It’s November, so that means that holiday season 2022 is in full swing. The last couple of years, due to the pandemic, we have not been to an in-person family Thanksgiving (the last one being Thanksgiving 2019). While it has been sad to not be able to be in close quarters with our families during the holidays, I also have to admit that at times, I felt relief at not being able to attend in-person Thanksgiving. Inevitably, talk about food/dieting/bodies comes up (especially when we spend Thanksgiving with my side of the family), and it often feels exhausting to try to navigate my way through these discussions. Five years ago, I wrote the Holiday Survival Guide edition of our newsletter, detailing some strategies for dealing with weight/food/diet talk that many of us encounter at these gatherings.
While much of what I wrote in that blog still rings true for me, I have had some more thoughts about how to make these types of holiday gatherings less fraught for my patients. Specifically, I have been thinking about how having your own “boundary phrases” at the ready could be key in helping you get through these tricky situations. And, given that we will be going to an in-person Thanksgiving this year thanks to our daughter finally getting vaccinated and us having boosters, I am sure that I will be putting these into practice for myself.
Boundary phrases are phrases that one can use to establish a boundary with a friend, family member, or acquaintance who has overstepped your comfort level. While boundary phrases can be used in many different situations and for many different reasons, I think having some that are specific to weight/food/diet comments at the ready could help my patients feel more confident at holiday gatherings. As such, I thought it made sense to put together a list of some of my favorite body boundary phrases that have worked for me and for some of my patients. As always, these might not work in every situation, but I’m hopeful that you will see one that feels like a good fit for you.
1. In response to someone making comments on your (or others’) bodies in a negative way.
“Yikes…commenting on other people’s bodies is really not OK!”
“Please don’t comment on my body again.”
2. In response to someone saying fatphobic things to you when they “only care about your health!”
“The only person I discuss my health status with is my doctor.”
“If you truly care about my health, then please also care about my mental health as commenting on my body is harmful.”
3. In response to someone telling a fat joke or making derogatory comments about fat people in general:
“Huh. That’s a really odd thing to say – I’m not sure why you shared it with me.”
“Could you explain to me why that was funny?”
“I hope you aren’t saying this to me because you think I agree.”
4. In response to someone making comments about what you are eating, specifically if they are trying to be “helpful” in identifying “fattening” foods you should avoid.
“Thanks, but I don’t need any diet/nutrition advice. I’m all set!”
“Yeah, I’m not interested in talking about food in those terms. So please don’t do it with me.”
5. In response to someone talking to you about their own diet/ food restrictions for changing their own body size.
“I’m working on making peace with my body currently, so I don’t think I’m the right person with whom to discuss these things.”
“Yeah, that diet sounds pretty difficult and unsatisfying. I’ll pass!”
Again, I know that these phrases might not work exactly for every fatphobic conversation or comment you might encounter at your holiday gatherings, but hopefully, one or two of them could be helpful in setting some clear boundaries with your friends and family members.
Happy Holidays, everyone!