You deserve to feel good. And to enjoy pie.
Repeat after me: Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders are psychiatric illnesses that cannot be solved during a dinner session.
Ah, the holidays, or, as it’s called in my family, the annual time of year to scrutinize and peer pressure their darling daughter/niece/cousin/granddaughter over her eating habits. Listen, I realize that my body roughly resembles four toothpicks strategically positioned around a couple of grapes — yet, that is my problem and my problem alone. No amount of winking at me across the table and stage whispering, “I’ll have a piece of pie if Geeee-ahhhhh-nahhhhhh has one too!” is going to make me gain weight. It’s only going to evoke the type of anger that makes one want to murder puppies in cold blood.
Maybe you’re like me. Perhaps you’re on the opposite side. Worse yet, you might be exactly in the middle of this bizarre weight spectrum that folks assume is indicative of health. It doesn’t matter — your family may find a way to bash your eating habits “out of love” for a variety of reasons. While I’m sure it is well-intentioned, it’s time to stand up for yourself.
Here’s how to handle it:
Give Them Actual Facts On Eating Disorders
Repeat after me: Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders are psychiatric illnesses that cannot be solved during a dinner session. Period. Similar to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and so on, eating disorders cannot be controlled by the sufferer. Pointing out a sufferer’s lack of appetite will just increase the self-loathing already running rampant in their minds.
So if a family member says, “Honey, just eat more! You’re skin and bones!” kindly say, “I hope you realize that you are insinuating that I have an eating disorder. As we all know, this is a serious mental illness. In fact, anorexia is the deadliest mental illness of them all. If you are honestly concerned about my health, I am happy to talk to you in private after dinner.”
Quietly fist bump yourself under the table, and carry on.
In perhaps the most simple strategy of them all, a bold smile paired with steady eye contact can speak volumes. Maybe your snooty cousin raises a brow when she sees you piling the mashed potatoes on your plate. “Hmmm, maybe you should take a little…less?” she coos, while eyeing your body up and down. Don’t let her intimidate you! Make eye contact, smile, and hold her gaze. Even if you don’t feel confident, fake it. Keep that eye contact until she looks away. Congratulations, you just won that battle.
In case anyone hasn’t told you this already, people who cruelly judge fat are actually just trying to create a public distraction to shield their own (perceived) flaws. Try to remember that if you feel bullied during the holidays.
Express Your Feelings
If you’re like me, you’d rather set your own body on fire than share your feelings. (It’s OK, we’ll get better someday.) For those of you who can handle self-expression, understand that it is 100% acceptable to stand up for yourself and say, “Hey, this is a holiday. I do not appreciate you critiquing my caloric intake when we could be bonding as a family. This feels hurtful to me. Can we please start over, and enjoy each other without attacking anyone?”
Again, your family probably didn’t intend to hurt you. Calling them out for their behavior can also teach them to act kinder in the future.
Remind Them That They Are Not Doctors
You’re at the table. You’re eating a lovely holiday dinner. You look forward to this all year. You look up and notice the eyes of your relatives boring into you. They’re whispering about how much food you took. “We’re just concerned, sweetie!” one finally reveals.
You’ve got this. Kindly respond, “Only my doctor and myself can judge my weight.” Go back to eating. Quietly celebrate as you munch on the delicious dish.
Ignore Them, And Vent To A Friend Later
I’ll be honest with you: This one is difficult. When words feel like daggers it is hard to muster up the courage to make eye contact, let alone enjoy your meal. If you truly feel that none of the options above will work for you, ignoring your family might be your only option.
I wish you all a lovely holiday. No matter how skinny or plush you are, you deserve to feel good about yourself.