I spend a lot of time helping fat people deal with the bullshit fat shaming that comes our way daily, and that often escalates at the holidays (whether we celebrate them or not.) I try to be clear that these things are not our fault, even though they become our problem and that the problem isn’t fat people, it’s fat shaming. So today I wanted to take a second to talk directly to fat shamers, accidental fat shamers, and potential fat shamers – however well meaning they may be – about how they can stop the problem before it even starts at the holidays, and all year long!
Don’t give a weight loss or “health” gift
Don’t give a gym membership, diet club membership, “healthy meal” delivery etc. unless the person has very specifically asked for it. Including and especially if you’re only assuming that they don’t already do or have these things because of your stereotypes about fat people, or as a passive-aggressive hint that you think they may “need” the gift. Instead, if you want to give a gift, consider choosing something based on the person’s actual likes and interests rather than stereotypes and fat shame. Or maybe a nice gift certificate.
Don’t be the food police
Don’t monitor, comment on, or concern yourself in any way with fat people’s (or any sized people’s) food choices at parties, holiday dinners or, hey, ever. If we need the food police, we’ll call Pie-1-1. If you feel like you might have to deal with the Family and Friends Food Police, here are some tips. If you want some ideas to help when you see this kind of food shaming, check here.
Don’t give a fat shaming card
Way too many fat people get cards with some version of “We love you and we want you to lose weight because we want you to be around a long time.” If you honestly can’t figure out why “Happy Holidays! Please don’t die of fat because mourning you would be a major bummer for us” isn’t an appropriate message for a holiday card, then please just take my word for it this is a bad idea. The person to whom you deliver this little Hallmark moment may be able to defend themselves in court successfully with “Your Honor, they needed a killin'” This happened to my partner a couple years ago and we chose to cut ties with the relatives completely, about which it seems they are upset. Bad behavior can have undesired consequences for everyone, don’t put your fat friends and family in this position.
Don’t engage in diet talk or negative body talk
This suggestion isn’t just to help fat guests, but also for guests of any size who may be dealing with eating disorders, or guests who are interested in conversations that aren’t boring as hell. Find something else to talk about than why you are or are not eating what you are or are not eating. Skip the 5 minutes soliloquy on what you feel you have to do to punish yourself for eating pie, and ask somebody at the party to tell you about themselves instead, or go watch TV, or play on your phone, whatever.
Don’t comment on body size changes
Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like knowing that your relatives are monitoring your body. You might think it’s a compliment to ask if someone has lost weight but that question is super loaded – perhaps they’ve lost weight because of illness, grief, medication, an eating disorder, or something else unwanted or unintentional. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with having their body size made into a topic for discussion (maybe because it’s hella inappropriate…) Perhaps they haven’t lost weight and, however well-intentioned you may be, they take it as backhanded or passive-aggressive. (Or perhaps you intended it to be backhanded or passive-aggressive in which case you’re being an ass, won’t you please be a dear and knock it the hell off.) If you want some suggestions for wading through the tricky world of weight loss compliments (like what to do when someone tells you’ve they’ve lost weight and then looks at you expectantly), you’ll find that here.
Don’t stage some kind of weight loss intervention
This should be a big pile of obvious in an obvious box with an obvious bow, but every year some asshat who wants to be thought of as “brave” writes an article about how the holidays are the perfect time to fat shame your relatives “for their own good.” First of all, people’s weight and health (two different things) aren’t your business unless they ask you to make them your business. Even if you don’t believe that, the holidays are definitely not the time to do this. And if you feel that you have to do this at the holidays because it’s the only time you see that person, then consider how relevant you really are in their lives and whether you have any business doing this at all. Then don’t. Just don’t. Do Not. Don’t. Trust me when I tell you, you are not The Fat Person Whisperer.
If y’all can think of others please feel free to leave them in the comments!
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16 thoughts on “Here’s How to NOT Ruin The Holidays For Fat People”
My addition would be don’t give us clothes, unless its an item we selected in a size we selected.
Had a relative give me in 2 different years t-shirts, one year 2 sizes too big, then last year 4 sizes too small. This last year’s sent me into a 4 month self-loathing depression. For the first time ever I honestly felt fat shamed.
