It’s safe to say that there is a lot of pressure for things to feel celebratory during the holidays. But as many fat people know, the holidays can be a minefield of uncomfortable feelings and awkward interactions. The season may be merry, but it’s also rife with diet culture, food guilt, and anti fat bias. Fatphobia is rampant, and very often it’s our families that are the culprit. It’s a lot harder to eat, drink, and be merry when you’re dealing with people commenting negatively about your weight or food choices. It can be overwhelming to deal with, so it’s very understandable to dread the holidays and the feelings they might bring up.
However, us at FFL want to let you know that you are not alone! It might feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle against fatphobia, but there are things you can do to help navigate this tricky season.
A good way to start is by identifying the ways anti fat bias might show up during the holidays. If you know what you’re up against, then you can prepare and protect yourself. Here are a couple of common examples of anti fat bias during the holidays.
- Comments on weight. Many people experience negative or judgemental comments about their weight when getting together with family. The worry that this may happen only increases if you are a gainer as well. Whether it’s a comment about your weight gain or your size in general, it’s always uncomfortable and uncalled for.
- Comments on food choices. Similar to the example above, this is common in families and especially during holiday dinners. While the holidays seem to be an excuse for some to indulge, for others it only makes them more restrictive and food policing. Food guilt and diet culture talk can be rampant and incredibly hurtful. Especially if all you want to do is enjoy a holiday meal.
- Insensitive jokes. So often we have the one person in our families who don’t understand or care that their jokes are hurtful or insensitive. Whether you are the brunt of the joke or not, it can lead to the environment feeling hostile. Doubly so if no one decides to call them out.
- Lack of accommodations. This may be a less common occurrence, but one that is incredibly noticeable and uncomfortable. An example of this may be a restaurant or home without accessible or comfortable seating. Perhaps a family member’s place has stairs or limited places to sit, and for those of us who need accommodations it’s easy to feel like you’re being left out when people don’t take your comfort into account.
How can I combat all this fatphobia? I’m just one person!
Fatphobia and anti fat bias can be a really daunting subject, especially if you feel like you’re facing it alone. There’s good news though: there are things you can do on an individual level to make real change!
- Educate yourself about fat liberation. If you haven’t already, read texts on loving your body (ex: The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor), the origins of fatphobia (ex: Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fatphobia by Sabrina Strings), and arm yourself with facts on fat (ex: The Fat Studies Reader Edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay).
- Get involved in events and organizing. Reach out to other fat lib activists and see how you can help. FFL is a great place to start – email info (at) fatliberation (d0t) org for more info or grab one of our organizers at an event and let them know you’re interested. Other organizations that work towards the goal of fat liberation you can look into for education and volunteer opportunities are Nolose (nolose.org) and NAAFA (naafa.org). NOTE: While Nolose and NAAFA are fat liberation oriented they are not explicitly feedist friendly. You may want to keep this in mind in your interactions with them.
- Share what you’ve learned. Tell the people around you about your new fat liberation knowledge, call out the fatphobia of your loved ones (when you’re safe and feel resourced to do so), and share your experiences with others (when you’re comfortable doing so).
- Check out FFL’s Fat Lib 101 resources (https://www.fatliberation.org/2022/10/01/fat-liberation-101/) for a more complete list of things you can read, listen to, and do!
What do I say to my family and loved ones when they say fatphobic things?
Fatphobic comments hurt no matter who they’re coming from – but fatphobia from family and loved ones, the people that we’re taught are supposed to support us, can be particularly painful. Let’s look at a few things you can do and say when you feel you are being targeted by fatphobia:
- Keep it short and concise. It’s not rude to tell someone, “I would rather not discuss this”. It’s a complete statement with no opening for interpretation. Other options include: “I don’t participate in diet culture talk”, “Please don’t speak about food in that way”, and “Please don’t comment on the size of my body”.
- Pretend you don’t understand what they mean. Getting someone to explain their fatphobia and why they feel it’s correct will often make them uncomfortable and, at the very least, hopefully make them stop what they’re doing.
- Change the subject. Ignore the comment entirely and change the topic of conversation to something you’d like to discuss – ‘Hey have you seen that new Quantum Leap reboot?’ – they might think it’s weird but, honestly, what’s weirder than trying to force someone to try and talk about their body?
- Bring back up. If it’s possible, have someone with you who is willing to speak up and be your ally if “uncomfortable” topics arise – it often feels less alienating if you’re not the only one speaking up. Call up your cool cousin or bring a friend around, whatever makes you feel safest – because you deserve that!
- Share your knowledge and experiences. As hard as it is to believe, there are people out there that genuinely don’t realize how hurtful they’re being when they say fatphobic things. If you’re comfortable with it, try sharing vulnerability with people in your life, explain anti fat bias and how it harms people, including you. If they’re receptive, share your knowledge and try guiding them towards body liberation and love.
Remember: we are all at different places in our journeys and there is nothing wrong with not being comfortable personally calling out fatphobia in these ways. We live in a society that bombards us with constant, exhausting fatphobia; you’re doing your best and that is more than enough.
How can I practice self-care during the holiday season?
There are a lot of ways to make the season feel more manageable. Taking care of yourself and your mental health is so important during this time of year, especially if you’re dealing with anti fat bias. Sometimes you have to be strong, like when you’re sticking up for yourself, but other times it’s in your best interest to be gentle with yourself. Here are some ways that you can tend to yourself this season:
- Find safe people to be around. If being with your family feels hostile or uncomfortable, be sure to make plenty of time to share the holidays with people you find safe! Whether it’s getting together with friends or chatting with like minded feedists of fat liberationists online, you can make sure that you’re giving yourself opportunities to have good times with people who you can trust. Since spending time with your family might be draining, finding family members or friends that you feel full with is incredibly important. It can be a way to recharge and nourish yourself socially.
- Treat yourself. Just because other people feel uncomfortable with indulging during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to feel the same way too! Whether it’s baking your favorite holiday treat or helping yourself to a cup of hot cocoa – giving yourself the opportunity to treat yourself can do wonders for your spirits. This can also translate into treating yourself to a gift for yourself when you’re out gift shopping for others. Or it can be as simple as wearing your comfiest sweater to family dinner. Do things that will make you feel cozy and cared for!
- Stress relief activities. These are the kinds of things you think of when you hear “self care.” It can be a relaxing bath, a face mask, meditation, or even cooking! The holidays are already so stressful, doing what you can to destress and relax can make a huge difference in your mood. You might end up finding yourself feeling more resilient and confident in standing up for yourself against anti fat bias after knowing that you’ve taken care of and pampered yourself well.
Where do I go to find solace/de-stress this season? How do I find other like minded fat people/feedists/fat liberationists?
Great question! There are a number of ways to find spaces with fellow fatties, liberationists, and feedists; here’s where you can start:
- Feedists for Fat Liberation will be hosting a Virtual Fireside Holiday Hangout on November 12 at 11AM PT/2PM ET/7PM GMT and we would absolutely love for you to join us! Wear your best ugly sweater (if you like) and come around for some socializing and holiday fun, including a recipe exchange! You can register for the event here: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0udO-spzkpEtAka22sivTnerNm3SkS5-FZ
- Discord servers and various social media can be a great way to socialize with others and after coming to an FFL event you’ll be invited to our social Discord if you wish, which is a great and safe place to start.
- Make your own space and curate it to your liking. Plan a holiday or friendsgiving-type event with only people you feel safest around, so you know you’ll be among like minded people and won’t have to worry so much about casual fatphobia. Remind yourself that even at the holiday season, maybe even especially so, your happiness and comfort are important and deserve to be protected.