I'm headed to Minnesota today to meet the Midwestern branch of my partner's family tree, also known as: the side that I am about to charm the shit out of.

And while I'm excited to experience actual cold weather, stay in a rural house that doesn't have Wi-Fi (what!?!?), learn how Minneapolis likes to karaoke and listen to his grandfather tell the same joke seventeen times... I'm also weary of spending a holiday dinner with a group of people who may be unfamiliar with body autonomy or the concept of food neutrality.

I've been fortunate to have frequent get-togethers with my family here in Tucson, most of which are completely food neutral. But this experience is pretty uncommon and it's unfortunate rarity was quickly proven after I asked a few readers what sort of comments friends or family members have said to their face during past holiday meals.

The responses, while anticipated are still appalling:

  • "Do you really need all that?! Aren't you big enough?"
  • "You can't eat any more" 
  • “I really don’t see the point in (dessert) when we just had A good meal”
  • "Leave some for the rest of us"
  • "Shouldn't you be eating less?"
  • "At least make an effort to loose weight and stop stuffing yourself!" 
  • "I'd keep off the dessert, if I were you!"
  • "Don't you know how much fat and sugar that has?!"
  • " You ate that fast."
  • "Are you not doing the diet thing anymore?"
  • "That's your second plate" 
  • "Are you sure you need all that pie?"
  • "*Sigh* You’d be so pretty if you just lost some weight.”
  • "You should probably stick to salad and veggies."
  • "You're not going to eat all that salad dressing, are you?"
  • "Oh I think you have had enough." 
  • "Potatoes aren't a vegetable, you shouldn't have so many. You need to eat more vegetables." 
  • "You really ought to keep in mind how many carbs are on your plate."
  • "Do you think you should have that?"
  • "You're gonna get fatter eating that and then no man will want you."
  • "You have such a pretty face. Don't ruin your body more."

The list goes on and ON.

These sorts of comments (not to mention the unspoken judgmental stares or side-eye glances) are clearly customary for tons of people but they aren't the only thing that can make visiting home/people you haven't seen in a while/relatives difficult.

I have a few simple tips for you if you're feeling anxiety around this holiday season while preparing for a visit:

  1. Implement the "Rental Car Theory". My therapist often mentions how hard it can be to visit people you have a long (and often complicated) history with, regardless of how much internal work you've done. She suggests using the "a rental car" theory to claim some independence. Maybe you can rent a car in the literal sense so you have control over when and where you go but this concept can also translate into allowing yourself some time alone. This can be a room, a walk around the block or giving yourself permission to leave early.
  2. Create a support system.  Mentally plan a list of some people you can call, a designated person you can talk to while there or even bring a body positive book with you. Have an external way to ground yourself while in the midst of chaos.
  3. Prepare your boundaries and responses beforehand. Something I often hear from fat folx is that they struggle to vocalize their needs or advocate for themselves when they are under attack and this applies in all kinds of circumstances. This is completely understandable. It feels impossible to come up with an effective response when you're not only caught off guard, trying to subdue learned shame AND attempting to deal with the situation in the moment.

THAT LAST SUGGESTION, dear friends, is why I have created some handy-dandy signs for you to print out and take with you this holiday season. Not only do they offer some phrases that you can use verbally but you can ALSO skip the chat all together and simply flash the sign of your choosing instead.

Allow the offending person a moment to read it and then, of course, promptly resume your holiday enjoyment.

One of my favorite memes is a girl standing on an enormously high ladder with binoculars with a caption that reads: "Me looking for who the fuck asked you?" It is every feel I  have about food policing all in one image. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend peeking at it here.

Three printable signs to ensure ultimate holiday meal enjoyment: 

And of course, my personal favorite (made for those with extra food-policey relatives or for those who simply don't have time to beat around a goddamn bush):

There are additional black and white versions of each sign to download and print because color is expensive AF:

 You can download these versions here: 

Note: each of these signs were made to be printed out on a regular 8 1/2 x 11" sheet of paper but feel free to adjust as you see fit!

How to implement these signs after printing them out:

  1. Adhere a Popsicle stick to the back with tape
  2. Tape a paint mixing stick to the back (duct tape recommended)
  3. It's apparent that Curious George just chopped off the end of a broom handle, so I guess that works too
  4. If you forget to prepare a handle, use something sticky at the dinner table and use a butter knife to hold it up. Bonus points if you just use a fork to stab the bottom twice so you can weave the prongs in and display it when needed.
  5. Print it on one half of a paper, fold it into a freestanding sign and place in front of your plate before the meal even begins
  6. Tape it to your head
  7. Just hold up the damn thing whenever needed

Whatever way you choose, I fully support you and your self-advocacy this holiday season!

And who cares if you love syrup on your spaghetti? All the more power to you, my friend.

Just remember these three important facts: this is your life, your body and your rules.

In courageous solidarity,

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