“But Why Don’t You Like Christmas?” 40+ Resources for Holiday Boundary Setting and Self Care

A friend of mine told me a curious story this week: Her preschool-aged daughter brought home an Amish friendship bread starter, a classroom-wide gift from her teacher. The recipe included items she doesn’t keep in the house and required bread-making skills.

The expectation, of course, was that each child’s parent(s) would hunt down the proper ingredients and learn any skills needed to teach their child how to make bread. With no notice, during the holiday season, before the starter exploded from the confines of its Mason jar.

My friend appreciated the thought that went into the gift — from a young teacher who’s passionate about baking — but wasn’t thrilled to have this extra burden.

Mixed Feelings Are Okay!

This is the conflicting nature of the holidays for so many of us. A season that “should” be joyful becomes an obligation to appear joyful while staggering under a stack of expectations, emotional labor and extra duties. For many who’ve experienced losses, trauma or tragedy around the holidays, an extra box of grief gets added to the pile.

That’s not to say that the holidays suck for everyone, or that they suck all the time for those with mixed feelings. I might enjoy a holiday karaoke night with friends and utterly dread going to a family gathering the next day (or vice versa).

For many of us, family is where the expectation boxes start piling up in our arms. For some of us, the holidays look like this:

  • Eating a smaller amount than desired at a holiday dinner to prevent remarks on our body size or food preferences
  • Appearing alone at holiday gatherings to prevent a “non-traditional” significant other from having to deal with negative reactions from our family members or work colleagues
  • Arranging family events that we know we won’t enjoy, because our family expects us to
  • Cooking more food than we can reasonably be expected to cook, without sufficient help
  • Scrambling to buy, write, address and send out dozens of holiday cards so no one’s feelings are hurt
  • Being overwhelmed for months on end

Many of these expectations also fall into the category of emotional labor, which falls almost entirely on women.

Shades of Tinsel: It’s Not Just “Cut Them Off” or “Put Up With It”

Holidays are also when cultural and social norms are instilled and heavily reinforced. That means those of us who live in fat bodies, or are LGBT+, are pretty likely to face a lot of criticism in spaces that should be joyful and warm and welcome.

It’s easy to say “well, just cut those toxic family members out of your life.” Real life, of course, is more complex than that. You can love your uncle and enjoy his company, and still wish he didn’t make a negative comment on your weight once per visit. You can wish your parents would accept your gender without wanting to cut them out of your life. You can love your family and yet not want to hear a constant string of comments that make you feel alone and defensive, or listen to long conversations full of diet talk.

For folks who were raised in an environment where they weren’t allowed to develop or set boundaries, the holidays add yet another box to the now-teetering stack:

  • Am I allowed to attend a holiday gathering and expect not to hear negative comments about my body?
  • Is it okay to expect my family members to respect my life decisions and not force me to defend those decisions every time I see them?
  • How on earth do I go from feeling beaten down after every holiday to being okay while still being able to see my family?

40+ Resources for Holiday Boundary Setting and Self Care

If you’ve ever said “I hate Christmas,” or “I feel like I should be happier during the holidays,” I’ve got your back — whether you choose to (or even want to!) celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, solstice, New Year’s, or just would prefer it all to go away.

You deserve to have a holiday season that’s happy, not a punishment for being you. For those of us who struggle at the holidays, here are some of the best resources on how to set boundaries, take care of ourselves, and know when to draw the line. 

