor in my heart health, it is actually the stress of the world around me that is so bad for my heart. The stress of living in an anti-fat, anti-gay world that colors every interaction I have, whether it be the Social Security Administration, the near constant barrage of hateful advertisements, internet chatter that literally wants me dead and yes the constant, unnecessary concern trolling by friends and family. Those are the things that affect my heart.

      I am very, very fortunate that my family has money and my Mother would spend every last dollar to keep her children healthy so I get top notch care. I can’t even imagine the stresses I would have if I didn’t have this privilege (also the privilege of living in San Diego, because good doctors like nice weather too).

      But I can also think of how much less we would be spend on cardiological care as a society if it weren’t for the constant stress we place on each others hearts in the way of hate, nastiness, ruining the environment and not letting people live their lives. I am a living example of this.

      My sincere condolences on your loss. May God (in whatever incarnation you see it/she/he as) bless you and your friend.

  9. Magazine headlines I never see around the holidays:

    “Use Christmas Cookies to Soften the Blow When You Tell Your Sister Her Husband Is a Douchebag”

    “Make Extra Time to Tell Your BFF That She Shouldn’t Dress So Slutty at Work This Holiday Season”

    “Your Best Friend Sleeps Around too Much — How to Discuss It Over Eggnog”

    “Why Under the Mistletoe Is the Best Place to Mention to Your Husband That No One Really Believes the Dog Is the One Who’s Farting”

    Would these people really suggest that the holidays are the right time for concern trolling all around? Or just for fat people?

  10. I’ve been counting my blessings today in preparation for the Holidays. Here’s a big one:

    The loud dieters, body policers, and assorted concern trolls in my extended family live so far away that they literally never make it to my town for the Holidays–and unless one of them wins the lottery they never will! 🙂

  11. I attended the season’s first party today. It was a celebration of the life of my elderly neighbor who recently passed at age 98, given and hosted by her daughter and son in law whom she lived with. It was a mix of potluck and catered for food. The usual drinks, fruit and veggie trays, cheese and crackers, dips, smoked /dried meats & salmon. Various cookies and bars for dessert. Inevitably people brought up dieting and such. One guest took great pleasure in informing us all about what we are supposed to do when we eat the “wrong” foods!

    In honor of this blog and the season I spoke out and said: “How about not even bothering to classify foods as right or wrong in the first place! It’s a happier and easier option!” Which then led to a laughng discussion among several guests about the ludcrious weekly women’s magazines that have The Latest Miracle Diet Guaranteed on one part of the cover and A Yummy To Die For Decadent Go To Indulgent Sinful Luscious Dessert on another part. And that ended the diet and food shame talk! 😀

  12. I’m so baffled at what kind of reaction people expect when they tell loved ones they’re “concerned about your health” because you’re fat. Particularly that crap about “it might even save their life.” Completely aside from all the reason’s it’s rude, all the facts that dieting makes you gain weight in the long run, not lose it, all the evidence that weight does not equal health….

    are they under the impression that fat people don’t KNOW they’re fat? Like it’s some stealth condition that they might be unaware of? What are they expecting you to say? “Oh my goodness – I’m overweight?? (looks down at body) You mean this body type is not considered ideal by most people in our culture? And is even believed to be associated with health risks? This….this is such new information to me! I had no idea! I will become thin immediately!”

    1. I’m always tempted to smack my forehead and say, “So THAT’S what it is! I’m fat!!! And here I’d been thinking my closet had some weird condition that made all my clothes mysteriously shrink! Wow! Thank you SO MUCH for clearing that up for me!”

      But I’m afraid the sarcasm would be lost on some of those who take it upon themselves to tell me I’m fat “for my own good.”

  13. My default setting is comedian, so my standard response to anybody, and I do mean anybody, who says such crap to me is:

    “So, has your vagina/penis healed yet?”

    The standard five seconds of shocked silence that follow is plenty of time for me to add, “Oh, I thought we were playing the Inappropriate Questions Game. Want me to go again?”

    If they don’t take the hint:

    1. Have you ever had a venereal disease? Was it expensive?
    2. Which animal do you think right-wingers fantasize about most when they bring up bestiality all the time?
    3. What sexual position did your parents prefer?
    4. Do you think your priest/pastor wears a pink thong or a purple one?
    5. Have you ever put pantyhose on your pet and danced with them?
    5. Do you have any photos of any of the above?

    1. Love these! ***big grin!***

      I like to respond with, “Your roots are showing.”
      Not in the same league as your comebacks, but it irks people.

