Body-shaming: How to handle it-interpersonal relationship skills

Body-shaming is NEVER appropriate and NEVER constructive


Following are excerpts from an article written by Devon Kelly for Yahoo Lifestyle regarding body-shaming (at events such as Thanksgiving dinner). The article revolves around three types of harmful comments--and the appropriate response--from noted author Michelle May, M.D.  The responses suggested by Ms. May are similar to the words Dan would use--and has used in several of his dealing with difficult people articles.  It seems appropriate at Thanksgiving time--arguably the season for ignorant and ill-advised comments on body-shaming, to discuss how you handle busy-bodies who decide to subtly or aggressively tell you that you are eating too much--and that's why you're FAT.  So if you're ready, let's take a look at these excerpts:

1. “Are you sure you need another serving?”

The most common type of food shaming is rooted in weight stigma. “We’re less likely to do this with friends, but sometimes a family member who will say that they’re concerned about another family member’s health or weight will then judge their choices at the Thanksgiving table with the pretense of trying to help them with their health,” says May.

This type of food shaming also emerges with comments like, “Do you know how many calories are in that?” or suggesting healthier alternatives.

“I personally feel that dealing with it directly is the best way to [push away remarks without stirring up more commentary],” says May. “Say something like, ‘Thank you for sharing your opinion about this, but I don’t feel this is the time or place to have this discussion.’ That may be appropriate for a partner who’s doing it in front of your children, for example. If it’s a more casual acquaintance, you can say, ‘Well, that’s interesting,’ then turn away from them and continue to eat what you want to eat.”

2. “Can’t you give up your diet for just one day?”

May believes that people following diets are often shamed for the “burden” that they might be putting on the host. “People around the table may say things like, ‘You’re making it so hard on everybody. Can’t you just give it up for one day?’ Or, ‘Can’t you just have dessert this one time? Why do you have to make it so hard?’”

The food choices that you make for yourself don’t have to be cumbersome to others, and you shouldn’t be made to feel that way. “It doesn’t have to be a problem,” says May. “My daughter is a vegetarian, and last year my mom made a stuffing specifically for her with a cute sign that said, ‘Vegetarians like Thanksgiving, too.’ There are completely different ways to approach dietary restrictions that don’t tread the line of ‘too bad — bring your own.’”

3. “Don’t you know what’s in that?”

For some, personal food choices create an air of superiority or make people feel like they need to educate those around them about the contents or quality of their food. “It may be a situation that’s not weight-related, but they might say, ‘Don’t you know what’s in that? Don’t you know what they do to turkeys? Don’t you know how much sugar is in cranberry sauce? Aren’t you concerned about manufactured food?’ There are so many ways,” says May.

She says that deflecting these comments can be abrupt as well. “You can handle it assertively when it’s appropriate,” says May. “But if it’s just an acquaintance who’s blabbing on about their latest clean eating plan and what’s in all the food that you’re having, say, ‘That’s interesting,’ or, ‘Thank you for sharing,’ or, ‘I’m glad that’s working for you; that’s different from the choices that I choose to make.’ Make sure that it’s clear that their choices may be fine for them; you’re not going to judge them for what their choices are, but that you’re going to eat your way.”

In all three examples of food shaming, the overarching theme is judgment. “It’s one person feeling, for some reason, whatever that dynamic is, that they have a right to impose their opinion or judgment on another person for the choices that they’re making at that meal,” says May.

If you've experienced body-shaming, I would recommend reading the article in its entirely;  if you'd like to do this, click


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