For Those Who Live in Large Bodies, or are Fat or Superfat

1. “I am seeing a ton of food shaming, food policing, and food moralizing. All of this is crap.” My Dogs Help You Tell The Food Police To Take A Holiday

2. A script you can use to request that people don’t comment on your food or your body in advance, and 5 ways to deal with food and body talk from friends/family. How To Handle Holiday Diet/Body Talk

3. Marianne Kirby offers guidance for fat and thin folks alike as we head into holidays centered around food and eating. Marianne’s Twitter thread

View this post on Instagram

Hi friends! We’re inching closer to Thanksgiving and December madness. It’s a tough time to navigate for anyone, let alone someone who’s working on making peace with their body and their learned conditioning. Part 1 here was all about re-routing conversations with well-meaning folks who try to talk about your body. Now Part 2 turns that around–here’s how to soften and de-fuse diet talk and body hatred that people sling around themselves. <3 Stay tuned later this week for Part 3, as well as more bonus content–created from your questions that you sent me! Have one you’d like to ask? Drop it in the comments! #fatactivism #fatacceptance #nedaawareness #edrecovery #bopo #allbodiesaregoodbodies #mentalhealth #fatphobia #honormycurves #bodyconfidence #selflove #goldenconfidence #iamenough

A post shared by Jen Ponton (@jenponton) on

5. “The Holidays are Coming” is one third of the Dieting Axis of Evil along with “New Years Resolutions” and “Bikini Season is Coming.” The Worst Holiday Diet Tips

6. “For the most part, I find people can learn to respect the boundaries we set about talking about (or choosing not to talk about) our weight.  After all, our bodies are our business, and not anyone else’s. But there are always those few people who find it their “moral obligation” to police our bodies.” Do I owe it to anybody to lose weight?

7. “Let me suggest that you don’t have to put up with weight shame (during holidays you celebrate or any other time). You don’t have to put up with body snarking, body stigma, or concern trolling. You don’t have to allow a running commentary on your body, health, or food choices from anyone.   You don’t have to accept treatment you don’t like because people are your family, friends, or because they “mean well”. And you don’t have to internalize other people’s bullshit, you don’t have to buy into the thin=better/healthier/prettier paradigm or be preached at by people who do.” Combating Holiday Weight Shame

For Those Who are Sad or Grieving

8. “Ultimately, I’m writing to you, who for a million different reasons find peace difficult to come by in a time when it’s supposed to be plentiful.” To Those Who Struggle This Christmas

9. “It’s okay to have an unhappy holiday. Just because all is merry and bright around you, doesn’t mean your feelings have to match. If you’re depressed, be depressed. You can be blue when everyone else has donned green and red—or silver and gold.” Depressed During the Holidays

For Those with Eating Disorders

10. “Let’s make one thing clear: All eating should be guilt free, because all foods are guilt free. However, I understand that this is often not what we are taught, and we can end up with so much shame around eating during the holidays.” FREE Ultimate Guide to Guilt Free Holiday Eating

11. “Surviving the holidays when you have an eating disorder is not always easy. If you are like many of my clients you are not looking forward to the holiday parties, events, dinners, and plans. I have some tips to help you survive the holidays if you have an eating disorder.” Eating Disorder Holiday Survival Guide

For Parents

13. “Have you ever insisted, “Uncle just got here—go give him a big hug!” or “Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss,” when you were worried your child might not offer affection on her own? If yes, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future.” Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays.

For Those Who are Overwhelmed

14. “Often, families at this time of year consist of a variety of personalities, values, and beliefs. Sometimes those beliefs are outdated and downright damaging. But we’re expected to remain silent (especially women!) and “just try to enjoy the holiday!” So what exactly are we getting together to celebrate here? If we have to just shut up and sit down for this shit, we become part of our own oppression. Wait! Aren’t we supposed to be celebrating togetherness?!” When “The Holidays” are Triggering…or worse!

