My Weight Is My Family's Holiday Dinner Conversation

I have a lot of family stuff coming up, naturally, and this is good. But it's the only time I'm around people who explicitly talk about my weight, and I can't help but wonder what they'll say this time.

It's not the majority of my family, just two or three people, and all women whom I love very much. I've noticed that sometimes an uncle or cousin will remark upon your weight (only to compliment you) but once he says it he lets it go. These ladies, however, usually have a comment each time they see you, and I mean "comment" in a very literal way, not a catty statement.

I lost some weight over the last few years, about four sizes or so, and I did it in a very tedious way: therapy, seeing a dietitian, exercise. Nothing special. But I've managed to keep it off for reasons I try not to over-analyze because I know that's rare.

My family members will thus say "So, you've kept the weight off!" or "What size is that dress?" or "You're getting skinnier and skinnier!" (which hasn't been the case for about three or four years but whatever.) I never know what to say to this. "Thanks!" seems conceited and obnoxious or "Yes, well, it takes a lot of work" sounds snooty. I usually settle with something like, "Oh, well, yeah, I guess, I don't know." One Christmas one relative jokingly told me she was banishing me to the kids' table because I needed an ego-check or something along those lines.

My table-banishing relative is the same though who remarked upon my weight the other way, too, when I was gaining weight from college to young adulthood. "So you've gained some weight recently," she said to me quietly one Thanksgiving, although not as an insult, just as a segue into some other weight-related topic. There was never an admonishment to gain or lose weight from any family members, just a statement on where it was, up or down, the way someone would remark on whether you've changed your hair.

I know that for many people, having family talk about their weight is one of the worst parts about the holidays, but for me it's just one of those things that are kind of weird but not the end of the world, like when my mom gets annoyed when people talk about politics at the Thanksgiving table. It gives you something to talk about later. Plus, I love my my table-banishing relative. She's brave and intelligent and creative and kind and loving and generous. We've had some really fun times together and I adore her, and I know she doesn't say anything out of malice.

I have to say that in some ways, too, I appreciate the women in my life who are so balls-out about noticing one's body: at least they're not talking about you behind your back. While I think body-hate talk is a waste of time, honestly saying how you feel, if it's influenced by your weight, can just be real talk, if you're with people with whom you feel comfortable talking about it. You're a big girl like I'm a big girl and let's just be honest; we can talk about big girl things. Or not.

So while the Family Talking About Your Weight thing is one of those clichéd-but-real reasons people get stressed about their family (like the sister-in-law asking why you're still single), it's also one of the reasons I love my family (sort of like how I feel about having so many lawyers in my family). It's...weird and mildly stressful but it's one of those things that makes my family who they are, and I love my family, so I wouldn't change it.

Claire Zulkey is both a lover and a fighter Her writing can be found at Zulkey.com.

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