The holiday season, a time for joy, connection, and celebration, often comes with an unwelcome side dish: weight and diet talk. In the face of these circumstances, it's crucial to foster an environment that supports body inclusivity and protects your own well-being. Your response to problematic or harmful topics is completely your choice; some days you may have the patience and energy level to gently educate, and some days you may need to conserve your precious resources and not engage, other times it may be necessary to set a firmer boundary or remove yourself from the situation altogether.
All of these responses are valid and yours to choose from:
When a problematic topic comes up, you aren’t required to engage. It’s perfectly okay to pretend not to hear the comment or question, or to move yourself to another room. This doesn’t have to be a confrontational act, for all the other person knows–you just didn’t hear them! We don’t always have the energy to redirect or educate, and are never required to. You get to choose your response based on the situation–we trust you and trust your judgment. If you ignore in the moment but find yourself looping on the encounter later, please reach out for support, and it may be a signal that another approach to the situation will be more beneficial for you.
Redirect the Conversation
Guide the conversation gently to talk about other things. It's a good way to move away from topics like weight or diets and focus on more neutral subjects. As a society, many are programmed to think these are acceptable topics, and that’s just not true. A redirect can move everyone towards a positive direction, and we’ll hope the offending people get the hint. When you gently change what people are talking about, you're creating a place where everyone isn't judged by how they look or what they eat. Ask others to share stories about things they've done, what they like, or positive things happening in their lives. For example, ‘I've been reading this fascinating book lately about [non-diet topic]. Has anyone else read something interesting recently?”
Set a Positive Example
Lead by example. Share positive stories about your experiences, achievements, or personal growth that don't revolve around weight or dieting. Demonstrating that there are countless other aspects of life to celebrate can inspire a more diverse and uplifting conversation. For example, share stories about a fun activity that you and your children participated in, an achievement at work, travel that you’re looking forward to, the meditation practice you’re trying to develop, etc. Demonstrate that you are living your life with this body, now. This may just give others permission to do the same!
Express Boundaries Firmly
If ignoring or redirecting isn't proving effective, it's okay to establish clear boundaries. Kindly but firmly say that you'd rather not talk about weight or diets. Explain that the conversation is harmful and you don’t want to participate. For example, “I’m on a different journey with my wellbeing that doesn’t include dieting or weight loss. I feel so much more free and trusting of my body since I’ve moved in this direction. I want to ask you not to talk to me about your diet, or to make comments on my food or my body. Thanks for understanding.”
Educate When Appropriate (and if you choose)
If you get the chance, share insights that match up with the Health at Every Size® way of thinking. This way of thinking says it's important to respect and empower all bodies. Share facts about body diversity, explain why diets might not be the best, and talk about how it's harmful to police others bodies or choices. However, choose your moments wisely, ensuring the conversation is receptive to education. For example, ‘I've learned a lot about the Health at Every Size® approach, which emphasizes self-care and well-being over restrictive diets. It's made a significant positive impact on my life, and I'd love to share more about it if you're interested.’
The holiday table doesn't have to be a battleground for weight and diet discussions. You can create an environment where everyone feels included and talks about uplifting things. Your job is important in making sure everyone feels welcome at your holiday get-together. You can help by changing the subject, telling people your limits, or sharing ideas that support Health At Every Size® (HAES). This way, everyone feels accepted, no matter their size or what they eat.
This blog is co-authored by Synergy's team of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, Licensed Massage Therapists, and Diabetes Educators practicing in Bend, Oregon. As providers following Health at Every Size® (HAES) and Body Trust® philosophies, they strive to help EVERY BODY thrive.