Plus-size influencers have message for 'fat-phobic' family members: 'I need your support'

The mainstage at theCurvycon on Saturday was immediately a source of celebration and positivity for attendees of the three-day conference on fashion inclusion and body acceptance. But during the first panel of the day, attention turned toward what to do when loved ones are still a source of negativity.

"Sometimes our biggest insecurities are voices like your brother who said something when you were little," Sudanese beauty influencer Shahd Khidir said at theCurvyCon panel, titled "What Happened When I Learned to Love Myself: Self-Acceptance in the Face of Sizeism" and presented by Dia&Co.

Blogger and author Megan Jayne Crabbe (a.k.a. Instagram's @bodyposipanda), actor and model Simone Mariposa, Paper magazine editorial director Mickey Boardman, Khidir, and author Jes Baker, the panel's moderator, all shared their own journeys of body positivity.

Much of it was about deciding that others' opinions of their bodies didn't matter, they said, and the audience laughed and nodded their heads in recognition. Then, during the Q&A, one audience member brought up the people whose opinions are harder to dismiss: How do we talk to friends and family about loving our bodies, when they're still under the impression that they should be not-so-helpfully talking about weight loss?

"Not all the time is your family open to having these conversations and not always do they listen," Khidir said. "Sometimes try not to get into those conversations as much as possible. And then be very very strict and say, thank you, I don't need to hear that from you. ... Thank you for your concern, but I'm okay. Or you can pay for my gym membership if you really care about it."

In fact, Khidir said her brother does pay for her gym membership to this day. But she also told listeners that sometimes it's necessary to tell her family, "I need your support. I don't need you to pick at me today."

Boardman acknowledged that his mother is the person who still pushes his buttons the most when it comes to his body, making him feel like he's 10 years old again. When he visits, he gives her a choice.

"It can go two ways: You can not talk about my weight ... and then we can sit and watch Hallmark movies and have a nice conversation and talk gossip," he said he tells her. "Or you can talk about the fat, and then I'm going to lock myself in my room and be on social media and book my plane to go back earlier."

While she slips sometimes, Boardman said this conversation tends to work.

"Understand that a lot of people have inner fat phobia themselves," Mariposa added. "Be patient with them."

On the other hand, Baker said that not everyone is ready to be bold and set boundaries with their loved ones.

"It's a lot of work to unlearn the bullsh*t we've learned, and there's a lot of self-compassion that needs to happen," she said. "It's important to check in with yourself and ask, 'Can I even have this conversation? What's actually safe for me right now? Can I handle it?' And when you can, you do. When you can't, you just take care of yourself."

Watch our live-stream of TheCurvyCon 2019, and follow us on Instagram for more coverage of the body positivity event.