Social support is key in avoiding weight gain, says a new study. Learn how to navigate conversations about gaining weight this holiday
If your family has something to say about your recent weight gain, brushing off their comments may not be as easy as you think: Women whose loved ones are critical of their weight tend to put on even more pounds, reports a new Canadian study in the journal Personal Relationships.
In the experiment, participants who were told by their loved ones that they looked fine no matter what the scale said maintained their weight or even lost a pound, whereas women who didn’t hear as many kind words gained an average of 4.5 pounds. (Can You Tell Someone You Love They Need to Lose Weight?)
"Lots of research finds that social support improves our health," said lead author Christine Logel, professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada. "An important part of social support is feeling that our loved ones accept us just the way we are." Pressure from family to lose weight actually led women who weren’t originally concerned about their weight to pack on the pounds.
The holidays can be the hardest: When you haven’t seen someone in months, the 10 stress-pounds you’ve gained are what stands out the most compared to their last image of you. And while family can be loving and understanding, there are also those few members that just can’t help but make a comment while passing the pie. So how can you quiet the haters at the table? Try these tricks from Debra Fine, communications expert and author of The Fine Art of Small Talk.
Avoid Getting Defensive
When your nasty aunt makes a snide comment after you ask for more mashed potatoes, ignore your instincts to fight fire with fire. “Using a defensive tone will not only make it awkward, but make others embarrassed for you—and that’s a worse feeling than being called out for your weight!” says Fine.
Humor is always the best way to deal with touchy topics because it keeps a potentially heated matter light-hearted. (Check out Why Conversations Go Wrong and How to Fix Them.) When your annoyingly fit sister asks if you’ve been hitting the full-fat eggnog a little too often, answer: “That’s between me and my fridge.” If someone says something about your buffet table choices, say in a joking tone, “When I need permission for what goes in my mouth, I’ll be sure to call you.”
If you're certain your family will make unwelcome comments, you could just get ahead of the news: “I’ve been so stressed out with work lately, I haven’t been to the gym in a month!” Anyone who cares about you will be more focused on the pressure you’ve been under than the fact that you’ve gained a few. (Is Your Job to Blame for Your Weight Gain?)
Pull the New Year's Resolution Card
You know you’re being indulgent—but you’re okay with it: “I've been eating so unhealthy lately! Come January 1, I’m going to start cooking more and running, but until then, I’m giving myself a free pass.” Since it’s pretty safe to assume we've all made this promise at one time or another, it’s logic anyone can relate to.