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Joe Friday

15 Things You Should Never Say on Thanksgiving

You love your family. But chances are, you’re sharing the table with at least a few wacky characters this Thanksgiving. To keep the spirit of the holiday alive (and argument-free), there are some topics that just shouldn’t be broached.   Talking politics, for instance, is a huge no-no. You might not want to bring up finances or scandalous secrets. This much should be obvious. But unless you’re the perfect dinner guest, you’re probably saying at least one thing at the dinner table that’s making someone uncomfortable.

Here are 15 things you should never say at Thanksgiving dinner.

“Why are you still single?”
It’s the 21st century. People can do what they want in their romantic lives, so let’s let them do that without judgment. You also might want to check your sexism. This question is almost always asked of women over men. But times are a-changing! It’s no longer a gal’s responsibility to be pretty/smart/appealing/perfect enough to land a beau.  

“This [delicious Thanksgiving food] is so bad for me.”
Hold back any comments related to consequences of eating. “This has so many carbs. What’s this going to do to my arteries?”  On Thanksgiving, you’re surrounded by a plethora of fatty desserts and carb-loaded sides. Enjoy them! Believe it or not, each one of these calorie-loaded dishes is also filled with things that are good for your health, like nutrients, delicious tastes, and nostalgia. The healthiest meals (for your mind and your body) are the meals you enjoy.

“When are you two getting married?”
Looking for a way to make a couple feel really uncomfortable over dinner? Ask them this question. You don’t know what the future of their relationship looks like. And maybe they don’t, either! Marriage is a personal decision — and a big one, at that. It’s probably not an answer they want to piece together in the company of their entire extended family.

“When was the last time you went to [religious institution]?”
Let’s not shame each other for our religious decisions, OK? Whether or not a person goes to church anymore is not happy dinner conversation.

“Are you sure you want another serving?”
Yes, they are. That’s why they reached to get it. What’s the point of asking this, anyway? If you’re cautioning a family member about overeating because you’re concerned about their weight, don’t. We know you mean well. But the science shows that weight stigma (i.e., shame and judgment centered around weight) is really bad for people’s health. So you “looking out” for a family member’s health in this way is actually putting their health in danger instead. Let them eat what they want. It’s really not that big of a deal.

“Did you hear the news about Trump?”
Politics and turkey gravy don’t mix. To distract you from bringing up political controversies that might cause a ruckus before dessert, here are some relatively risk-free controversial topics to bring up instead: Coke or Pepsi? Ketchup or mustard? Are you team candy corn? New York-style or deep-dish? 

“This is going straight to my thighs!”
Leave your insecurities at home! Or better yet, work on getting rid of them altogether. Don’t associate the food you’re consuming with any kind of body shame. That’s not actually how biology works (weight gain isn’t an instantaneous result of eating a certain food) and you commenting on the size of your own thighs actually makes everyone at the table (including you!) feel worse about their bodies.

“I earned this pie!”
That’s great that you ran a turkey trot, Uncle Bob. Happy for you! But don’t act like you did it as compensation for dinner. Thinking you need to exercise to compensate for eating food is a classic symptom of disordered eating. And that’s just not healthy! You might encourage other people to think they need to punish themselves for eating with exercise. Let’s keep exercise a positive thing, shall we? While we’re on the subject, please also refrain from telling people what exercise you’re planning to do tomorrow to “burn off” Thanksgiving dinner.

“Remember when you [did some embarrassing thing you hoped everyone forgot]?”
Thanks for telling the whole family about it. That makes me feel great. If you need me, I’ll be hiding my face in my napkin until dinner is over.

“Woah, that’s a really big piece.”
“How many rolls did you eat?” No matter what the comment, hold back all comments on how much other people put on their plates. Why does it matter? You probably aren’t judging them on their decisions. But however innocent these comments seem, they can make the person the comment is directed at feel really self-conscious. Bam. Now you’ve taken the joy out of eating that huge slice of pumpkin pie.

“Is that all you’re eating?”
The same thing goes for comments on how little someone is eating. Let people make their food choices in peace, mostly because you do not know why they’re making that choice. Who cares what quantities they’re consuming? Enjoy their company and mind your own beeswax.

“I’ve been so good today/this week/etc.”
When a person says this, they’re probably referring to exercising or eating less or healthier food. And by calling these behaviors “good,” they’re making all other kids of food and exercise choices sound bad. Health is not a moral obligation. Stealing cake from a store is bad. Eating cake because it’s delicious is not. See the difference? Keep the morality out of food decisions please. Additionally, these types of comments make it sound like healthy eating is a bartering system. Eat a salad, earn a cookie. Run a mile, get a full dinner. Those types of mental exchange systems are really messed up — and not at all based on actual health or science. You’re allowed to eat the foods you crave no matter what you ate yesterday, this morning, or for the past year.

“Oh, I’m not eating dessert. I’m on X diet…”
Nobody wants to hear about your diet. Promise. First of all, no one wants to be made to feel badly for enjoying dessert on a holiday. Let the people be. Secondly, your diet is probably not doing your health any favors. Don’t drag other people into making the same mistake.

“Judy, you lost so much weight! How did you do it?”
It’s honestly never a good idea to comment on someone’s body changing, even if it seems positive. You might think this is a compliment, but you don’t know what’s going on in that person’s head. Your comment could be doing more harm than good. Why? For starters, you have no idea what caused the weight loss. Your family member could be depressed, have some other illness with a side effect of weight loss, or be in the midst of an eating disorder. Especially for someone suffering from disordered eating, compliments focused on weight loss could do a lot of harm. Why risk it? Wouldn’t you rather let your family members know you value them for more important qualities, anyway, like their senses of humor or intelligence? Let’s focus on those more valuable things, instead.

“You won’t believe what’s going on with Aunt Katie.”
Gossiping about family members just isn’t cool.  Words can hurt people. And even if Aunt Katie never finds out what was said over plates of green bean casserole, you’re probably making other people at the table feel awkward by talking badly about another family member or friend. Keep it positive — if not for this reason, do it because of these other 10 good reasons to keep gossip to yourself.

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