There are some conversations we cannot wait to have when we reunite with loved ones during the holiday. Catching up with far-flung family members, chatting with a dear cousin, or asking a young nephew how the soccer season went this year are all conversations that can bring us joy. However, there are other conversations that take us out of the holiday spirit and may challenge our recovery or our well-being. One of those conversations might begin with a family member or friend’s comment on our body. There are several ways to navigate this challenge to our well-being, and while your approach may be different than someone else’s, it may be valuable to explore the various ways we can tackle unwanted comments on our bodies this holiday season.
One way to ensure that body-related comments and conversations don’t harsh your holiday get-togethers is to call/text/message/speak to some people beforehand. When you speak make it clear that during your visit you are not open to comments about your body or their opinions on your body and that you are really looking forward to enjoying the time you get to spend with them. This keeps things positive but also sets healthy boundaries around conversations that will allow you to feel most comfortable in their presence.
One way to navigate the experience of having someone make a body-related comment that is unwelcome could be to take a moment to breathe. As you do so, pausing before you respond, you may want to remind yourself that their comment about your body is not about you. It reflects who they are more than anything else. Once you’ve taken a few moments to breathe your response may take many forms but you will have taken some time to take care of you in a difficult moment.
This isn’t a conversation I’m going to have.
When a comment is made we can instantly feel the need to defend our body to that person, to explain ourselves, to speak disparagingly or dismissively about ourselves. All of these common habits are totally normal but not always totally helpful. One response we might have once we take a deep breath might be to simply let the person know that, “This isn’t a conversation I’m going to have.” You could also try “Let’s enjoy our visit. I’d enjoy it more if we didn’t speak about my body.” Finally, you could try “I’m really doing well at caring for my body so let’s not have this discussion.”
While the wording may seem forceful, it’s actually quite kind. Explaining ourselves or defending our body would continue a conversation that could lead to our own feelings being hurt or toward our feeling resentment toward a loved one. By ending an unhealthy conversation before it begins, we are opening ourselves up to more comfortable, healthy, and joy-inducing conversations with our loved ones.
If the “This isn’t a conversation I’m going to have.” Is not something that you feel is accessible to you in the moment, you may find that steering the conversation away from body-related topics is more helpful. Perhaps your mother comments on your “recent weight gain” but you’d rather discuss her delicious home-baked ham. Perhaps your uncle asked when “you’ll put on some pounds”, but you’d rather talk football with him. Whatever the topic, knowing what you’d rather speak about might help you to navigate our way out of the body-negative conversation and into a deeper connection with those you love.
Know how you feel about you
One major way to navigate comments about your body that are not serving you, especially when they come from loved ones is to decide how you feel about your body. Knowing where you are in your body-image journey can help you to gain clarity about the way you want to approach comments about your body. It can also be of benefit in deciding how to prepare for experiences where you feel comments may be made. Finally, knowing how you feel about your body may also make other people’s comments less relevant over time and will make your decision not to have certain conversations more definitive. When you know how you feel about your body you can decide what steps to take next.
Finally, there may also be value in reaching out. Knowing who you can call or text when a difficult comment or tough conversation about your body arises can help you to feel more connected, more supported, and less alone.
Here at Root To Rise, we believe that there is healing power in community and we’re here to help. So, let us know: Do you have a way that you navigate the experience of having people comment of your body. Do you have a friend who you can reach out to in those sorts of instances? How do you prepare for this aspect of holiday get-togethers? We’d love to hear from you.