15. “We can fight this, resent our lot in life, and hate ourselves – but in battle of You vs. Yourself, you will always lose. (These odds are never in your favor.) We can also make the conscious choice to make room for our SPD at the proverbial holiday table. Move over, Great Aunt Mildred. Watch out, carved turkey. I’m a’comin’!” Surviving the Holidays with Sensory Processing Disorder

For Those with Anxiety

16. “The holiday season can feel fraught with overwhelm, tricky conversations, and the huge weight of internal and external expectations. To support you in showing up for your life differently this holiday season, I recorded this short episode to remind you that you are allowed to take care of yourself, set and maintain appropriate boundaries, and say no (especially when you really really really want to).” needy 27: daily reminders for a joyful holiday season

17. “While enjoying these moments, I am also struggling with the darkness inside that comes along with the shorter days. My impulse is to burrow deep and rest until spring awakens the earth again. But until January comes there is simply too much to do. Thus I have come up with some strategies to help me get through this time of both light and dark.” Holiday Stress: Five Ways to Manage the Chaos that Comes with the Holidays

18. “The holidays are full of joy and cheer. Unless they’re not. For people with anxiety and depression, the holidays can be pretty miserable, leaving them looking for some kind of relief. If you’re the type to suffer from the holiday blues, there are ways to get through the season without a great deal of suffering.” Have a Strategy: 6 Steps to Ease Social Anxiety This Holiday Season

For Those Learning Boundaries

19. “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.” THREE PRINTABLE SIGNS (+ TIPS) THAT WILL MAKE YOUR HOLIDAYS MORE ENJOYABLE

20. “For me the secret is boundaries. I think it’s best to start by deciding what constitutes behavior that you will put up with. If it’s anything other than “anything goes” then I would consider setting some boundaries with consequences that you can follow through with.” Setting Boundaries At the Holidays – In Song!

21. “I’m writing you now because a holiday visit is looming and I’m either going to spend it miserably, silently tamping down my frustration yet again, or completely losing my shit. How do I get her to see that her “interest” is actually an unhealthy obsession?” Holidays in “Health” Hell

22. “During no time of the year do body boundaries become more difficult to maintain than the holidays. Just like Santa, so too do your rights to privacy and dignity suddenly become a magical fantasy. It turns out that you have the right to boundaries all-year round, not just the months when we’re not wearing cable knit sweaters.” Take The Cake: 4 Body Boundary Tips For The Holidays

23. “When we do this work, we remain surrounded by diet culture. We may find little enclaves where we are insulated from it, but at the end of the day we still have to go to the office, hang out with friends, have family gatherings, etc. Diet culture is right there waiting for us when we leave our cozy body positive cocoons. How’s a person to deal? Try this advice on for size.” Coping when your friends, colleagues, and family are still dieting

» «

View this post on Instagram

Sometimes we find it the hardest to implement boundaries with our family. We often have very set patterns, roles, and expectation within our family dynamic. If we are introducing new boundaries, or adjusting old ones, it can be really uncomfortable and even create conflict. However, being clear about our boundaries is important in any healthy relationship. If you are not sure what family boundaries sound like, here are some examples ?? • • • #boundaries #selfawareness #awareness #reflection #panicattack #mentalhealthtips #selfesteem #mentalhealth #psychology #psychotherapy #counseling #therapist #selfdiscovery #selfcare #selflove #lifetransitions #identity #authenticity #worthit #privatepractice #onlinetherapy #onlinecounseling #millennialtherapist #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthmatters #familytime

A post shared by Sara Kuburić, MA, CCC (@millennial.therapist) on

25. “If you’re determined to go somewhere that has you reading “survival” tips, you (hopefully!) have a good reason. Put some thought into why so you can keep that good reason with you throughout the trip.” How to Go Home for the Holidays When Your Family Is a Bit Much 

For Those Who Want to Change

26. “For many people the holidays are coming, which can mean lots of gathering with family, friends, co-workers, people you don’t know that well but who invite you and put out a good spread etc. If you’re helping to plan an event at the holidays (or, you know, anytime) here are some tips and tricks to help make sure it’s welcoming to fat people.” Ragen Chastain

27. “In that way, comments about food are a performance: a scripted moment of humility, designed to pardon us for our indulgences and perceived shortcomings. We assign moral value to food, then self-flagellate for our lack of piety. Often unintentionally, we create a hierarchy of bodies, assuming that our devotion is visible in the shapes and sizes of our skin. Who has kept the faith? Who needs to confess?

