Reading your message broke my heart.
I’m so, so sorry that your parents have been body shaming you :[
No one deserves that. From anyone.
It also made me really angry because there’s nothing wrong with your body or being fat, and the fact that your parents are trying to convince your worth is attached to the way you look is infuriating.
I have a lot of thoughts.
1. You don’t owe anyone thinness.
You don’t owe it to your parents. To your partner. To your friends. To your coworkers. To random people on the street. Thinness is not some rent you pay for occupying a female body. It isn’t your responsibility to adhere to anyone’s standards of attractiveness and health. Ever. And with or without anyone’s approval, you’re enough.
2. Your worth as a person is not contingent upon your weight.
It’s something inherent. You’re valuable and worthwhile simply because you exist. And you have so much more to offer the world than your appearance. You have a unique set of strengths and talents and gifts to offer the world. Things that you, and only you, can share. Between your laughter and the way you smile. Your creativity and your intellect. Your empathy and your kindness. Your passion and your friendship. Your thoughts and ideas and unique human perspective — you have so many important things to contribute. And NONE of them have to do with your body size. So don’t let anyone, including your parents, convince you that your value lies in your appearance. Because it doesn’t. It never has and it never will.
3. Your parent’s judgements are NOT about you.
They’re about them and their own insecurities and limitations and personal struggles with body image. They’re a reflection of the toxic messages they’ve internalized from living in a society that is obsessed with thin bodies. A society that vilifies fatness and fat women. A society that teaches us that what we look like, especially as women, is more important than who we are. So no matter how much their words sting, keep reminding yourself that they are not about you.
4. You do NOT have to sit quietly and take their bullying.
You have every right to call them out on their fat shaming. You have every right to set a boundary and say “I’m not going to tolerate being talked to like this. Not by you. Not by anyone.” I know it can be scary to use your voice in that way. And I know from experience that a lot of the time, even when we find the courage to speak up, the people putting us down ignore our feelings, invalidate our experiences, and talk over us.
Something that helps me set boundaries more effectively is approaching people, my parents included, in a non-attacking way and from a feeling perspective. When people feel attacked, they tend to stop listening to what we’re saying and focus on defending themselves. So instead of yelling at them and saying something like….
"I’m really fucking tired of you making me feel bad about my body. You’re awful parents for doing that and I don’t want to have anything to do with you."
…I would try to focus on how their behavior makes you feel, and say something along the lines of…
"Hey Mom and Dad, could I talk to you about something that’s been on my mind lately? I just wanted to share that it’s really painful for me to hear comments like "you used to be so beautiful" and ‘you would look so much better if you lost X amount of pounds.’
I understand that you mean well and that making those comments is your way of telling me that you just want what’s best for me. But if you really want to help me, I need you to stop making any kinds of comments about my body. Hearing those things doesn’t inspire me to ‘lose weight’. It makes me feel worthless and inadequate and ashamed. And it hurts, so much, because I feel like in order to have your love and approval, I have to be thin.
I understand that these comments might seem harmless and necessary to you, but they are really damaging my self-esteem. And that isn’t okay. So I’m asking you to stop saying those kinds of things. That means, no making comments about my weight, what I’m eating, what you think I ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be eating, how much better you think I would look if I did x or y or z, and any sort of comparisons of my body to other people’s bodies.
You’re free to continue making those kinds of comments, but I’m not going to continue to listen. I don’t want to have to distance myself from you because I love you, but I need to take care of myself, and if that means walking away when you start putting me down for my weight, then that’s what I’m going to do.
If it feels safer, you could even write them a letter. That way, you can plan out everything you want to say and they’ll be forced to read the whole thing as opposed to interrupting or arguing with you when you’re talking. Whatever you decide to say or do, know that you have every right to speak your feelings. Give yourself permission to create a safer space for yourself.
In regards to your struggle with eating all the time…
5. Identify what your triggers are.
As someone who struggled with bulimia for years, it’s been my experience that there’s usually something that triggers our urges to binge or overeat. So, my advice is to make a list of all the things that trigger you to want to binge, and beneath each, come up with a list of ways you can either avoid that trigger altogether or take care of yourself in the moment when it comes up.
For example, one of my biggest triggers used to be feeling invisible and lonely. Something I had to actively start doing when I felt that way was reaching out instead of waiting for people to communicate with me. Another big trigger was my anger. Binging and purging became a way to say “fuck you” to people when they hurt me. Ironically, the only person I was really hurting was myself. In order to avoid that trigger, I had to start using my voice and letting people know in the moment, or very soon after, that they had hurt my feelings. Doing that prevented me from getting to a point where I was so upset and angry that I turned to binging to self-soothe/communicate.
6. Check in with yourself when you get an urge to binge.
Something that also helped me when I was bulimic was asking myself the following questions every time I wanted to binge or turn to food to self-soothe, and promising myself that I had to answer them all before I allowed myself to binge.
- What just happened that triggered me?
- What emotions am I feeling? (Name at least three)
- Will binging remedy the situation that triggered me? (The answer is pretty much always no)
- How will binging make me feel afterwards?
- How will binging affect the rest of my week?
- Is there something else I can do to take care of myself right now?
- Is there someone I can call or reach out to?
- What do I really need right now to feel better? (Comfort, safety, companionship, an escape, a hug, affection, reassurance)
- How can I give myself what I really need?
7. Be compassionate with yourself.
You’re doing the best you can to navigate your way through the world and cope with your parents fat shaming and the everyday oppression you face as a fat woman, and that’s all you can ask of yourself.
The fact that you’ve begun to make peace your body is HUGE and something I think you deserve to be so proud of yourself for. Because there is nothing wrong with your body. It’s yours and you shouldn’t ever have to hide it just because it doesn’t fit certain people’s definitions of “attractive”. You deserve to take up space. You deserve to celebrate your body. You deserve to defend your right to exist in your body by calling out people on their body policing. And you deserve to do whatever it takes to create a safer space for yourself.
It’s not easy though. So when it gets difficult; when you feel overwhelmed and tired and hurt and want to give up, do your best to be kind and patient with yourself. You’re doing your best, and it’s enough. You’re enough.
Sending so much love your way,