      1. You can also stare pointedly at their belt or cleavage and whisper loudly, “Your crazy is showing, you might want to tuck that back in.”

        Nine out of ten people will confirm your assertion by looking down, not being sure they heard you right. It’s hysterical.

  14. I love this! Thank you so much, the timing is perfect. Your clear assertive statements can be applied to so many toxic situations with family. I’ve always maintained that people comenting on my weight only makes me eat more and feel deep shame. IT DOES NOT HELP! I’m so hopeful that this post will finally get through to the people that really need to hear it. It’s great to have a resource to share with other women.

  15. This is awesome. Got my mum to read it and she loved it. My mum is diabetic (the one where she gains weight), she eats well, stays healthy and loves a good dance to the radio. She is a size 22, at times a little shy about her size. But has always been healthy. And taught me to respect what i eat and never to judge someone for their size. Cause like her it may be medical and they can become very upset. Someone made a nasty comment to my mum, when we went out shopping. So i put her in her place by simiply saying this “Just cause your thin, dont make you healthy” That shut her up. But thank you, for this amazing post. Its really cheered up my mum……….cant wait to dig in to xmas food now!! xx

  16. For me, the body shaming during the holidays comes totally from within. I “allow myself a few treats” because it’s christmas or thanksgiving and then spend the next week thinking how I’m so horribly weak for giving in around the holidays. My family (especially my mom and her sisters) are totally obsessed with weight so almost 100% of conversations around the holidays center around this or that diet, how someone is treating themselves, or how they are NOT treating themselves because they just can’t. It’s such a hard cycle of thought to break.


  17. I am so very thankful that my family does not mention my weight, at holidays or any other time. However, that’s probably because I possess plenty of other buttons that they push, repeatedly and often.

  18. I agree with you completely! Somehow size is now compared to how much you’re worth and it’s a disgrace that society has become this sort of place that telling people they are overweight is socially acceptable and ENCOURAGED! I speak a little about this on my blog, ‘looking at who’s pointing the finger’, if you wish to read my opinion. Great read.

  19. Wait. Wait a minute. Someone actually believes that a heavy set person would not KNOW he/she is heavy? WOW. How is it even possible to be that dense? I mean, even Victoria Secret models have body issues and they are as close to “media perfect” as one can get! I never understood why some people sincerely believe that by shaming someone they “love” it will help them see the light and lose weight and be healthy. My Mom was one of those types. Still don’t get it. Thanks for the article, i enjoyed it, but am at the same time sorry you have to address the topic.

  20. Reblogged this on mslanson's Blog and commented:
    This made me laugh, points well made. People quick to point out the so called ‘flaws’ of others are usually the ones with the most work to do on themselves. If one chooses to have a closed mind, please choose to have a closed mouth as well. About everything really. That is all.

  21. loved this blog-there is a constant stigma going around that there is one way to look and that is either really trim or very muscular.
    the media teaches us what is good and what is bad, and we get taken in by it. we also have no right to tell people how they look-if people are happy with how they look that is their right and we do not have any say in their ideas and opinions 🙂

  22. Beautiful message. I really loved this insight. It is sad how people are more interested in criticism over a person’s body weight in such a happy time as Christmas. Love yourself no matter your size!

  23. I am not sure why people think it’s ok to discuss another persons size or weight with them. If someone was ridiculously thin I would never think it was my duty to suggest they gain weight. Being so thin can cause a multitude of health problems in addition to eating disorders. We all know what we weigh or size we wear. In the end it only matters how you feel in your own body, if you are happy with your size and shape I say “Feel free to be the lovely and sexy person you are, no matter what size that is!”

    1. I was scrawny through my youth (when I joined the USAF at 17, I was 6’2″ tall and 107 pounds at my induction physical – the doctor said they should have failed me for being three pounds below the minimum for my height), and, yes, people told me I should gain some weight.

  24. Agreed!!! What really gets me is how much strangers feel comfortable telling people that they are “fat” or “overweight”, like you should be thankful that they told you!!!

  25. I really like your message. I feel like women are shamed into hating their bodies if they don’t measure up to the perfect standard. I fully support and believe in loving your body for where you are at and that should be enough regardless of what everyone else thinks.

  26. No Shit Sherlock Flakes …so funny! Thanks for this strong defence of us overweight types. I did have to draw a sharp boundary this Christmas….told a friend to back off in no uncertain terms.

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