The holiday season is a time for giving. It’s a time to focus on your community and the people you love. And depending on which holiday you celebrate, it’s also a time for gift giving. While there are plenty of amazing gifts for plus size fashionistas that'd be sure to go down well, there are also many you should consider avoiding. Sure, you might mean well by buying your plus size pal a yoga mat they never asked for or gift card to a supplement store they've never stepped foot in, but such prezzies can come across as offensive and (even if unintentionally) hurtful.
I grew up in a mostly supportive home, with a family that loved me no matter my size. Yet even when they had the best of intentions, some of their gifts fell into the "hurtful" category, like clothing they told me I’d one day fit into (when I shed those few extra pounds). I also recall being told that next Christmas would be an even better one because I’d finally be thin by then.
At nearly 280 pounds, I have never been thin at Christmas. But my family was right in thinking that next year would be even better, because I’ve since learned to love my body.
However, not everyone is at the same place in their body love journey, and while your gift might be well intentioned, you might want to avoid any potential fat shaming toward the recipient (especially if they’ve never expressed an interest in getting the following gifts). So before you go shopping, try to consider what these presents might suggest to the person you're giving them to.
1. A Gym Membership
There’s nothing better than waking up on Christmas morning to find that your loved ones have all pitched in to buy you a gym membership. Oh, wait, there is. Finding out they didn’t buy you one, and got you what you actually wanted instead.
Although it’s unlikely that someone who cares about you will gift you a gym membership with ill intent, this is nonetheless a highly problematic gift. It might imply that the person doing the gifting believes anyone who is fat must be fat because they are lazy and don’t work out. And additionally, that anyone who is fat should really "fix" their body as soon as possible.
2. Workout Clothing And Equipment
Much like a gym membership, you shouldn’t give the plus size loved one in your life workout clothing or machines unless they've expressed interest in these things. You may have the best of intentions when buying them an elliptical for the holidays, but all they're likely to see is judgment wrapped in a big red bow. If you do have your heart set on clothing, however, then check out some alternative gifts for the plus size fashionista in your life that won’t run the risk of fat shaming anyone.
3. A Diet Club Membership
Let's just talk about the fact that diet clubs (think Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, or Herbal Magic) are the worst. From my experiences, they’re largely focused on making you feel badly about yourself so that you then pay them to help you lose the weight. Some might say they want to help you “become the best ‘you’ possible,” but the suggestion that your body is anything but magnificent as it is already is flawed.
Giving this as a gift to someone during the holidays will imply that you agree with such mentalities; that as great as you think your loved one is now, they would be better if they lost a few pounds.
Not cool. Please don’t be that guy.
4. Weight Loss Supplements Or Products
Much like a subscription to a diet club, diet supplements and products are a thinly-veiled way of telling someone they need to lose weight. In reality, no one needs to change their body unless they, for themselves, want to do so.
Whether they’re for the kitchen or your bathroom, this gift can be insensitive to say the absolute least. If it’s for the kitchen, then you might end up suggesting to the person that they start weighing their food; maybe even that they're eating "too much" of it. In the majority of cases, kitchen scales obviously aren't about dieting, but rather to get accurate measurements of ingredients needed for recipes. But you'll want to consider that someone who's grown up in a fat shaming society might perceive such a gift as the aforementioned suggestion that they begin taking precise accountability of their food. And if the scale is for the bathroom, then you might accidentally be telling the person that you think they're too heavy and should invest in the kitchen scale.
Sure, maybe you just noticed your friend or relative doesn't own a bathroom scale and are trying to be considerate of their household needs. Or perhaps you realized that they like to cook for other people, and wanted to make their kitchen work a little bit easier. But to someone used to the intrinsic body shaming of our culture, it might be difficult to not see this gift as having an ulterior motive behind it.
6. Motivational Clothing
When I was growing up, it wasn't uncommon for me to receive clothing as a Christmas present. There was always some cool fad that I wanted to be a part of, or a look that was "in," and the holidays were a great time for the people who cared about me to try to help that happen. But I also remember getting some of these clothes in sizes much too small for me.
Although most of it could be exchanged or returned, I recall some well-intentioned members of my family telling me to keep the clothes so that I could “lose weight and fit into them one day.” It was a hurtful gift: One that told me I wasn't good enough to wear such clothing then and there.
7. Fat Joke Merchandise
Seriously, y'all: Nightgowns, aprons, coffee mugs, notebooks, and anything else stamped with an insulting fat shaming slogan on it should be avoided entirely. If you mean it as a sign of solidarity or support for your plus size friend, consider swapping one of these out for a piece of body positive or fat positive art instead. And if just hoped to make a lighthearted fat joke because you thought it'd be funny, I would suggest taking a deep look at some of your internalized body shaming.
At the end of the day, a gift to someone you care about should be something that makes them feel special. Gifting someone something with the potential to tear apart their body, lifestyle, choices, or preferences can only ever do the opposite.