My daughter returned home from school and looked a bit upset when I asked her about her art class. They had an art exam that day. Days before, they were given list of things they can choose to draw on the exam day. She choose a pineapple. But her friends, according to her, commented that her drawing is ugly and that's what made her sad. She cried. Trying to comfort her, I told her that everyone has their own opinion. It's okay. Two people can look at her drawing and see something totally different. We respect our friends' point of view. However their opinion is not necessarily true. Upon hearing that, she falls into peace again.
When I say that to my daughter, I have a feeling that it's like I'm telling this to my own self. People sometimes can be so mean or maybe too honest about your appearance. 'You've gained a lot lot lot of weight since I last saw you,' 'you shouldn't eat that burger', 'you need to lose weight', 'you look like a rugby player with fat legs'. Fat shaming doesn't motivate people to lose weight. From my own experience, criticizing someone's weight actually only makes them feel terrible about themselves and causes them to eat more and gain more weight. My dad and mom maybe thinks that they are just being real honest that every time I came home they will repeat the same fat-shaming advice in front of my husband. My dad even used to joke and laugh a lot about my weight. We can't shut people's mouth. People can say whatever they want about you but their approval doesn't matter. Not everyone will understand your weight loss journey or your struggle with gluttony. I never tried to correct people in my family because I don't think they will understand. Author of EatQ, psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, said that to prevent judgy comments from weighing you down is by telling them about how their words make you feel since they may not be aware. But it takes a lot of courage to tell someone else how you feel without feeling silly or risk embarrassment.
What is the other best way to react fat shaming from your family, or colleague in the workplace?
1. Look on the bright side
The people who care about you may say harsh comments with no intention to hurt you. They feel like as a family and friends it's their job to tell you the truth about your weight and health. They might say some super-insensitive comments, but try to remind yourself that this could be an attempt to show how much they care for you.
2. Silence is the best answer
Try your best not to respond. "Behaviours we reinforce continue, and those we ignore should stop," says Albers. Divert the conversation in another direction. Don't add anything to a conversation to belittling yourself.
3. Take care of yourself
When someone knocks you down, don't buy into it. Criticism at the wrong time can kill momentum for successful weight loss. Use this chance instead to build your confidence. Remind yourself each day to not just talk about your weight loss goals and aspirations but go out and do something about it. No matter how many times people try to criticize you, the best revenge is to prove them wrong.
4. Mentally prepare for the situation
You are going to attend a family event where you might bump into Critical Cathy so plan a few emotional strategies in advance. Breath deeply and evenly to help you feel much more relax. Visualize a relaxing experience to control immediate emotional responses. Close your eyes and imagine your safe place. Create as many details as possible. What sounds do you hear? What do you see? What does it smell like? What textures do you touch?
Learning to communicate assertively can also be very helpful in controlling your emotions. For example:
"Why are we focusing on what's bad about how we look? Let's focus on what we love about ourselves."
"The way you are talking about yourself (or someone else) is making me feel really bad about myself.
"I'm/you're beautiful and lovable the way I am/you are."
5. Reaching out to your support system
I hit up my most empathetic friends when I have to deal with this kind of situation. I can say that they are my great kind of therapy. Sometimes, it is necessary to vent to a friend about rude comments to keep your sanity.
Talk It Over
- What strategy do you use to keep your cool when someone fat-shaming you? Share in the comments.