Need to Move Past Family’s Negative Voices About Appearance

By February 25, 2013

I have always been concerned with my weight because it seems like I can eat everything right, and exercise just the right amount, and still be fat but only in the stomach area. I do have hypothyroidism, asthma, depression, ADHD, allergies and am allergic to milk. I get really frustrated about my weight, especially since I was little. My mom always focused so much on my weight. If she thought I was getting fat, she eliminated certain foods from my diet she felt I shouldn’t be eating. My stepdad told me he thought I was just an emotional eater, but then called me “fat” names. Even though I am 24, my mother says that I need to diet because I am fat. She has always eaten very little and described herself as fat when she wasn’t. At 55 she is wearing “juniors” clothing. I don’t think that is fat. I am afraid to get fat. My aunt (my moms sister) was always big, say around ***lbs and her daughter as well. I was always afraid to get that big because it not healthy and gross!! I am afraid that if I don’t take care of myself, I could have a heart attack like my biological father who died at age 33 when I was 4. I have been through a lot in my 24 years, with an alcoholic father, abuse, and then having great support from my father. It is so confusing and I don’t know what to do. Right now my BMI say I am obese because I am 5’7″ and ***lbs but I have a lot of muscle. I can squat 300lbs. I was in track and field and cross country and am still pretty active now. I don’t like to not be active. It makes my ADHD worse and I can’t study for my classes in college. I know it will work out but, I just need some advice. Thank you. – Samantha

Dear Samantha,

Thank you for writing to us and sharing some of your story. With your family background, it’s no wonder that you feel confused.

You have reached an age at which you are starting to see the contradictory and mixed up messages you received growing up. That is a really important BIG step! Keep working to discern the truth. Clearly, your mother has eating and body image issues, and her only weight problems were the fears in her mind. On the other hand, you have family members who have health issues related to unhealthy weight gain, and your biological father died at a young age. You have swung from foods being tightly controlled by your mother to emotional eating. And there is no excuse for the abusive language your stepfather used towards you, which understandably has shaped how you view yourself.

I sense from your letter that you are fighting to do the right thing and not listen to your family’s negative voices about appearance. It is wonderful that you enjoy being physically active. Not only is it good for your physical health, but it is beneficial to your mental health and emotional well being (acting as a natural anti-depressant). So keep at it. You don’t mention how your eating is right now, but strive to eat intuitively and make healthy choices 90% of the time. Your mother is wrong. Dieting doesn’t work. Ninety-five percent of people who lose weight on diets gain it all back (often with added pounds). Check out the article “Eleven Keys to a Healthy Lifestyle” for general guidelines in learning how to eat healthfully—without obsession. I’d also recommend the book HEAL by Allie Marie Smith, which explores some of the emotional issues related to eating.

When you take good care of your body, your weight will settle at its natural point. That won’t be the same for two people of the same height—due to different body types, frames and metabolisms. In your case, hypothyroidism and any medications you might be on also have an effect. I am sorry that your parents have embraced the cultural lies that everyone is supposed to be “media” thin. The reality is that each body is uniquely designed and amazing. Appreciate all your body does for you every day. Here at FINDINGbalance, we focus on health, not a specific weight or pants size.

Have confidence in knowing that you are already taking some positive steps. Consider talking to a counselor while you are in college, however, to work through your fears and confusion. The past does not have to define your future. Keep pressing on towards health and balance.