How to deal with body comments at Christmas
Body comments at Christmas
Are you worried that your family will comment on your body over Christmas?
This is an issue that many clients struggle with when they’re around family for an extended period over the festive season.
So, in this post I explore:
- The reality of family gatherings at Christmas
- Why family can be a trigger for body anxiety
- 3 approaches to deal with body comments at Christmas
Listen or read below:
The reality of family gatherings at Christmas
Christmas is culturally revered as a ‘magical’ time filled with family togetherness.
But Christmas isn’t necessarily as magical as it’s cracked up to be, especially when you’re around family members you haven’t seen in a while.
Being in your family can be triggering for a variety of reasons. But, if you struggle with your body image, spending time with them can fuel body concerns and anxiety.
Why family time can trigger body image issues
One of the main influences on your body image is your family of origin.
If your parents were weight or appearance obsessed when you were growing up, it’s not the best foundation for a healthy body image.
Going back into an environment where family comment on their weight or yours, or obsess about food choices, can be tough.
How to deal with body comments at Christmas
So, if you’re faced with body criticism over Christmas, or you have to listen to family banging on about weight loss and diets, what can you do?
I work with many clients who have to deal with body comments at Christmas (or any time they meet family!).
And honestly, there is no one solution that fits for everyone.
If you face this situation, I encourage you to be self-compassionate.
Know that however you decide to do to deal with body comments at Christmas, you’re doing the best you can.
I’ve got three approaches for you to consider:
If you think time spent with your family over Christmas will be too damaging, you may choose to avoid family celebrations altogether.
I know there is a lot of pressure to put differences/irritations aside at Christmas and be with family. But, this is an ideal that is rarely attainable.
Family environments can be toxic, particularly if you feel that your body and worth are under attack.
There’s no shame in checking in with yourself and asking what’s the best thing for you. Do you feel equipped to handle body comments at Christmas or not?
If you don’t feel strong enough, put your mental health first and don’t put yourself in the situation.
Ignore body comments
Just because someone comments on your body, or talks about diets or food guilt, it doesn’t mean you have to engage with it.
You can choose to ignore the comments or conversation. Often the person making the comments will get bored when there is no response and move on to another subject!
But I know that the choice to ignore comments doesn’t mean they won’t sting or hurt. To deal with the impact of comments, have some exit strategies to give you time to decompress from them.
You could excuse yourself to go on a walk or talk to a friend. Or, have an early get out like having another event to go to.
You might also like to give yourself the day after to recuperate.
This is time for you to do things that feel good for you. That might be journaling, or any practice that helps to process the uncomfortable emotions that may have come up.
Face body comments at Christmas head on
This approach is only for when you feel you have the strength and resilience to take on body comments.
And it is okay to not feel strong enough. It can be hard enough to stand up to body shamers you don’t know, let alone a family member!
But maybe you’ve been working on your body image for a while and are ready to face body comments in an assertive way.
There are a two ways you could do this. You can set boundaries around what you will and won’t tolerate, challenge comments, or both.
Say for example that a family member shares their most recent diet with you and tells you to try it.
You could set a boundary by saying,
“I’ve been working on a new way to relate to my body and I’m doing well. It’s not healthy for me to discuss weight loss and diets, so I prefer not to talk about that. I’d love to hear what else you’ve been up to though!”
Or, if someone is making a direct comment on your body like, “Gosh, have you gained/lost weight?”
You could say,
“I’m working towards a kinder relationship with my body, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t comment on my weight from now on.”
When you challenge comments, it encourages the other person to consider their body biases and issues. This one takes some courage!
The most awful body comments often come from family members. For some reason, they think being related gives them carte blanche to say what they like (it doesn’t).
So, say that your mum or Aunty says, “Goodness, you have packed on the pounds since I last saw you, aren’t you concerned about your health?”
You could challenge her by saying,
“I know you think you have my best interests at heart, but I find that comment inappropriate and hurtful. I’m curious why you feel you have the right to comment on my weight?”
This can open a dialogue about the acceptability of body comments and the impact they have on the person receiving them.
You could also challenge their views on body size and health and explain that weight is not an accurate measure of health.
In my experience, some people are entrenched in anti-fat bias and there is little you can do to change their mind, so don’t waste too much energy (talking from personal experience of family!).
But, where you can see some genuine flicker of interest in what you’re saying, use that advantage if you feel able to.
This strategy is not the obvious one to try first for most people, but as you progress on your body acceptance journey, you may feel up for the challenge!
Over to you
So, that’s my three approaches to dealing with body comments at Christmas.
I’d love to know which one you are going to try. Or, are there any approaches you’ve used in the past you’d like to share? Leave me a comment below.
Wishing you a peaceful Christmas, with much love from me.