Warning: The content of this article may be triggering for individuals who struggle with eating disorders.
For many college students, Thanksgiving brings a much needed break from school and an opportunity to see family. However, the holiday season can bring its own unique type of stress. Maybe there is tension at home or that one “special” relative is coming for dinner. Holidays are intended to be times of love and cheer, yet they can somehow end up opening the door for many uncomfortable conversations. What I have come to dread the most about Thanksgiving is the subtle fat shaming that always emerges at the dinner table. On a holiday infamous for its feasting, it seems that everyone takes this day as an open invitation to judge other people's diets.
A little background on myself. Many members of my family have struggled with their weight, but I always took the prize of being labeled the “fat one." Full disclaimer, none of my relatives or friends have ever openly called me fat. However, after years of experiencing microaggressions at the dinner table, this was a title I unconsciously gave myself.
During my Sophomore year of High School, I began a weight loss journey and through a lot of hard work and emotional strain was able to lose over 100 Ibs. I am finally at a place in my life where I can be happy with myself and feel healthy. But I learned that just because you shed the weight doesn't mean that everything changes. In my mind, I am still the same self proclaimed “fat girl” and interestingly enough, the judgment from my family only seems to have gotten harsher.
My extended family feels no shame in asking me how much I weigh and analyzing whatever I put on my plate. A common question at my Thanksgiving dinner table is “can you eat that?” During our yearly gatherings, individuals who I haven’t seen all year are always shocked by the fact I can eat regular food. As much as I want to say “Yes, Aunt **** I will not regain all the weight from one piece of pie,” my response is usually much more civilized. The situation sucks and I have even found myself refraining from eating just to avoid these types of questions. There are members of my family who are expressing genuine concern and were by my side as I struggled through the process of losing weight. I am naturally a little more forgiving of questioning when it comes from an individual who has stood by me. What frustrates me are the people who come to dinner once a year and feel entitled enough to question my life choices. I don't know if it is because I am young or because I am a woman (probably both), but older figures in my life feel perfectly entitled to express their own opinion about MY body. They seem to completely disregard that I fought to lose weight in the first place and act as though I am ruining my body every time I put food in my mouth.
Surprisingly enough, this is not even the worst behavior I have experienced during the holidays. The only thing worse than having someone questioning what I eat is providing unsolicited advice. If someone is genuinely curious about my weight loss journey and how it has affected my life, I am more than happy to have a serious discussion with them. But I come from a family where everyone likes to hear themselves talk and “How are you doing Amanda?” often acts as an icebreaker for “Let's talk about my life.'' Everyone wants to tell me about the changes they made in their diet and their own weight loss success. Good for them for making those changes, but stop implying that I need to implement these practices in my own life. I have already spent three grueling years figuring out how my own body works.
The biggest take away I hope people receive from this article is that losing weight can change your life, but it doesn't necessarily change how others view you. I will always feel insecure about my childhood as the “fat girl” and my family will always be there to remind me of my former body. Sometimes I wish I could burn all of my childhood photos, but I know that this sentiment is unrealistic and would only cause me more pain in the long run.
So big surprise, losing weight did not solve all of my problems. But what it did teach me is that it is important to love the person you are now. Stop thinking about your body five years ago or how you might look in 30 years. Your twenties are supposedly some of the best years of your life, so you might as well love yourself for the person you are now.
Eat whatever the f*** you want this Thanksgiving! It is a day to indulge and be grateful for all the blessings you have in life.