“5 Things Not to Say to Someone Over the Holidays—Or Ever…”

by Mallory Frayn Ph.D | article from Psychology Today

5 Things Not to Say to Someone Over the Holidays – or Ever…
from Psychology Today

I thought this was a great read by Mallory Frayn Ph.D, from Psychology Today.

Some are VERY obvious (lol, #2), some, not as much… feel free to repost, or even forward to that “favorite” co-worker or family member! 😉 Sometimes talk about diet and even exercise can lead you down a very slippery and dangerous slope…

5 Things Not to Say to Someone Over the Holidays—Or Ever…
by Mallory Frayn Ph.D | article from Psychology Today

“Ditch the chitchat about eating and weight and talk about what’s meaningful.

• Making commentary on people’s eating and weight is not helpful.

• You can’t determine someone’s health based on their shape or size.

• Weight-related commentary perpetuates diet culture and takes away from having more meaningful interactions with others.

Making commentary on someone’s weight, shape, size, or eating habits just isn’t helpful, period. If we comment on someone’s weight gain, we’re effectively shaming them for being larger than we think they “should” be. If we comment on someone’s weight loss, we’re reinforcing the notion that you have to live in a smaller body to have more worth or value as a human being. Neither of these messages is inherently true, nor helpful. So if you catch yourself about to say any of these things to a friend or family member over the holidays, take a step back and think about what you are actually trying to communicate. Chances are, there’s a way to say that without bringing weight or eating into the equation.

1. “Have you lost weight?”

Often with the undertone of, “What are you doing that I’m not doing? Teach me your ways!” Diet culture teaches us that we should value thinness, and thus weight loss, at all costs, but when you see someone looking smaller than you remember, you don’t actually know that their change in size is a good thing. First off, they may have been perfectly healthier at whatever size they were before. Thinness does not equal health, and not-thinness does not equal lack of health. Second, weight loss can occur for any number of reasons that are not good. Disordered eating and/or eating disorders can lead to extreme weight loss, and so can medical conditions and diseases like cancer. Take a pause before assuming that weight loss is inherently good or necessary.

Things to say instead: Try to be curious about how they are doing and what is happening for them—not to “get the dirt,” but to show that you’re there for support if they need it.

• How are you doing? It has been a long time since I’ve seen you, how have things been in your life?

• How are/have you been feeling?

2. “Have you gained weight?”

It may go without saying based on the above, but if smaller is not better, it follows that bigger is not worse. People gain weight for a whole host of reasons, all of which the person whose body it is would be most aware of, not you. Chances are, if you’re pointing it out, the person is already in the know, which makes your judgment less than helpful. Ask yourself, “What are you trying to get out of probing about this?” It may be a subtle way of boosting yourself up by putting another down; “At least I’m not in the same boat,” as it were. Or it may be your own fear of fatness or weight gain that you’re trying to protect yourself from. Either way, shaming someone else doesn’t have to be part of the interaction.

Things to say instead: Try for commentary that validates the person for who they are, and not what they look like.

• You’re so funny, I love your sense of humour and have missed spending time with you.

• You’re always so compassionate. It feels really easy to be myself around you.

3. “I’ve been trying out X diet. Let me tell you all about it.”

A holiday wouldn’t be complete without hearing about the fad diet du jour. While I don’t assume that anyone has malicious intent when they share about their experiences with keto, intermittent fasting, or any other “trendy” diet, it again speaks to the value that our society places on dieting and restriction, without taking into consideration situations under which this could actually be harmful. You might not know that others at the table struggle or have struggled with disordered eating, and in preaching the gospel of X diet, you’re perpetuating the myth that these are valuable things to spend our time fretting over.

Things to say instead: Try asking about what habits people have found to be helpful in maintaining their physical and mental health over the year, particularly during COVID times.

• What have people found to be helpful to their physical/mental health (during COVID)?

• I’ve been feeling kind of stuck lately. What helps you to maintain your sense of well-being?

4. “You really should do more of X (e.g., going to the gym, eating less carbs); it will make you feel better.”

Whenever a client uses the word “should” in one of our sessions, I usually reply with something along the lines of, “Should according to who?” The problem with “shoulds” is that they are external. They are rules to live by that come from what someone has told you, or what society tells you, but that doesn’t mean that they are meaningful or important to you. While you may have internalized these shoulds over time, they still may not “work” for you. Certainly, putting your shoulds onto other people is a recipe for disaster and likely to be met by a stern, “Who are you to tell me what to do?” No one likes an advice-giver, unless they’ve directly asked for it. Rather than preaching, try sharing what has been helpful to you. You can own your experience without assuming it will work for everyone.

Things to say instead:

• I’ve found it really helpful to focus on X this past year. It gives me something to look forward to in my day and helps to keep me on track.

• I find it pretty difficult to maintain Y habit. Does anyone have any suggestions based on what has worked for them?

5. “Why are you eating that?”

If you are telling a fellow, full-grown adult what or how much to eat, you may want to examine where that’s coming from. Do you not think they are capable of making their own decisions? How would you feel if roles were reversed? Healthy boundaries would suggest that you are responsible for you and what you say or do, which means that anyone else is responsible for themselves. Regardless of what you may think about someone’s eating choices, ultimately, they are not yours to make. Commenting on them doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

Things to say instead: Try commenting on your own experience rather than putting it on others.

• This dish is so tasty! What’s the recipe?

• I’m having such a great evening. It’s so nice to be here sharing a meal with everyone.

#disorderedeating #disorderedexercise #eatingdisorder #dietculture #meaningfulconversations #psychologytoday #saythisnotthat #healthy #healthandwellness #healthandwellnesscoach #lifecoach

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