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This Is What a Psychotherapist Says You Should Respond When Tia Criticizes Your Body This Holiday Season

Illustration via Vecteezy

The holidays are just around the corner. And while we’re excited to celebrate the happiest time of the year with friends and family, we’re also a little nervous.

Spending so much time with family members can bring up old childhood feelings of insecurity, anxiety and even depression. If you identify with the millions of people who experience body image issues, going back home can be an especially anxiety-inducing time.

After all, it’s incredibly common for family members — and especially mothers — to comment on your body when they haven’t seen you in a while. And while sometimes these comments can be well-meaning, they’re often triggering.

And of course, this habit of saying body-critical comments is all too common in Latinx communities. “It’s so common in the Latinx culture for family to greet you with a comment on your weight,” says Yanette Tactuk, a Dominican-American psychotherapist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) based in New York City. “It’s always, ‘You’re so skinny, you need to eat!’ or ‘You’ve gained weight, you look like you’ve been eating well.'”

But this constant fixation on our appearances can leave us feeling rattled and hyper-conscious. And if you’ve been working on loving your body on your own time, hearing critical comments about your body from the people closest to you can be especially painful.

“When we’re seeing loved ones after quite some time, and their initial comment is about our bodies, it messes with our self-esteem, our confidence, and our worth,” says Tactuk. “While family often makes it seem like its light-hearted, these comments impact us. They can build us up or tear us down. It makes you feel as if your body isn’t worth loving throughout all of its stages and changes.”

It’s a tricky road to navigate. You want to stand up for yourself and your body and set boundaries with your family, but you don’t want to ruin the holidays with arguments that escalate quickly.

So how do we set boundaries without starting an argument? Tactuk says there are some effective ways to handle family members who criticize your weight or harp on your body.

If you have open-minded family members, one option is to open up your body-acceptance journey so they can see how harmful their comments truly are.

“For those family members who are open to engaging in authentic conversation, tell them that these comments about your body aren’t helpful and that you’ve worked really hard to love your body for all it does for you without criticizing it. It allows you to re-educate them and hopefully make them more mindful of the comments they make in the future.”

But, Tactuk admits, explaining your body-acceptance journey to family members doesn’t always do the trick.

“For those family members who may not be open to being called out, an option is simply to change the topic,” she says. “It’s a simple way to pour your energy into something less negative.”

In the days or weeks leading up to the holidays, make sure you focus on your own self-care and self-love so you can feel stable and secure when the inevitable comments come your way.

“Remind yourself of all of the things about you that you love or all of the things you’ve accomplished,” says Tactuk. “You are more than your body, and reminding yourself of your worth may help bolster your confidence.”

But above all, enjoy yourself! After all, the holidays are meant to be fun.

Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite holidays foods simply because you’re afraid of what your tía chismosa might say.

“Don’t guilt-trip yourself for eating an extra pastelito, having an extra plate or drinking that extra glass of coquito or slice of tres leches,” Tactuk says. “You are strong and powerful, and the most glorious thing about you is your heart and the love and grace you carry even when you feel the weight of body image comments.”

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