Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash
The holiday season is upon us, an extended time of travel, budgeting, food, and “family time.” For many, this time of year can be stressful when there are so many messages surrounding us saying that family time is pivotal, and those who chose not to spend it with others are lonely and pathetic. This message, while warm and fuzzy for those who are happy with their family life, can polarize those who distance themselves from family for one reason or another. For those people, the decision to come home or interact with family around the holidays can be daunting.
It is also the notorious time of year when those who do decide to come home are faced with the impending “questions.” When distant relatives, who you only see around the holiday, pump you with twenty-five questions a minute to catch up with you before disappearing again. The result can often leave one reeling as they struggle to come up with polite conversation answers to why they aren’t married or settled down yet, what they will do once they are out of school, and, yes, that you have in fact gained weight. The appearance comments can be enough to have anyone roll their eyes, but for plus-sized people, in particular, these comments can be a lot, and they can be harmful. So for everyone's sake, here are some tips to be an ally to your plus-size friend, family member, or yourself when staring down the barrel of the holiday season.
Keep The Comments To Things You Can Easily Change
This goes without saying that one’s weight isn’t exactly something they can change overnight, even if they wanted too. So why spend time pointing it out. Commenting on lost weight can also be damaging, you don’t know if the person is struggling with an eating disorder or has lost weight due to an illness. A good rule of thumb is to comment on something that doesn’t revolve around their weight. This can mean complimenting their outfit, their hair, or some accomplishment they’ve had this year. Not everything has to revolve around the waistline.
Never Mention How Much Food They Have On Their Plate
Trust me when I say plus-sized people are already very aware of what they put on their plate and how much of it, and whether or not anyone is judging them. It simply comes with the territory of being plus-sized in a society that feels it’s okay to police other people's bodies for the sake of “health.” The best way to be an ally is to keep it to yourself or redirect the conversation if you see anyone else doing it.
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Never Say I’m Just Concerned About Your Health
This line has been the pivotal excuse for fatphobia for decades. The automatic assumption is that you must be very unhealthy if your plus size. Not only is it untrue and fatphobic but ableist as well. Unless you are a doctor and know someone's exact medical history, you don’t know what underlying illness or disabilities they might have, or if they are simply plus-sized. Either way, it’s none of your business. So the next time you hear someone use this excuse to say something about someone's weight, know it isn’t with the best intentions at heart.
Try Not To Use The Term Fat When You’re Full
It is Thanksgiving, after all. The holiday of food indulgence and wearing sweatpants to the dinner table. It’s about having that sliver of pie before loudly stating, “I couldn’t eat another bite. I’m so fat." It can be meant as a harmless comment, a declaration after eating such a delicious meal, but for the fat family member or best friend, they are often cringing at the term. Because it means you consider fat a bad thing, something to be avoided at all costs. This is similar to when plus-sized people try and refer to themselves as fat and well-meaning people correct them: “No, you’re not fat, just curvy.” The word fat doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Remember Holidays Aren’t Joyful For Everyone
Just be kind to your friends, families, and chosen families and remember that not everyone wants to see their families for the holidays, and that’s okay. This can be due to toxic relationships, financial struggle if you have to travel, or any number of other reasons. For whatever reason, keep your friends close and remind them that it’s okay whatever their holiday plans entail.