At a holiday all about food, we apologize for eating. At the precise moment we carve out to connect with one another, we distance ourselves.” Being Better To Your Fat Friend This Thanksgiving

28. “I’m a member of a lot of special interest Facebook groups for fat people. If you are not fat, I want you to hear that every year at around this time, these groups are just full of people desperately asking for support for how to weather the harmful commentary they’ll hear during the holidays about dieting, food, and fat bodies. It’s tragic and heartbreaking to witness. I’m telling you this because if you’re not fat, you may never see this commentary, and you may not understand that people you love may be secretly terrified to go home because of how often it’s reinforced in both direct and indirect ways that their kind of body is deemed unworthy of existing. And it’s made extra hurtful because the ones doing this are people who are supposed to love them; and they don’t even know the damage they’re doing.

I want you to hear that this kind of talk is thought of as “normal” and “harmless,” but it’s actually abusive to people you love. I’m telling you this because I’m hoping if you knew, you would want to avoid this kind of talk.

Here’s how you can help. This holiday, I encourage you to not to engage in any discussion of some of these “typical” and pervasive holiday subjects.” Deborah Ayceekay

29. “Because we largely can’t understand the details of another person’s relationship with food, the best practice is a simple one: Don’t offer unsolicited commentary on the food that is or isn’t on someone else’s plate this holiday season.” Laura Steinkoenig

30. “You don’t know what’s going on with someone just by looking at them,” said Rachel Millner, a licensed psychologist who has specialized training and experience working with eating disorders and body image issues. “So many people, regardless of their body size, struggle with food and disordered eating. A good rule of thumb is just never to talk about weight or diet, because it can be triggering.” Why You Should Never Comment On Someone’s Weight Or Eating Habits At Thanksgiving

31. “I’m telling you this because if you’re not fat, you may never see this commentary, and you may not understand that people you love may be secretly terrified to go home because of how often it’s reinforced in both direct and indirect ways that their kind of body is deemed unworthy of existing. And it’s made extra hurtful because the ones doing this are people who are supposed to love them; and they don’t even know the damage they’re doing.” Deborah Ayceekay

View this post on Instagram

It occurred to me one day that you can go to the supermarket and buy stuffing any day of the year. Same applies to candy ?, cookies ?, apple pie ?….pretty much any food that is usually associated with a holiday! Crazy right!? ? ⁠ ⁠ But when we only allow ourselves to have those foods on special occasions, it can lead to binging or overeating them when we finally get the chance! ⁠ ⁠ I used to ONLY allow myself to eat my favorite Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. Then, I would eat them to the point of feeling physically sick ? ⁠ ⁠ Now that I give myself unconditional permission to eat my favorite foods whenever I want, I’m able to stop eating while I still feel great ?⁠ ⁠ If you feel like there are certain foods that you just can’t seem to control yourself around during the holidays, what would it look like to give yourself permission to eat those foods on any old day of the year? The results might surprise you!

A post shared by Intuitive Eating Dietitian (@megandenosrd) on

33. “We’ve all been there: Someone we know is suffering, and we’re not sure what to do.” Christmas blues: Four mistakes we make when comforting friends who are struggling

34. “Today I wanted to take a second to talk directly to fat shamers, accidental fat shamers, and potential fat shamers – however well meaning they may be – about how they can stop the problem before it even starts at the holidays, and all year long!” Here’s How to NOT Ruin The Holidays For Fat People

35. “She has already started to question me, she senses something is amiss.  She has asked why her aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are so concerned with diets and losing weight and changing their bodies. She hears you talk about not eating bread or cake or limiting your portions or going for a run to work something off.  She hears you say you want a large piece of cake but will take the small one. She hears your partners tell you – yes, you should definitely take the small one and it doesn’t even phase her when she should be horrified that someone would tell someone else what to eat.” Dear Family Members during the Holidays

