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 of the on-purpose, accidental, and potential variety – however well-meaning they may be – about how they can stop the problem before it even starts at the holidays, and all year long! The lack of in-person gatherings may cut down on this nonsense, but I’ve already heard from people who are experiencing this at zoom events.
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-shaming. 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 witness 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. And also, consider that giving cards may not be for you. 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 few years ago and she 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-minute 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 that shit 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. Don’t. Do Not. Trust me when I tell you, you are not The Fat Person Whisperer.
By the way, if you want a cartoon that explains that people shouldn’t do these things (in song!) I made one and you can find it here!
UPCOMING ONLINE WORKSHOP:
When Good Friends Do Bad Diets
As the New Year comes around, the diet industry is doing everything it can to convince all of us to make another (ultimately doomed) weight loss attempt. Even when we aren’t fooled, often our nearest and dearest are still riding the diet roller coaster. And typically that means that they want to talk about it – anywhere and everywhere – in ways that can be anything from annoying to harmful. In this workshop we’ll talk about options for dealing with this in all the scenarios that we may find ourselves in.
Details and Registration: https://danceswithfat.org/monthly-online-workshops/
*This workshop is free for DancesWithFat members
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