Do you have relatives who comment on your weight and what you’re eating? This can be hard to handle, especially during the holidays.
So here’s how to navigate them – or at least stop their influence on you – stat. 

“You’re looking like you gained a bit.”

“You’d be so pretty if you lost weight.”

“Are you sure you need those roast potatoes?”

“Just a half slice for you?”

“Are you really going back for seconds?”

Sounds familiar? It’s holiday season a time when inappropriate family comments about your weight go together like berries on top of a pavlova. 

Yep, the very people tasked with building your self-confidence, also have an uncanny knack for smashing it into a gazillion confetti sized pieces. 

In the past, a backhanded compliment or bone-chillingly cruel comment about my body had a habit of lodging itself in my memory, resurfacing when I was feeling particularly crappy. How handy!

You see, while body shaming can happen on social media, it also happens within the four walls of our family homes – and whether you’re super sensitive or thick-skinned it sucks.

So here’s how to handle unwanted comments about your body and food from your family – before, during and after. 

Getting out unscathed? About as rare as this steak. Image: Priscilla du preez on Unsplash

Anticipate it’s going to happen, so you’re not disappointed when it does

Asking for another serve of dessert and having it verbally noted is about as fun as jamming your finger in the door. Rather than be surprised and later upset that you went mute, it might help to have some go-to one-liners stored in your grey matter for autopilot. They might be:

  • “That’s inappropriate.”
  • “Wow, 2020 has been very dull if my weight is the only thing you want to talk about.”
  • “That doesn’t really concern you.”
  • “Shall we all take a closer look at what you’re eating then?”
  • “You commenting on my weight doesn’t motivate or help me to be healthy. It does the opposite. Please stop”.

Memorise a couple that work for you or come up with your own. 

Sure it’s about you, but it’s not about you

Snarky comments about your weight are a repeated kick in the gut – and they hurt.

But when your family takes it upon themselves to “help you” – their words, not mine – they’re actually bringing their own body image baggage to the table.

Remember this: “helpful comments” are just a hangover from their own body hangups that they project onto you.

Your family members comments about YOUR weight have nothing to do with your body – and everything to do with their relationship with themselves.

And if it’s your mum who’s the main culprit, this blog post might help. And if you’re a mum yourself, you might be interested in this blog post on whether you should comment on your daughter’s weight or not.

Bring that big summer energy. Image: Lyndi Cohen

Talk about feelings, not the body

Your cousin has lost 20kg, which she’s telling you all about and while you want to congratulate her, you don’t want to engage in icky body chat yourself.

Reality check: You can’t compliment someone’s “new” body without implying there was a problem with the one they had before. So you’re right to not want to go there. Instead of the body, make it about the feeling. You could tell your cousin:

  • “I’m thrilled that you’re so happy” or,
  • “I’m stoked that you’re feeling energised.”

Debrief with your mates or partner

A problem shared is a problem halved. On the drive home, or during a bathroom break, get moral support from the family you choose (ie, your friends or partner), either by calling or texting, so you don’t internalise anything. You don’t want those obnoxious comments popping into your head everytime you go jeans or bikini shopping. 

Seek your own approval, not others

Easier said than done. I know.

But there comes a time when you have to own who you are and refuse to be the victim of someone’s insensitivity or judgey-ness. For me, that means accepting that unless I’m willing to live a life that I can’t imagine (ie, one without pastries), I’ll never be Insta-thin.

And no matter how many ab crunches I do, I’ll also have a popped out tummy – and that’s okay – even if your aunt or mum doesn’t reckon so.