How to Ruin Xmas

Googling my way around the Internet for health news, I stumbled upon one of the most ill-conceived stories to come from a moderately reputable news source. No, don’t go looking for it yourself—there’s no space for comments, and I’d rather they didn’t accrue more page hits from my irritation. Essentially, in the spirit of the holiday season and with joy, love and yuletide in our hearts, we are urged by the BBC and various smug health researchers to “Tell Loved Ones They Are Overweight This Christmas.”

Seriously, that’s the title of the article. But if you don’t think alerting relatives to their own physical realities sounds like a fun way to spread holiday cheer, you’re not alone. According to the article, “a survey of more than 2,000 people found 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds would not tell a loved one they should lose weight because of a fear they would hurt the other person’s feelings.”

Well, yeah. Because 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds aren’t complete dicks. But this has become quite the problem, researchers argue.

If someone close to you has a large waistline then as long as you do it sensitively, discussing it with them now could help them avoid critical health risks later down the line and could even save their life,” insists Prof David Haslam (whom I’m sure everyone wants to sit by during Haslam holiday parties) of the National Obesity Forum.

So you see? It’s about SAVING LIVES. Because everyone with a large waistline is unhealthy, and everyone with a lean build is really diligent about exercise. You never see people of different shapes and sizes running marathons, powerlifting or racing cyclocross—it’s all a bunch of Outside cover models who eat Chia seeds and like yoga and never do any sort of bad thing ever.

I’m a firm believer in Health at Every Size, or the idea that “fat” does not equal “unhealthy,” and the dieting industry does more damage than it actually repairs. It’s why I write a lot about bicycling and running, but I’ll never write about weight loss. I mean, why would I? I don’t particularly enjoy reading about that stuff. For me, there’s value in enjoying a sport itself, and framing a 10-mile run to be some kind of penance for going too hard on a Topsy’s popcorn tin drains all the magic out of just plain loving to run.

True nirvana would be draining one of these WHILE running.

Shaming your family for what could be their natural, preferred body size is no way to make anyone healthier, and it’s particularly distasteful on a holiday that should be about celebration, love and togetherness. And might I posit the controversial theory that if your loved ones at all care about weight, they probably already know? You don’t need to spell it out in Christmas lights on the front of your house.

Unless you’re a doctor, trust your loved one to know more about his or her health situation than you do. No—even if you are a doctor, unless you’ve just concluded a series of diagnostic tests on said loved one, you should still trust your loved one to know more to know about his or her health situation.

And if you are concerned about a loved one’s health—I’m talking about his or her HEALTH, not simply their weight—there are definitely better times than when the family is all gathered together to celebrate, and a tray of gingerbread Santas is making the rounds. If not, you’re just using faux concern as a way to be a sanctimonious Grinch.

“Start by encouraging someone close to you to make simple lifestyle changes such as becoming more active, making small alterations to their eating habits and replacing sugary drinks with water.”

How paternalizing. And weird. Oh hey mom, remember that holiday margarita you just poured yourself? Well, I replaced it with a festive glass of WATER. Water on the rocks, no salt. Zero calories, mom. You’ll thank me later when the rest of us are drunkenly laughing over charades, and you’re trying out your new Jillian Michaels DVD, pleasantly hydrated.

Seriously, who are these awful relatives? Here’s my advice: This Christmas, eat well with your family, take walks with your family, don’t take your family for granted, and mind your own business when it comes to who eats what. And this goes for everyone—harassing a slender family member for not eating enough meat is just as irritating and unwelcome as asking a larger one if they really need another piece of pecan pie. Because yes, they probably do. It’s the holiday season—we probably all do. It’s controversial advice, I know, but I think I’ll call it: “Tell Your Loved Ones They’re Loved This Christmas.”