I have had the occassional clothing gift THAT FIT, and I was delighted. Because IT FIT.
If you don’t know the size, don’t give clothing, regardless of whether that person is fat, thin, in between, or in fact, a supermodel with a designer wardrobe, already. It doesn’t matter what size you are; if your clothes don’t fit, they don’t work for you.
Getting the size wrong, however, is not only annoying. It can be interpreted as a message that YOU (not the clothes) are the wrong size.
About the only time you can give clothes that don’t fit is if you are giving hand-me-downs with the message “Let me know if these need alteration. They’re beautiful, and still have plenty of wear in them, and it’s a shame to let them go to waste.”
I second the don’t comment on weight changes point. Sometimes I wonder if people even listen to themselves when they speak, if they did they would recognize their own stupidity. My husband had numerous people (including an ER doc and his primary care doc) refer to his 100 lb weight loss as the silver lining to his terminal cancer. I should call them back and let them know how nicely his new svelte figure fit into his coffin. Yeah, I’m bitter.
*hugs* to you — I would have the exact same response.
My stepdad is currently palliative with a very aggressive and rare cancer and he has lost so much of his frame, I think he was lucky to have had the weight to begin with, or he might not have lasted up to now. Any comment about his weight and/or appearance that doesn’t start and end with, “You look like you’re getting rest” or “You look like you’re not in pain/not suffering today; that is good” will get someone a swift — and not so nice response from me.
I’m sorry you have to deal with that. People can be so stupid.
My go-to these days for concern trolling tends to be one of two things.
1) A tired “here we go again” eyeroll accompanied by a sigh, followed by “if you say so.”
2) Looking down at my spare tire, gasping, and giving it a little wiggle for good measure, saying “thank you soooo much for telling me! I would never have realized that I wasn’t thin if you hadn’t informed me!”
When is a good time for concern trolling?
In addition to not being the food police, if you have decided to cook for folks with food allergies/intolerance or other restrictions, don’t complain about the extra effort.
Yeah, I agree. Don’t complain about the effort. Although it is certainly OK to tell them you went to the effort, because they’ll know you tried (even if the effort failed). But tell them with a “this is how much I love you” smile on your face and in your voice. The effort is part of the gift, right?
Also, if you go to the effort, and the effort fails (Celiac means more than no-gluten in the recipe. It means no cross-contamination in the kitchen), then accept any correction cheerfully and sincerely. “I’ll surely remember that for next time! Any tips, or can you recommend resources to study, to make sure I do it correctly next time? Maybe we could do it together, and you could teach me?”
Half of the whole “Food=love” idea is the sharing, in the making and/or the eating, and cooking together is a great bonding experience. If no one is complaining about the effort, that is.
A subtle form of fat shaming is not including the fat people in family photos or sharing the photos of only the thin people. This has happened to me for many years. I’ve never seen anyone writing about it . Does this kind of exclusion happen in other families? I’m tired of seeing FB photos of parties I’ve gone to and I’m nowhere to be seen, but I was just on the other side of the table. I feel like I’m being written out of my family’s history. It hurts.
Ouch! And some of the people doing it *probably* think they are doing you a favor, assuming you’re too ashamed to be seen in photos.
Because, you know, a lot of fat people are, more’s the pity.
But you know how they can avoid this issue? ASK! “Do you want me to take a picture of you?” “Is it OK to share these pictures of you on Facebook, or are they just for family to enjoy?” Even thin people can be camera-shy, after all.
It always made me sad when family members did NOT want to be in a photo because they didn’t like the way they looked. None of us look like models in magazines, not even models when they aren’t in magazines!
Comments about what a person does/does not eat that actually ARE appropriate:
“Have you tried the ham? It’s delicious!”
“Careful! That dish is spicy.”
“Aren’t you allergic to X? I think this casserole has X in it. We should check on that before getting a serving.”
The article and all these comments are fabulous!
If I may add one more: holiday diet double speak. As in, “But wouldn’t you be happier if you were thinner? And why haven’t you had any of the cookies I spent all yesterday baking?”
Just double-whammy guilt trips all the way.