“People assume there is a direct relationship between how much people weigh and their psychological health… Our research and other research is showing that no, it’s not about their weight, it’s the treatment they faced and what they worry they will face.”
~ Jeffrey Hunger, doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara
Tis the season for family and increased social time, for some this means fielding unwanted comments about their body. Well-meaning family members may comment on weight lost or gained, or the behaviors that they feel are creating that loss or gain.
And really – commenting on someone’s body – good, bad, or indifferent – for many may be experienced as invasive, embarrassing, or shaming – no matter their size. For some, the compliment can feel just as uncomfortable as the criticism, because they’re in the spotlight and being evaluated based on how they look.
Rehearse Your “Comeback”
Some of you might have that family member, friend or acquaintance who is weight and image-focused or the self-designated ‘health guru’ who knows EXACTLY what you should be eating, how much you should be exercising, and/or has ideas about your ideal body weight.
Related Article: How to Sidestep Unsupportive Comments About Weight Loss
They mean well (okay – some do), but are typically wrong with what they recommend because each person’s needs and preferences are unique to the individual. If you find yourself avoiding or dreading that ‘health guru’ and his or her comments over the holiday gatherings, consider rehearsing a response to say in the moment to foster a necessary boundary around what is and is not okay to talk about with you.
Often in the moment of the comment we are trying to manage the feelings that may get triggered, such as shame, hurt, embarrassment, or anger, so an effective response in the moment may feel elusive.
Ever had that experience when you came up with the perfect response AFTER the fact?
We aren’t all comedians with clever comebacks at the ready like this caught-on-tape and well-known exchange between TV celebrity Chelsea Handler and Andy Richter. Richter’s witty comeback was calmly served with the intent to disarm the ‘mean girl’ in this scenario.
Preparing Your Go-To Responses
So, for those who are bracing themselves for this holiday season (and beyond) – I recommend coming up with a few ‘go to’ responses for those situations or people that you know are going to challenge you.
Related Article: Asking for Support: A Letter to Your Loved Ones
Even if it doesn’t change the behavior of the person across from you – having a voice in the moment tells yourself that you matter – that your voice matters and you deserve to be treated with respect.
It takes courage to speak up in the moment because often we don’t want to bring MORE attention to the comment, but sometimes that is exactly what we need to do for optimal self-care. Here are some examples of comebacks that have worked for our program participants:
- “You look great have you lost weight?” I feel great and that is what is most important to me.
- “Should you be eating that?” I know you mean well but your monitoring only makes me want to do the opposite of what you are suggesting. I need you to trust me and my choices.
- “It looks like you’ve gained weight.” Please stop making comments about my body – it’s hurtful and quite frankly it’s my body and my business – not yours.
Often these comments aren’t meant to offend and they come from a place of good intent but for anyone who has been on the receiving end it doesn’t help – it hurts.
At Green Mountain we provide a Letter of Support that many women share with their family members and friends to help them open up the dialogue on how they can best support them moving forward.
A little coaching and a firm voice can go a long way for getting the love and support you deserve.