The holidays are a time for celebrating, expressing gratitude, giving thoughtful gifts and spending time with the ones you love most—but they aren’t always easy. While the festive season can bring out the best in us, it can also bring out the worst in the world of body shaming, food policing and being inundated by opinions from folks you might not normally spend time with.
You might be well into your self-love journey, but not everyone is on the same path as you, and these are some of the people you might find yourself breaking bread with over the holiday table this season. Instead of going into the experience with anxiety and fear, a bit of preparation can go a long way when it comes to being home for the holidays.
Fear not: these behaviours don’t mean you have to forgo festivities with family (unless you choose to, of course). Here are some ways you can fight back against body shaming, even if it means just walking away.
1. Have your responses ready for when you need them
Let’s be clear on one thing: you do not have to go to war with a loved one over something they said. But it helps to anticipate some possible scenarios and have some simple responses ready so you’re prepared if the moment arises. These can be as simple as “please don’t comment on my food” or “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t comment on my body”. A common statement many hear around the dinner table is “you’re eating a lot of food”. To that, you can simply respond: “yes, isn’t it delicious?”. There are endless options that you can play with so you feel better going into the holidays this year.
2. Practice what you preach
Be an example to the people around by not playing into diet culture. Pay people compliments that don’t revolve around their weight or how they look, and don’t comment on peoples’ food choices (or even your own) by calling them “bad,” “good” or “guilty pleasures”. Instead, ask them how they are, what their favourite part of the meal is or what they’re thankful for this year. There are plenty of things to talk about that don’t revolve around food and bodies.
3. Give body-affirming gifts
In some families, you might be the only one doing their own self-education on body positivity. Got a little cousin, sibling or family friend that might need some encouragement? Gift them items that help them feel comfortable and validated in their bodies, like a pair of anti-chafing shorts that they might’ve been too shy to ask for. Whatever you give them, know that “flattering” is out. In this house, we wear whatever we want!
4. Say no to weight-related resolutions
It’s no secret that weight loss is a huge topic around the New Year. Everyone has the right to do what they wish, but openly discussing weight-loss resolutions can be very triggering to those who have a complicated relationship with their bodies. Plus, we know that long-term sustained weight loss is only possible for a small percentage of people, so why not set ourselves up for success and choose something we actually have control over and that doesn’t make us feel bad about ourselves.
5. Don’t go!
Guess what? You don’t have to go to any event you don’t want to, and you have total permission to say no to any invitation without explanation. (Yes, even if it's a family event.) While it may be difficult and you may worry about disappointing the host, your well-being is much more important than any event. Spend that time with the positive people in your life or having a self-care day with yourself. You deserve it.
6. Take breaks when you need it
We know it’s not always possible to decline an invite. When you arrive wherever you’re heading, look around for a safe space you can retreat to if you need, whether that be a bedroom, a bathroom or even just an outdoor area. Take walks, call a friend or excuse yourself whenever you feel it getting too much. Remember that your mental health is more important than anything—take what you need.