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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

Embracing Self Love: Overcoming Body-Shaming within Our Families

Michelle Calderon 🇸🇻

Pan dulce at Mega Mart Chillum located in the Chillum Road Shopping Center on Nov.10, 2022 (Alexa Figueroa)

The holiday season is right around the corner. For many Latinos, this is an exhilarating time filled with traditions and celebrations.  

“My favorite thing is to make panes con pollo with my mom. ..We obviously go to church together to celebrate Christmas. We celebrate the 24th. Most of the time it’s just having family over eating big meals,” said Yakie Palma, a UMD 23 alum.

While the holidays bring joy and togetherness for Latinos, many find the body-shaming comments from relatives upsetting.  

Science Direct defines body shame as, “a sense of disappointment with one’s physical appearance when one does not fit societal/cultural standards of beauty, and is operationalized with two dimensions: Internalized and externalized.” 

According to the article, family members’ comments about our bodies contribute to this kind of self-disappointment and how Latinx families' nicknames that focus on appearance such as gorda and flaca, can be seen as words of endearment but can impact young women with time. 

When family members use “gordita” at every family reunion, it may cause someone to internalize it, and start feeling insecure about their body. They may also start feeling pressure to change themselves to stop these nicknames and please their families.

 Palma expressed her excitement for the holiday season; however, growing up, Christmas did present some challenges for her. She said that her Latino relatives would make unsolicited comments about her weight and skin tone. 

“They would make comments like oh you’ve gotten a little fatter since the last time I’ve seen you. They would always call me morenita and sometimes they would joke around calling me ugly too, said Palma. Yakie la fea, that’s what they would call me. It would hurt a lot.” Palma said that as much as these comments hurt she felt all she could do was laugh them off.

Body shaming comments not only hurt, but they also make women feel pressured to change their appearance. For UMD junior and business management major, Aracely Perez, she feels compelled to look her best for her family due to the body shaming comments they make. She said, “If I know I’m going to see my family that I haven’t seen in a long time I go to the gym, I’m dieting, or something like that before I see them so that they don’t make these comments.” 

Perez also said that she has tried to conceal her body to avoid the body shaming comments. She said, “In high school there was a year that I’d wear a faja or some type of corset-like under my clothes at like Christmas and Thanksgiving or even wear an oversized sweater just to cover my stomach after eating a whole bunch.” 

Perez, like many young Latina women, feels the need to change or hide her body in order to stop the insulting remarks from family members. 

Some young women find motivation to change their bodies for themselves when faced with offensive remarks. California resident and UCLA alum Genesis Guiterrez, said that she would remind herself that while she was insecure about her weight, comments from her relatives motivated her.

Guiterrez said, “it bothered me but at the same time it was kind of like a motivator to me to not gain so much. It was like a pressure that I put on myself.” 

While her family remarks did motivate her to watch her figure Guiterrez said she wished she had been kinder to herself growing up, She said, “I wish I was kinder to myself and just kind, just loving myself more in the way that I am. I feel like I put so much pressure on myself to have a certain weight.” 

While remarks from family members can motivate some women they also cause women to put a lot of pressure on themselves to look a certain way or be of a certain weight.  

During the holiday season individuals can find ways to focus on their mental wellbeing and limit negative comments. 

According to an article by Springer Science + Business Media LLC, “one coping mechanism that can be effective when dealing with body shaming is, “a positive rational acceptance,” the article defines, “Positive Rational acceptance,” as, “Mental and behavioral activities that emphasize the use of positive self-care or rational self-talk and the acceptance of one’s experience.” This method can look like listing out qualities that you like about yourself to drown out the negative comments from relatives.  

Individuals can also set boundaries and activate for themselves when something hurtful is said to them. 

The article, “Redefining Boundaries in Families through Social Networking Leisure,” says that “family members ensure positive relationships within the family by creating certain boundaries with each other.”

 By setting limits with family members, individuals create a better relationship with them. Palma supports the idea of setting boundaries with family. She said, “for me it’s setting a boundary and activating for yourself. If this is bothering you and it’s making you uncomfortable you have to say something.”

 Latinas facing body shame during the holiday season can find comfort by acknowledging their own qualities and setting boundaries.


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