How do I get my parents to stop talking about their diet in front of my child?
Oh man did that last line get me.
This last line has embedded in it mother shaming. How meaningful a concept is unconditional love anyway, in the concept of food and diet? Expecting a mother or father to approach their children from a Jesus-like (the fiction of Jesus) all beneficent pure and non judgemental love is unrealistic, setting parents and children up for failure. It seems unfair to me for Rachel to reduce her mother's fear that her daughter will be unhappy if she's overweight as thinking she'd be "more valuable if [she] took up less space." I like (and identify with) many aspects of this post, particularly in being willing to address some of the nuances (for instance, the great wondering of how the parents who'd lived through the food dos and donts managed to eat anything).
But the almost eager setting of boundaries reads like a form of countershaming. Why set boundaries as a form of censorship? Why not have an honest response, even a mild argument, at the moment of an unwelcome comment, so your children can hear and know their grandparents and hear and know you, and have that history and memory to form their own judgements on weight and diet? Why not hope and plan to raise your children to be strong enough in themselves to hear these opinions and not be crippled by them?
My goal is to help my two sons understand the myriad of market forces coming at us, as well as the material truths of food creation for the human species, the power of the corporate agribusiness, the work (and environmental damage) that goes into creating food, the impact of the garbage that processed food comes in, the impact on the workers. I want my sons to be conscious eaters. I want to motivate them to choose to what they eat based on issues beyond themselves and their personal shame, their looks, or even their personal health. I worry that conversations focused solely on the personal emotions around fatphobia or fatshaming will create a decoy enemy that will allow a systemically abusive food system to continue unchecked.
I'm not saying it's okay for Boomers to fat shame the grandchildren (my parents are a little older, depression era, so it's more about them hoarding all the best desserts for themselves, but I've got a friend in this situation and have had to hold myself back from telling the grandmother off when she tells her not skinny granddaughter not to get seconds while the skinny son is encouraged to). But I think she really loves her granddaughter and does accept her unconditionally, even with what appear to be conditions. And I think if all of us thought less about our own micro relationships with food and thought more about the impact beyond our individual health and minds we'd all be healthier and, generationally, would live a hell of a lot longer because the planet wouldn't be soil dead and garbage full and strewn with brutalized animal carcasses. Yes, that is on us, the fat and skinny usses.
Oh my gosh. Thanks for writing this.
I just visited my folks for the first time in 18 months (I live two continents away) due to the pandemic. Weight and eating was a constant discussion, and now that I've lived away from home for several years I feel that I was able to move on a bit and come to better terms with my body (I'm not stereotypically thin, though I have an athletic/curvy body type.. apparently not good enough). My parents have recently both lost quite a bit of weight and nothing *I* do is good enough. It seems that the three weeks I was back there set me back quite a bit. t
It's interesting to see that it is a generational issue and that it is pervasive towards me (millennial/gen z cusp) and my generation. Hell, my older sister had an eating disorder when she was in high school we never talk about.
This was fire, as promised! My challenge is my mother-in-law. My daughter is 13 and barely beginning to have body changes. She has always been short and thin (my mother and I were both the same until having children and the hormonal changes of being in our 30s and 40s). My MIL complimented my daughter recently on her tiny waist and how she should accentuate it. My daughter was very upset that someone was commenting on her body at all. I was very proud of my ensuing discussion with my daughter about (1) the insanity of glorifying the pre-pubescent body, (2) my MIL's body image issues and fatphobia and its roots in her father's comments to her as a teen, and (3) my MIL's health problems likely caused by her lifelong nutritional restriction while my mother, who is heavier, is in excellent health. Obviously, we couldn't get into all the nuances in one conversation and it was just the latest in a helpful series of conversations. I want to avoid the struggle I have had once my body became bigger.
This hits home for me, even though I don't have kids myself. My parents are boomers, and my dad is going through this eccentric (ahem) health kick and feels the need to force his choices on everyone else. He's a small, slender person who is now even more so; I am a large-ish person, now even more so. And he never misses an opportunity to make subtle (or not so subtle) digs about my weight. The thing that really gets on my tits is that he feels the need to tell my disabled mother (wheelchair-bound, 40+ years with MS) what not to eat and drink. My mom likes soda. He doesn't think she should drink "all those chemicals." But, as a doctor friend said quite candidly to me, my mother could literally be DOING coke and it would not make a difference with her overall health. So I end up, in my big but belittled body, trying to stand up for my poor mom. It's SO infuriating! The intersections of fatphobia and ableism are REAL and so, so deep.
Wow. What an incredible piece that almost made me dizzy with how I could relate with all that you included. Applies to both my parents and my MIL and my own experience growing up. Thank you.
Ive just discovered the fantastic BT ! You were interviewed for new book on NZ radio last week. This article gives me some ways to understand a little and talk to my fat phobic mother, because her comments are so so hurtful and destructive, as Im trying to recover from a lifetime of shame and dieting
If one looks at the weight growth charts of the CDC, the line at 20 years of age is still trending upwards some and NOT flat which means that some weight in the form of muscle and fat is still to come yet we idolize the weights of teens as if that is a full adult form. So destructive!
This is great; and a lot. I did not have a diet culture household when I was growing up, very thankfully. This was the 70s, but my mom was a hippie-dippy proto-communist and my dad was not involved in any substantive way. We had simple 'American' food, except hummus when there were grownup parties (no kids, spliffs, and alcohol), or tacos or lasagne for birthdays. The food was not, perhaps, inspired, but it was also not quantity-regulated. My dad did force-feeding in the form of "you will eat that or you will not leave the table" but there were few meals where that happened, because Mom did the cooking and did not want to deal with that energy. So, it was not until teen years in the 80s, when peers who had dieting parents introduced me to this version of food culture. And then college. But mostly it was not part of MY life. I radicalized against anti-fat in graduate school, through reading, interviews, and many subsequent years of teaching courses called "Fat" or "What is Fat?", but it was not until I had my daughter (now 25!), and her restrictor-grandmother was visiting when she (the kid) was about 6, that I had to really confront the toxicity outside of my own experience. The kid was very skinny growing up, but healthy and whenever I would worry that she was too thin, my pediatrician-partner would show me the growth chart and how she was well within healthiness range. The grandmother was visiting, just as this kid was starting to add some roundness to her body (in advance of growing, AGAIN, upwards), and she made a comment about the kid "getting to have a bit of a tummy, should you [meaning me] do something about it?". I explained that if she ever made an evaluative comment about my daughter's body [in specific, it was not that she could not compliment generally looking nice, etc], she would be asked to leave, immediately. I was, I am sure, visibly angry with her. She is a rather a nit-wit in the general course of things, but she got the message, though she was upset I was so forceful. Tough luck. She is 84 and still dieting. It is a deep deep sickness.
I am the end of the boomer train and this is so so painful on multiple levels. My much older siblings- MD and nurse - have been obsessed with weight for my whole life. My niece developed severe anorexia , my nephew became a chef and a large man. The food policing was aggravated when my dad who had a stroke young attributed to high cholesterol and he was put on a rigorous low-fat diet. My mom, genuinely believing what they thought was truth, became my dad’s food cop.
Most likely he had a/fib caused a genetic heart disease-HCM.
I decided at 35 to never be my childs food police but I could not turn off the voices in my own head which she still observed and i hate so much that happened.
Im still on a journey.