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Dear Steph: Holidays Are Triggering
Navigating awkward conversations.
I’m headed to my in-laws for Thanksgiving, and they do not prioritize eating healthy. I am doing my best to eat well and lose weight, but they often make passive-aggressive comments about what I’m doing. How do I handle the holidays with people who just don’t get it?
They Made It Weird.
Want to turn a beautiful family dinner into an awkward situation for everyone?
Bring up politics, religion, or food.
It’s wild that food is clumped into the same category as the other two, but we’ve all experienced it to some degree.
Your mom commenting on your weight gain/loss.
Your aunt talking about the super restrictive diet that’s working for her (and that everyone should be on).
Your mother-in-law giving you grief for not trying all three pies she made.
Your sister’s comments about what or how little (or how much) you’re eating.
You’re then faced with deciding how to respond.
Feel defensive and provide a snarky comment back?
Say nothing, but feel triggered and restrict or binge more to cope?
Hide or leave.
Or maybe this isn’t your first rodeo. Maybe you’ve dealt with this for so many years that you can let it slide and realize their comment speaks more about THEM than it does YOU.
The fact is, it’s never easy. Comments around the holiday can leave you feeling defeated, isolated, triggered, and misunderstood. I’m sorry people suck sometimes.
But let me tell you a secret. While it doesn’t always feel this way…
Your Success Is Triggering.
If you’re reading this, you are on a health journey. You may be at the very beginning — starting to eat healthy, move more, research ways to take care of yourself — OR you may have been working on your health for years!
The reality? Most people aren’t.
Sure, they may say that they are, but we all know how difficult behavior change is. So when Aunt Nancy gives you grief for not going back for seconds or your mom comments on your weight, it’s often a reflection of their own inner struggles. It’s suppressed or misplaced guilt or shame they feel over their own thoughts, beliefs, and lack of action. Sometimes it’s based on their love language - maybe they believe the only/best way they can love you is through feeding you. This creates tension.
Maybe you’ve “given in” to the teasing or guilt trip before, and they remember that, which makes this time feel even more tense.
It’s a spiral, but it starts and ends with you.
You can’t always change what they say or what they do, but you can control your response.
Clearly and directly let them know their statement was not okay, and walk away.
Discuss boundaries around what topics are “off limits” before getting together and take more assertive actions if the boundary continues to be stepped over.
Remind yourself that your journey is none of their business. That bringing a healthy side dish is a strategy and strength, not a weakness.
Deflect the comment because you feel grounded in what you’re doing.
I think this last point is essential.
If you’re not feeling grounded, confident, and enjoying your health journey, you will find it difficult to deflect the inevitable comments.
Sometimes there is truth to their statement, which can hurt.
Maybe you are miserable on your super low carb/keto diet, but keep pushing through. Your actions and energy probably show that you’re unhappy, so when your mother-in-law gives you grief about not eating pie, you may feel it cut deep. Your brain knows it may be time to find a new nutrition approach that feels better, but it would have felt better to come to that conclusion on your own.
Maybe you have gained weight since the last time you saw your family member, so their comment cuts deep. It’s in these moments where you remember that you are in ACTION. That your worth is far more than your weight. Those negative statements focusing on where you currently are only keep you feeling stuck. They aren’t nearly as effective as your growth mindset - taking action towards where you can and want to go.
Maybe you told people you are doing Whole30, and they see you eating pie. You feel that cut deep because you’re not in integrity with what you said you were doing. Being out of integrity never feels good, no matter what it is.
I see you. I have had these conversations with family members in the past and know how triggering, hurtful, and uncomfortable they are.
I also know you are strong, capable, and have the ability to see the bigger picture — that your health journey is your own. That other people’s opinions can hurt, but they don’t matter when you feel grounded and in integrity. That you have the ability to use your voice to speak your truth, to set boundaries, and continue without others approval.
I wish you all the best this upcoming week. If you have tips that have worked for you as you navigate family get-togethers, please share them below!