Holiday meals, family pressure, fat in public, and more.
Slightly off-topic maybe (but only a little): I've only recently gone no-contact with my family of origin (not directly because of anything related to diet/body shame). For the first time, I'm having the experience of feeling excluded from the fantasy of idealized, cozy, holiday family-togetherness—which maybe isn't a bad thing, since that fantasy only existed to set me up for disappointment! As is so often the case, even though this post addresses a scenario that's not exactly what I'm facing right now, I find the enormous compassion and inclusiveness of Burnt Toast to be so comforting and reassuring. I'm always in awe of how @Virginia Sole-Smith and this whole community are able to establish and discuss boundaries that help to protect us and our kids while still demonstrating kindness for people in our lives who are not necessarily understanding or respectful of those boundaries. I'm not great at that—still learning that I don't have to be defensive about my boundaries and can just state them calmly as a fact. But if I'm getting better at it at all, it's partly because of the models I consistently find here. Thanks, Toasties. <3
So many great ideas! For families or groups where you just don’t or can’t talk to each other like this, I practice a few topic changers ahead of time. What are some things I want to talk about or can ask people about? How can I develop less awkward segues so that I can transition the subject from diets, eating etc., into something more fun or at least tolerable? Give yourself permission to survive these occasions as pleasantly as possible. You do not need to convert anyone or win fat activist educator of the year. Also, for all the other reasons that these occasions can be more stress than they’re worth, take some time to consider whether you want to, have to, need to (or whatever language you use) be there. Opting out is the right thing for some people.
I would also say that if your family/group is a bunch of storytellers evaluate what the underlying messages are of those stories. The way my mom told the story of meeting my dad was very much - “he’s a hero for finding me lovable when I was very fat and only the most exceptional person would do that. Therefore, I had to lose a ton of weight on an extreme diet (but it was ok because it was medically supervised).”
She also told another story about my eating as an infant that is funny and cute but I realize also reinforced certain food pressures. The only baby food I would eat was spinach. So she ordered it by the case from the grocery store and picked it up at the customer service desk. She always felt compelled to explain to the person at the desk that she wasn’t a horrible mom forcing her baby to eat only spinach. It’s funny but the follow up was that I never stopped liking spinach and kids’ tastes often change so isn’t that amazing - this can easily get internalized as “I like the virtuous food so I’m a good kid.” That’s a lot of pressure, especially if you have a fat kid and people already assume that kid must not be eating vegetables. So make sure you tell those stories with a moral each time like people who have food rules sure are missing out and isn’t it great there are lots of different foods to find what we like.
I am going to try to channel my inner Corrine. I haven’t heard anything from my family lately but I haven’t seen my 3 living grandparents since August and we are going to their house. My grandma in particular still says people look like they’ve lost weight as a compliment.
I feel lucky to have a mix of close family and friends for thanksgiving. Last year I declared that we all can wear pajamas this year because pants are just too much.
My mom still struggles with the body talk but she’s trying to get better.
Thank you so much for everything here! Every year for Thanksgiving we do visit family whom we don't see often (live in separate states), and the hosts do not have children and probably never will. My mom also flies out, and is another one who doesn't see us very often due to distance and my anxiety around her. And every year, without fail, I receive critical comments about what my daughter is not eating and her body size. It's so very hard not to take it to mean that I'm failing as a parent. My child recently was diagnosed with Autism, so I'm really hoping that will help them to ease up a bit. My mom also inevitably comments on what I am eating and not eating as well, and I get the impression she believes I should always be on a diet. As someone recovering from ED for more than half my life, with definite relapses during times of immense stress (i.e. my traumatic divorce), it's super stressful and makes me not enjoy the food and the time spent with everyone. I will try and remember the good suggestions on what to say when those criticisms arise.
My parents have their own food/body issues, but they know I’m not going to entertain their diet talk anymore. I will either ignore their comments or swiftly change the subject. There are enough selective eaters (mostly kids but some adults too) among us that we don’t really make comments about other people’s preferences other than “oh so-and-so probably won’t eat that.” My biggest trigger is my SIL who has visibly lost so much weight that she appears ill and eats next to nothing- but she won’t be attending our family’s Thanksgiving this year. I find religious and political talk to be a much bigger trigger now, mostly because my views differ so much from those of the rest of my family. At least my progressive youngest brother and husband will be there in solidarity. I’m thankful we live close enough that we can make a quick exit and go home if necessary.
Hi. I've upgraded to More Butter , but I'm having problems reading the comments on the thread and it won't let me post.