Parents Teasing Their Daughters about Weight

This post is on WATRD, but I’m running it as a cross-post here as well.

I am reading this great book by Valerie Frankel called “Thin is the New Happy” and in it she gives a very interesting statistic about parents and daughters.

(The book is about the author’s life; how growing up she was tormented by her mom about her weight, i.e., put on Weight Watchers at the age of 11, and how later on came to put that all behind her and love herself.)

She said “According to a 2006 Sanford University study, there is a direct link between parental weight criticism and bad body image. Of the study’s 455 female adult subjects, 80 percent of those with body-related anxieties (including eating disorders, chronic dieting, and/or appearance preoccupation) reported being teased or criticized by their parents about their weight during adolescence. The study’s conclusion: Teenage girls are acutely sensitive about their weight, and a parent’s negative comments exacerbate that sensitivity permanently.

80%!!! I had been reading peacefully in my bed before going to sleep when out out of nowhere I suddenly became really pissed off at my dad after reading that statistic.

I grew up with a dad who, from as young as I can remember, teased me about my rear end being big. I know that he was just teasing, but as we all know, there is often a kernel of truth that the teasing is based upon. So I grew up very self-conscious about the size of my rear. I could see in the mirror it was large, and let’s face it, when the most important man in your life chooses to tease about your rear end, well, it’s really tough to not be affected by that. Between that and my mom hiding food from me, is it any wonder I became a compulsive eater before I was even 10 years old?

About five or so years ago, I realized that my father’s “innocent” teasing may have contributed deeply to my lifelong weight problems/bingeing/compulsive eating. (This was even before I discovered I had an eating disorder since I had been a kid, and that my mom had a part in it too.)

So I decided to write him a very loving, un-accusatory letter to him at that time. I told him that I loved him and that I knew in his mind the teasing he had done in the past was all in fun and perhaps his way of expressing love to me, but that I thought it may have contributed to my weight problems.

In hindsight, I’m not sure exactly what I was trying to accomplish by giving him the letter. Maybe to open his eyes to some responsibility, perhaps for me to get some closure, who knows.

Well, my father, who I’d like to think never wanted to hurt anybody, especially his family, thinks that he can do no wrong and that (pardon my language) his shit doesn’t stink. So after pouring my heart out in this letter, painstakingly wording it as to not hurt HIS feelings, I found out from my mom that as he was reading it, he said something to the effect of “I don’t need to read this shit” and promptly threw it away.

What an ass!!! He wouldn’t even finish reading the letter, let alone take any responsibility whatsoever. Sadly, that is the kind of man he is.

I recognize that there was no malice involved with the teasing. He has gone through his life, since I was old enough to truly see the kind of person he was, never once thinking about how what he says or does affects others. Maybe that is why I am the complete opposite and am always so afraid that I have said or done something to hurt someone’s feelings. But it doesn’t mean I can’t still be a little bit pissed off that my life may have been different today had he not teased me for all those years.

Anyway, I’m writing this because ALL parents need to know how important parent-daughter relationships are. What parents say to their daughters about their appearance/weight can be highly impactful and life altering for the young girl.

I’m grateful to have found out through therapy where my eating disorder came from so I can take measures not to binge because of an old coping mechanism I learned as a child. I also know that I, unequivocally, do not want this pattern to be repeated. My mother’s hiding food from me and being teased like that in my formative years are certainly things that I will never do to either of my children.

How about you, did your parents ever say stuff to you about your weight or appearance while you were growing up?

One Day at a Time... Nurture myself... Awareness... Letting Go... Listen to my Body

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63 Responses, Leave a Reply
  1. Jill
    31 May 2010, 8:22 pm

    This may be slightly off topic, but in regards to taking anger out on the wrong people…my stepmom did that for years to me when she was actually angry at my mom. 🙁


    love2eatinpa Reply:

    that’s a shame for you and unfortunately, i’m sure it’s way too common. =(


    Jill Reply:

    Thanks, I’m sure it is too. 🙁


  2. Jill
    31 May 2010, 8:35 pm

    You’re quite welcome Brooke! 🙂


  3. Jenn
    02 June 2010, 12:31 pm

    Great blog! I grew up with an overweight Mom who never commented and never tried to correct my emotional eating and over indulgent eating. But life graced me with a father and a stepfather who were there to remind me of my fatness. Whether it was commenting on my fat legs or putting me on a scale when I would go visit my father, it affected me so much. I wish parents could just understand the effects they have over their children. My therapist says that in order to get over the hurt I need to forgive. I do not find this easy, at all. But I know it is something to work on. This is for me. And this is my life. I want to be better with my thoughts. Our positive thoughts are the gifts that we can give ourself. What I find fascinating is how much more together I am with my thoughts when I am eating healthier.

