By Emily Cafarella. Emily is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Alabama studying Food and Nutrition with a DPD! She is in pursuit of becoming a Registered Dietitian and is passionate about fueling your body with nutrients and movement to create a sustainable and balanced lifestyle! Emily hopes to open up a private practice in the future to further promote and spread awareness about health and wellness

How has the holiday season been treating you?

If you’re like most families, you see each other only/the most this time of year, and if you are struggling with body image it can be rough-going!

It happens far too often that we come across relatives that scrutinize you for your body and weight. They’ll claim it’s teasing or constructive criticism, but it’s not. This is straight up body-shaming and overstepping a boundary. “You’ve gained/lost so much weight, what happened?” is not what you need to hear when it’s already on your mind 24/7 and you’re learning to deal with your own body image and self esteem. 

Your family might be concerned about you with good intentions, or they could have their own malicious intentions. Either way, discussing someone else’s body and weight is never okay! Even if they were concerned, body size and weight do not  indicate whether someone is healthy or not- so essentially all they are doing is harming your mental health with no added benefit.

So how do we cope with this? How can we get through family events while enjoying ourselves, but keeping the body talk to an absolute minimum? Here are a few tips to get you through these comments, and hopefully make a change for the better.

discussing someone else's body and weight is never okay!

Breathe for a moment

Take a few minutes and just think about what they said. Do not let it get to you, but analyze how it made you feel and what your relationship is with this person. What are you willing to change to help this hardship pass, if anything at all. Then take a few moments to just breathe slowly in and out until you feel that you’ve collected yourself and calmed down.

Talk about it

This is all dependent on who the family member is, and how close you consider yourself with them. If you are comfortable enough to talk about it with this person, this is the best way to approach their hurtful comments. Without having this conversation, you may become resentful towards them, and harness anger towards them- ultimately harming your relationship with them. Yes they were out of line, but they may not have known they overstepped. Restate what happened to them, without any emotion or feeling, just an objective explanation of what they did. Then explain to them how their comment made you feel, and what you would like them to change moving forward. Chances are they did not mean harm and will try to change, if not- we have you covered in the next tip. 

Give Them Some Statistics

Sometimes people have a difficult time appealing to others emotions, and that does not immediately mean they are a bad person. They may still be concerned for you and confused why their concern hurts your feelings (again, not saying they are right!). If they seem to be this type of person, whip out some facts. Tell them how 95% of diets fail the person trying them. Or maybe explain the concept of health at every size (HAES) and how appearance does not equate to health. You could also just give them some links to websites like the National Eating Disorder Association or the Eating Recovery Center so they can understand how serious the body talk can actually be. Statistics can be a great way to explain the severity to someone you care about without having to get personal about your own feelings.

it's important to set boundaries

Create a boundary for yourself

If you spoke to this person and had an honest conversation and it didn’t go well, then you must establish boundaries for yourself. This can be distancing yourself from them, even if they object, or no longer acknowledge their comments. This can be difficult at first, but outwardly saying ‘I no longer am participating in these conversations with you’ or just walking away, they will realize their comments are not getting anywhere and will hopefully give up

Talk To Your Health Professional(s)

When someone has made comments about your body, it is bound to harm your mental health. That is normal, and that is what health professionals are there for. Try contacting your therapist, dietitian, or any practitioner who helps with your ED, and discuss the situation with them. They may have some personal advice they can give you specific to your situation, as well as some coping strategies you can use. Health professionals are here to help you, so if you are still looking for some assistance with your ED, try a consultation with us here at NYAN today!

Distance Yourself From Them

If all else fails, it is okay to distance yourself from them and their negativity. This is dependent on what you feel that you need and can look very differently from person to person. Whether you no longer attend a family gathering where they are around, or it can look like not going near them or talking to them, but being in the same group. At this point you have been mature about it and have given them every chance to not discuss body image, but they have not changed. You cannot change someone else’s actions, but you can change your own- so distance may be the best option

Family gatherings can be hard, but with the right strategies and mindset going into it, you can feel prepared and open-minded. If someone makes you uncomfortable with excess body talk, try some of these tips and see how it works. Don’t let anyone make you uncomfortable, especially family. It is not their place to comment on your body, therefore you do not need to engage with them about it either. 

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