Spending time with friends and family during the holiday season in fun, especially if you don’t see each other often. However, it seems like there’s always that one person who loves to make food comments or say things about people’s bodies. This is hard for anyone struggling with their relationship with food and their body.
While there isn’t a right or wrong way to respond to these comments, there are several ways to handle them. Try different ones out and see what works for you. Here are a few ideas from Kourtney Johnson, RD, to help you plan out your response to food comments this holiday season!
Be prepared for food comments
It’s best to go into holiday events expecting someone (or several people) to make food comments. You might hear something like “I can’t eat pie this year because I’m on the Keto diet” or your Aunt asks your cousin if she’s really going to have a second helping of potatoes. Being prepared for these remarks can help you avoid feeling surprised. Preparation might also mean you have a response in mind!
If you’re comfortable with it, say something in response to the food comment. For instance, say “Let’s let everyone eat what and how much they want. It’s not up to you,” or “Let’s not make comments about what other people are eating. Thanks!” If you respond in this way, it lets everyone know where you stand.
You might even take this time to explain your journey away from dieting and what you’ve learned. It’s probably best to keep it simple at first without going into too much detail. People who aren’t familiar with Intuitive Eating or moving away from diet culture might get overwhelmed with too much information. Still, you never know who might find it inspiring and want to learn more!
If you prefer to stay quiet, that’s ok too. It might not feel safe to speak up in this environment. If this is the case, there are other ways to deal with these food comments.
If you’re comfortable with it, you can set boundaries with the people you’re spending time with. Maybe you set the tone at the beginning of the day with something like “I’d prefer not to talk about diets, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods or people’s bodies today. Thanks in advance!” Or, you can even send a text to everyone beforehand so they know not to make food comments when you’re all together.
Setting boundaries might also look like leaving the room if diet talk starts up. You don’t need to say anything if you don’t want to; do what’s best for you so you can avoid feeling triggered.
Have a buddy
Telling someone you’re close to, whether it’s a cousin, friend or sibling, about your journey away from dieting is another way to prepare for food comments. You could tell them to be aware of diet talk or comments about other people’s bodies and to help you by asking people not to mention these things. Or, they can just change the subject. This person could also simply be someone you vent to afterwards if you’re irritated and just need someone to listen.
Find support from a professional
While it’s important to have friends and family who support you, it’s not the same as having a professional who is trained to guide you through the ups and downs of Intuitive Eating and leaving diet culture behind. That’s why having support from a professional, such as a registered dietitian like Erin, is a great idea as you navigate the holidays! People like her are able to dive deep and help you process your experiences so you can learn and use different situations to your advantage. After all, even if something negative happens, such as when a relative makes food comments, there’s always something to learn from it.
Remember that there are several ways to handle food comments during the holidays. However, there isn’t a set way to respond to them. Try out different ways and see what works for you!
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