That’s an often-suggested response to others who might criticize your body shape or size. While it might feel good as a retort, it doesn’t address the underlying issue – that someone else thinks they have a right to criticize your body.
Over the past few months, I’ve had several clients mention that their parents have made derogatory comments about their weight, sometimes after as little as a 5-lb weight gain. These were all female clients, in their late teens and twenties. I can’t tell you how concerned this makes me. Research has shown that negative comments from family members about a girl’s weight or body size increase the chance of eating disorders in college, and increases the bingeing behavior of girls who already suffer from bulimia. Sometimes I get the chance to ask the parents, “Would you rather your college-age daughter come home for summer with a few extra pounds or anorexia?” Choose the heavier weight, I tell them – even 30 lbs. won’t kill your daughter, but anorexia might.
Most of the parents insist they are only concerned for their child’s health and happiness, but “well-meaning” comments only reinforce the belief that most girls already hold – fat is evil and to be avoided at all costs. Women get enough of these messages from society and from the media. One piece of research I found particularly interesting was that parents tended to overestimate their daughters’ weight and underestimate their sons’. It’s pretty clear that we have some work to do on recognizing and valuing normal body sizes.
I don’t think I know a woman, whether relative, friend or client, who hasn’t had body image issues, and at some point thought she was too fat – even while completely within a normal weight range for her height. I’ve met prepubescent girls worried that they’re too fat, and those in puberty panicking when normal hormonal shifts increase their percentage of body fat. Many clients list “gaining weight” as one of their biggest fears.
When a client brings up weight issues, I always ask them how they experience me as their therapist, given that I’m at a weight considered too heavy for my height. They have always answered the same way: “Oh, on you it’s fine.” Why? I suspect it’s because they don’t want to hurt my feelings. Why don’t their loved ones have the same compassion for them? It continues to boggle my mind that people think they have a right to comment on anyone else’s body shape. I am currently heavier than I’ve ever been (except for full-term pregnancy, and even then I’m a bit closer to that weight than I’d like to be) and guess what? It’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I’d like to lose about 20 lbs. because I usually have more energy at that weight, and I have more clothes that fit me at that weight, but not because I’ll look better to others. I’m thankful for the maturity that lets me move past shallow assessments of my worth.
I tell my younger clients that their parents are probably projecting their own weight issues onto them, and that they don’t need to accept that burden. They need to ignore those comments, or, better yet, suggest firmly to the relative/friend that they keep their opinions about the client’s body to themselves. I try to let them know that no one has a right to criticize the shape of their body. (By the way, *none* of these clients has any health problems due to their weight, in fact, most are completely within a normal weight range). For a fit and healthy lifestyle click on the following and check out popular vegan bread brands which are bound to give your morning the right start.
Have you experienced negative comments from family members or friends regarding your weight or size? How have you handled them?