Aaaaah! Thanksgiving. The American holiday where we have been taught that we should be coming together with friends and family to take time for giving thanks. It’s one of the BUSIEST travel days of the year. Everyone is moving about the roads and airways to get to those that we….love. We do love them right? Why of course we do! We are planning, decorating, and cooking just so we can show each other just how much we care. So, with all of the effort we are putting into this time with friends and loved ones, why let our words be something that ruins the experience? Yes, even though we may have all the minute details in place, we can destroy a family experience for each other by the things that we say. Sometimes when we spend time with those we love, we are so familiar with them, that we forget that, yes our relatives are people too. They have feelings, challenges, and struggles just like we do. I have had personal experiences most of my life with loved ones who made jokes or comments about my body, weight, or appearance during family gatherings. I know that they did not have malicious intent in their words, but the sting was still hurtful on my end of the experience. So, in the spirit of love and body positive education, here are a few pointers of what not to say, based on some of my own experiences:
“Wow! You put on a little weight since I last saw you huh?”
Now you would think that the rudeness of this statement would be obvious. However, I guarantee you that in homes across the nation tomorrow, someone is going to get insensitive comments made about the change in their weight. This is unacceptable, even with a relative. The truth is that another person’s weight is not something that should be commented on by anyone, because each person’s body is their own. Also, think about being in your loved one’s shoes. They look in the mirror every day. They KNOW that they have gained weight. They have probably even anguished over what others may say about them at this holiday family reunion. Why not have respect for the feelings of others and leave the insults outside the door, better yet just get rid of them altogether?
“Whoa! What is going on with your hair?”
Whether it is a female or male member of your family, negative comments about their hair probably aren’t a great way to greet them or welcome them to Thanksgiving dinner. I know, I know…it is so easy to want to give our loved ones unsolicited advice about their style and appearance. Sometimes we feel like we are “looking out” for them. Sometimes we may even feel like we have the “right” to tell them about their appearance. However, unless you are asked for your opinion, it is isn’t a good idea to give one. It is quite possible that your loved one put concerted effort into their appearance for the family gathering. Hearing rude or hurtful comments over and over is not going to make the holiday experience a good one.
“Are you going to eat ALLLLL that?”
It must feel GREAT to prepare your plate and be eager to dig into the Thanksgiving goodies, only to have someone question how much you are going to eat, right? Wrong! The solution to this rude comment is easy: mind your business. If a person has a plate full of food, and they fixed the plate themselves, then they already know how much food is on the plate. Whether they intend to eat it all or not, is at their personal discretion. If you are truly concerned about their health, then you can always pull them to the side at a more appropriate time and share your concerns in a positive, loving conversation. Putting them on the spot at the dinner table is definitely not going to solve any health issues. It is more likely to hurt than help.
“I thought you were supposed to be on a diet”
This statement is different than the preceding one because it is not just about embarrassment but also guilt. Maybe your loved one has shared with you that they have made the decision to eat healthier. We all know that Thanksgiving is the day that most of us allow our selves to over indulge at the dinner table. Allow them the moment of indulgence. It is perfectly okay for them to join in the family festivities for the day, and that includes having a slice of pumpkin pie after dinner. Healthy choices should be rooted in loving ourselves first and embarrassment or guilt are not going to help your loved one be successful in their life choices. A loving, positive action would be to suggest a family walk after dinner. It is a great way to be supportive and help the entire family stay health focused together, even in the midst of momentary indulgence.
“You don’t have any kids yet? What are you waiting on?”
So you’re sitting around after Thanksgiving dinner and the children are running around or playing near by and the conversation begins about the new babies in the family and how much everyone has grown. Then, someone makes a comment to the relative (male or female) with no children, asking them why they have decided not to procreate yet. This seems like a harmless comment right? Well, actually it can be quite uncomfortable for some. The fact is that your loved one may be challenged by body issues such as infertility, miscarriage, or even be trying to conceive. Also, not everyone has chosen the traditional “family” path for their lives. Single people are choosing to adopt. Gay and lesbian couples are using alternative methods also. Since the topics of fertility and conception are quite sensitive and private to most people (both male and female) they are not often shared or discussed as readily with friends and family. So, try to be sensitive and aware to the life journey that others have, before commenting.
“What in the world do you have on?”
It is almost inevitable that one person in the family will arrive wearing something that stands out in the crowd. Almost every family has the eccentric person who dresses to their own beat (I actually dig that person) and everyone makes fun of them. However, self expression is a right that we ALL have, but we do not all embrace it like that quirky cousin of yours. Most of us are too fearful or hesitant to wear what REALLY feels good to us or to develop our own sense of style. The truth is that the quirky cousin is the one who is brave enough to blaze their own path of self expression by wearing what they like. Whether the outfit of another person seems tacky, ugly, our outdated to us it is important that we consider the feelings of the one wearing it. No two people are the same. That includes preference in clothing. So, we do not have the right to force our opinions on others.
“Man! You’re getting old!”
This one steps on my own toes, because I can be guilty of this. Depending on how far away you live from all your relatives, you may only see them once a year around the holidays and they may look a lot different since you last saw them. The grey hair has grown in, the bald spots are starting to show, and the skin is beginning to wrinkle. The first thing that comes to mind, may be the fact that your loved one has aged since you last saw them. Pointing this out to them, is not a great idea. Let’s be real, who wants to be reminded that they are creeping closer to death? We all look in the mirrors and see our bodies evolving over time. Some of us embrace it as a part of life while others experience true anxiety over aging. Either way, being mindful of commenting on it is a good way to be thoughtful of those we love.
What about you? Have you been the subject of comments or jokes. Have you unknowingly made comments to friends and loved ones about their body or appearance? I’d love to hear your feedback or even other comments that should be added to the “Do Not Say” list. Please share them below and feel free to pass this on to your loved ones to help them prepare for a fun and positive Thanksgiving Holiday together!
Photo Courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/liquene/3983449512/ Design by: SeeBodyLoveSelf.org
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