December 16, 2022 | CULTURE | By Beatrice Roussell | Photo by Sam Nystrom Costales

Every year when the holiday months come around, so do some of the best foods: buckets of Halloween candy, pumpkin pie, Christmas toffee, and peppermint bark, among many others. With an ample number of treats, gifts, and celebrations available, the holidays are a time for indulgence. Yet, this indulgence never seems to go unnoticed.

My friends and I always return from holiday breaks with stories about relatives who felt entitled to comment on the food consumption, exercise habits, and weights of those around them. In my own experiences, I am often left speechless – unable to call out the inappropriate comments that were made to me. This year, I decided to prepare. I have made a list of the most common food- and weight-related comments that I have heard in previous years and how to respond in a way that might make relatives think twice before they make their next remark.

“Are you hungry?”

This is one of my favorites. Masked by a false sense of curiosity, this question is actually a judgmental statement about how much someone is eating. Here is how you can proceed if bombarded by this silly question:

  • “Yes.” (Then eat, while maintaining direct eye contact)
  • “No.” (Same instruction as before)
  • “I won’t be soon, thank you for your concern.” (Be really appreciative of how much they care about your hunger)
  • “Sorry, I didn’t realize I ordered a question with this meal.” (Look around incredibly confused)

“You shouldn’t eat all of that.”

Some relatives skip the passive aggressive questions and give a direct comment instead. Here are some ways to show them that you do not appreciate the advice:

  • “Do you remember when I asked? Me neither.” (Scratch your head a little)
  • “I thought you were a (insert occupation). Did you get certified as a nutritionist while I was at college?” (Be really genuine with your curiosity when asking the second question)
  • “Oh, I thought mom gave you my Christmas list. I asked for an iPad this year, not an opinion.” (Have a printed-out Christmas list in your pocket ready to hand out)
  • Run around the house while making a siren noise and screaming “Ahhhhh, the food police are here!”

“Have you gained weight?”

This is one of the more forward questions that can be asked. If someone you know chooses to be this blunt, try one of these responses:

  • “I did, thanks for noticing!” (Blush a little)
  • “Do you care?”
  • “Finally, someone noticed! I’ve been working on it for a while!” (Cheer, whoop, jump up and down)

“Have you lost weight?”

While weight loss can be a consequence of healthy lifestyle changes, it can also be an unintentional result of illness, unhealthy habits, and more. While some people intend for this remark to be a compliment, it is best to avoid bringing up the topic at all. Here are some ideas that may help to shut this down:

  • “Does it matter?”
  • “Was that supposed to be a compliment?”
  • “No, but it seems like you lost your manners.”
  •  “Shut it down,” followed by a sweeping gesture with your hands (for more instruction, please see New Girl S4E05).

I wrote this article to explain how even when the comments made by relatives seem unrelenting, the opportunities to clap back are endless. I also wrote this article to bring awareness to how difficult the holidays can be for those who struggle with food. This year, I encourage you to be cognizant of how food and weight are discussed by those around you and how that may impact people who are struggling. Only then can we learn to redirect conversation and make the holidays a more food-friendly and body-positive experience for everyone.

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