    I will say the awareness of my teen self size did cause me to improve physically through out my adult life. But the thoughts of who I am are false. Those men were insensitive in their delivery, but the truth is never a bad thing. I guess this is where forgiveness begins. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. The choice to live better and think more positive is mine now.


    love2eatinpa Reply:

    i’m glad you stopped by, jenn.
    i’m sorry that you grew up like that. i don’t think people really knew about eating disorders back then and there also wasn’t the info out there for parents on how to help their children with self-esteem, etc. i think, as you said, that our parents really did have the best of intentions, but their delivery sucked. i really found that once i wrapped my brain around the fact that my lifetime of binges were due to crap that my parents said/did to me 30+ years ago, that i really did have to put my childhood in it’s rightful spot – the past, and move forward.
    but yes, it is our choice to keep living as a child with no power, or to live as an adult who is aware and can make better choices. we can also learn how to do things differerntly with our own kids.


  4. love2eatinpa
    09 June 2010, 12:05 pm

    hi brooke,

    i’m still unable to reach you using your email address.

    i was just checking in to see how you are doing.


  5. ateenager
    28 October 2011, 9:35 pm

    As a growing teenager i have been reticuled all my life of my weight by my parents. I weigh about 147 pounds and am 17 years old, im not big, nor am I tiny. I play many sport and I have more muscle then fat. But growing up creates your hips to widen and many more things to grow. My parents took my weight gain as a great way to tease me. When they argue with my, they bring up my body and how I shouldn’t be that fat . They are inconsiderate to the fact that I have feelings and my own parents laughing at my weight created me to be depressed .


    love2eatinpa Reply:

    that’s terrible of them. i’m sure in their minds, they think they are only teasing, they are not doing it with malicious intent. as hard as it may be, you should try to sit down with one or both of them, whoever is easiest for you to talk to, and tell them that your feelings are hurt by what they do. as my kids learned in school, give them an “i-message”, meaning, say – “i feel badly when you xyz. it makes me feel terrible when you say xyz. i would really appreciate if you (and mom/dad) would stop saying that to me.”
    best of luck to you! no one should have to grow up being teased, especially by the people who are supposed to love you the most.


    Jennifer Reply:

    Hello msTeen 🙂 – already some of the most challenging years…

    Just wanted to say that parents are not taught to be parents and some are just downright stupid. It’s the truth. Then, sometimes mistakes ate made. PLEASE do not take their actions too too personally. I know as a teen this is hard as that where you are right now. But how they see you is not even who you are. You are so much more. You will see 😉

    If you feel health and move well, then appreciate the beauty and health you have. If there are areas to improve on (for me recently I decided to eat less-no sugar most days) then do that, for you. The greatest thing I recently did for myself was to attend hot yoga (moksha) and it is not judgmental and ever so healing. You will find something I believe that helps you to grow and feel true strength. These things are never found outside of ourselves. Do your best to find positive things to see in yourself. Believe in you! And there is no place for perfectionism in anyone’s life. I strongly believe yoga has changed my entire way of thinking. There would have been a time when I would have felt your story so strongly and would have been thinking about all I would want is for you to feel happy and to take your pain away (mine too). But there is a freedom in letting go of what others think and say… You will feel what is right for you when you sit or lay peacefully and just let all those junky thoughts float away as you exhale. Peace to you. You are so worth it, more than maybe you now know. Practice knowing ;). That is all we can do.


    love2eatinpa Reply:

    thanks, jennifer, for the great advice and words of encouragement for msTeen. i agree with you on so many counts. i still do think it would be great if msTeen can speak with her parent(s) to let them know that her feelings are being hurt. true, parents are not taught to be parents, but you can sometimes still teach an old dog new tricks. : ). if i knew i was hurting my child’s feelings, i would certainly want to know so i could stop my behavior.


    Jennifer Reply:

    You are right :). Talking is best. Sometimes results wished do not come as one might hope though and so the strength to be a whole human must begin from within. It is always optimum to have the protection, love and support of one’s family. Family is not necessarily blood relatives either. I did not know that when I was younger of course.

    love2eatinpa Reply:

    you are right, we all need to look within ourselves for strength and not rely on others to define us or make us strong. it’s an individual journey, but one that could potentially be made easier if her parents would stop their negative behavior.

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