For Everyone

36. “It takes…a lot…to write about my family and I know I am not going to be able to answer all of these the way they deserve, so I want to gather some advice and resources in one place. I’m also going to make this an open thread where people can talk to each other about difficult family stuff.” “We Are Spartacus!”: Open Thread & Resources On Family Estrangement And Adult Relationships With Difficult Parents

37. “If it’s the first time you are seeing family and friends since you gave up dieting, it can be intimidating and uncomfortable, it can also be incredibly freeing and exhilarating. Here are a few things you can do to navigate those first few holidays.” If it’s Your First Holiday as an Intuitive Eater or Trying to Accept Your Body

38. “We’re not meant to just forget the things that have happened to us. Our brain wants to protect us from damage so it sends all the warning signals it can to keep you safe. If you have bad experiences with family, all the bells and whistles tend to come out by your brain. And when the holidays are around, it can add to the wish that you had a different family or better life. That’s why seeing happy families on social media hits even harder. You feel alone, like no one else understands what it’s like to have a family that doesn’t understand you or is hurtful.” The Cost of Holiday Perfection

39. “I have created a Holistic Nourishment Checklist & Personalized Self-Care Plan for you. It is 8 pages of information, checklists and a self-care plan template to help with your relationships to self, body and each other, as well as to support your journey to holistic wellness this holiday season and beyond.” Free Holistic Nourishment Checklist

40. “My point is that holidays are hard as fuck for some of us. And that is okay. It isn’t our fault. It isn’t something that we need to be filled with shame about. It isn’t something that we can fix in ourselves nor that we need to.” Holidays are hard AF. SJ’s site is currently down. Hopefully they’ll be back soon!

41. “Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much self-development work you have done – it is easy to get hooked into old patterns and ways of being. So what to do on Christmas Day if you don’t have family, don’t want to spend it with family or if you want to avoid Christmas altogether?” 30 Alternatives to a Dysfunctional Family Christmas

42. “Diet and weight talk is unhelpful for everyone. It can be harmful for people in recovery from eating disorders, for children, and for pretty much anyone who is trying to have a healthy relationship to food and their body. It’s also just boring. As an eating disorder and body image therapist, the following are a few tips for dealing with the inevitable “diet” and “weight” talk this Thanksgiving.” Tips for Dealing with Diet and Weight Talk Over The Holidays

43. “Aunt Ethel, I know you comment on my weight because you think it’s helpful, but it’s not, and I need you to stop doing that.” The Non-Dieter’s Holiday Survival Guide

44. “Today, I want to reach out and invite you to think about shifting your self-care a bit to support you right now. It still needs to be on your list – your “this is non-negotiable” list – even as you wrap presents and bake cookies and run to the store yet again and how the list goes on and on. Here are a few ideas to help you think about ways to practice self-care right now. Choose just one from this list to try. Or let these ideas be a springboard for your own.” 10 ways to practice self-care at the holidays

45. “The problem isn’t fat people, it’s fat-shaming. So today I wanted to take a second to talk directly to fat-shamers of the on-purpose, accidental, and potential variety – however well-meaning they may be – about how they can stop the problem before it even starts at the holidays, and all year long!” How To Stop Ruining The Holidays For Fat Friends and Family

46. And finally, a Christmas classic that makes me howl with laughter every time I re-read it. “The year I learned that Christmas did not, in fact, originate as a celebration of my amazing ability to temporarily transform into a ‘good’ child for a few weeks was the year my grandparents took me to see their church’s nativity play.” The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas

Your Body-Safe Holiday Hangout

Looking for some body-positive folks to hang out with virtually over the holidays? Join us in the Body Liberation Blanket Fort, my free and body-safe Discord group.

A cute illustrated tent on a dark blue background, surrounded by trees, clouds and the moon. Text reads, Get access to the Body Liberation Blanket Fort, a safer, fatphobia-free community for people of all sizes.

Hi there! I'm Lindley. I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work here at bodyliberationphotos.com.