So what is body shaming? Body shaming is essentially any comment that brings up a person’s body and its size in a negative way. This can take many forms from comments such as “looks like you have gained some weight since I saw you last” to “you are looking too skinny”, or even comments that start with “someone of your size…” or “if I looked like you..” etc. The holidays tend to be a time where we are especially likely to be exposed to this. Typically, this tends to play out at the many family gatherings we are attending this time of year although it can certainly occur elsewhere, and is unfortunately very pervasive. In fact, it’s only November and I’ve already seen it happen at my own family gatherings!
This typically involves some relative, maybe a relative we don’t see often, making a comment about our body and its size. Sometimes the comment is meant innocently, sometimes not, but these types of comments tend to hit us right in the gut. They are painful to hear, cause feelings of shame, and for many of us, start a spiral of negative thoughts about our bodies that are likely to result in increased behaviors to control our weight. (New Years Resolutions anyone?)
There are probably many reasons we could point to as for why this happens but one thing that has always stuck out to me is that often talk about weight (weight loss in particular), tends to be a way to awkwardly start conversations with those we don’t know well/aren’t that close to. It’s also socially reinforced in our culture that commenting on changes in our bodies is an ok thing! That said, comments that are body shaming whatever the intention, are not ok and you have a right to speak up about them.
So what do we do when someone makes a body shaming comment to us? Simply put, we need to let them know it’s not ok. I find a simple “please don’t comment on my body” usually works well. (Although if the person persists you may need to be a little more forceful then that). I will usually then attempt to bring up some other topic of conversation with that person. Trying to change the topic of conversation also works well when people start wanting to talk about their latest “lifestyle change” of a diet by the way.
Let’s say you leave that holiday dinner feeling blindsided because Aunt Sally body shamed you. Hopefully you made it clear that type of conversation is not ok but what next? How do we handle those difficult feelings we are likely sitting with in these situations? Just the knowledge that we have stood up for ourselves in the situation can be a big help. One of the other biggest things I’ve found helpful is to have people in your life who are truly supportive of you. Just that act of telling someone what happened and getting a supportive response back and a listening ear, while simple, really does make a big difference. Also, remember those holiday self care tips I talked about last week? Once you get home starting to implement some of those things is also a great way to de stress from the experience. Body shaming really is yet another situation where the importance of setting boundaries with the people in our lives and taking good care of ourselves is so incredibly important.
Questions about body shaming or anything else food/body related? Feel free to get in touch!