Hey Amber: How do I talk to my loved ones when they WILL NOT STOP focusing on body size, weight, and diets?
Hey Lisa, yes this is probably hitting hard due to the holidays, huh? A lot of this is programming. Especially in women, we all got some kind of conditioning that was focused on how our bodies look. It was constantly drilled into us: skinny is good and attractive and everything else is bad and something to be ashamed of. If you're anything other than skinny, you should only focus on getting back to skinny. When family members, especially older family members, make comments about bodies, weight, and diets, they think they are actually helping you get back to something "good" or "attractive," almost like a public service. When those types of comments are no longer serving you, it's time to express that. However, you have to understand that this has been a core focus for a lot of people for much of their lives so it may take some reprogramming for them to truly understand what you are telling them / asking of them. These are the four main things that can help support you in communicating to your family your boundaries around body, weight, and diets:
1. Make your desire to not have conversations focused around body, weight, and diets known. The more you an express yourself from the heart vs in defense, the more people will be able to hear you. Maybe share a few reasons why you don't want to talk about the topic(s) and ask if conversations can move to something else. This is creating a boundary and sometimes people don't understand the seriousness until you spell it out for them (and some people really need it spelled out.) 2. Acknowledge > Mix-up > Move on Acknowledge why you think they may enjoy talking about body, weight, and diets (because some people really get a kick from it!) and then say that you don't share that same passion, so can we mix up the conversation? Share with them things you enjoy talking about - hiking, traveling, doggos. Sometimes it can also help to explain to them why you like talking about hiking, traveling, and dogs vs body, weight, and diets, to help them see it more clearly from your perspective. This can help alleviate the pushback of "well, why don't you like those things" or "you probably don't like talk about this because xyz." It's a proactive measure that will help keep you in your power - you are expressing yourself not defending yourself. 3. Excuse yourself from spaces where people are talking about body, weight, and diets. It doesn't need to be a grandstand and you don't need to leave the room huffing or puffing with attitude. Just move to another space. If someone asks you why you keep leaving the room, just remind them: I don't enjoy conversations about body, weight, and diets. I have expressed that to you and I want to be in a space where that's not the main focus. 4. Convert the conversation Sometimes, people can't help but talk about the shiny thing in front of them, so give them a different shiny thing to talk about. In this case, I wouldn't recommend something in the same topic line...like body positivity or recipes you enjoy. Legit talk about something else, something you care about, and allow them to follow you. Some people are stubborn. Some people will also be stuck on bodies and food. At the end of the day, you have to choose for you how you want to engage these situations and establish your boundaries. And YES - you asking not to constantly talk about a particular topic - especially if it's triggering - is a boundary. Asking family to respect it is okay...even though we know some family members are all about F Your Boundaries (you know the one. I think every family has at least one.) It definitely helps to be consistent in your responses. "I know this is your jam but I don't feel the need to talk about it." Consistency can be tiring but hopefully your family will get the hints before too long and support you in your request to keep conversations focused on things other than body, weight, and food. The B I G G E S T piece of advice I can give here is: Remove emotion from your requests and responses as much as possible. Just kinda make them matter of factly. You don't need to accuse anyone of constantly talking about it and you don't need to whine that you're sick of it. Just keep it to the point - You don't feel the need or the passion to talk about it and you'd like to talk about other stuff. Best of luck with this one! I'd love to hear how your family responds to you after you've tried these out xoxo