How to handle weight talk at Christmas

Weight loss permeates every part of our culture, from office diet chats to weight loss ads between Tik Toks.

The notion that we should always be wanting to, or trying to lose weight, is so commonplace that we rarely question how often it comes up on our screens and in conversation.

For plus-size people, the topic of weight loss can be especially hard to handle: Not simply because of our own stories regarding weight loss (each of us has one, and each one is traumatic) but because the essence of diet chat and culture is that being fat is wrong.

It is no wonder then, that fat people like myself and including myself, try to steer ourselves away from any kind of weight loss topic.

During the holidays, however, it becomes harder still to avoid.

From ‘well meaning’ family members discussing our health – as if we don’t know our bodies better than anyone – to friends spouting how guilty they feel for eating, and how much better it will be when they lose weight in January’s diet season,

Christmas and the food conversations connected become a minefield. Because of the struggles to silence these chats, compiling advice on how to handle weight loss conversations over the holidays feels like a necessity.

Debz, a Hampshire based plus-size blogger, recommends ‘explaining to the person you already know everything they’re saying. They’re not telling you anything new.’

She advises: ‘Make it clear that you’re there to celebrate Christmas with loved ones – nothing more, nothing less – and therefore you don’t wish to engage in the conversation anymore.’

As well as setting boundaries during conversations, Jordan, a plus-size model, believes that you should set boundaries about this topic from the get go.

‘Set explicit boundaries beforehand,’ they say. ‘If someone brings it up anyways you can say, “this convo makes me uncomfortable, can we talk about something else instead?”‘

Getting a bit more specific with her advice on boundary setting, Karina, a beauty PR from America but based in London, shares her phrasing for this sensitive topic.

‘With my close friends and family, I have just point blank said I don’t diet anymore, because I have found it harmful to my mental and physical health, because of this, I don’t want to hear about your diet,’ Karina explains. ‘It’s come up over dinner and I’m just direct about it.

‘I try not to be preachy and if it comes up again, I remind them I don’t want to chat about their diets or I just ignore the comment and move on to another subject.

‘If I choose not to engage, they’ll stop bringing it up.’

Although being explicit about not wanting to engage in weight loss discussions may make your conversation partner feel guilty or uncomfortable, protecting yourself and your mental wellbeing is paramount.

It’s worth remembering: A moment of discomfort between family is so much better for you than potentially triggering any harmful behaviour.

Nathaniel Oke, a psychotherapist and founder of the Talking Therapy Clinic, says if you are unable to remove yourself from these conversations entirely, it is important to ‘build resilience’ regarding them.

‘Resilience starts in our ability to withstand distress. People cannot dictate what others may say, so it is important to recognise what it is within you that bothers you to the point you are avoiding the topic,’ says Nathaniel.

By delving deep and working out the complexities of why we don’t want to talk about weight loss, hopefully relaying to family members ‘that this issue is greater than mere words’, Nataniel is sure you will receive the support you need.

He also advises that instead of putting so much worth into the words of others, ‘focus on the positive, beautiful things you love about yourself and [use your energy] nurturing it instead.’

All of the above options take a bravery and courage that can be hard to muster up, especially when faced with those who are meant to love you unconditionally.

When you know somebody is coming from a place of support, it can be all the more harder to ask them to stop. For this, Abs, 25, recommends finding yourself an ally for support during this season.

Abs tells us: ‘I text my sister before and go “if these topics come up, can you help move the convo along?” and we are each other’s little team.

‘If you don’t have that, or you’re caught out while they are busy elsewhere, you just need to be kind of assertive and say something like “well I’m happy so that is what is important” and it usually ends the conversation.’

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