Fat-Freak Grandma

2 Oct

Letterbalm Stylish Skinny Older WomanDear LetterBalm: I’ve got a mother who is on the road to setting up my toddler for a poor body image. I’m a single mother with a healthy, active two-year old. My mom has always been obsessive about her weight and exercise – she castigates herself if she gains three pounds – and, she has slammed me about my body since I was a little girl. (I’m a fit size 12, active in three sports.) It took me a long time with therapy to appreciate my body and not let her criticisms hurt me. But now she’s starting in on my daughter (“She’s getting a little Buddha belly. She’s going to look like a barrel belted in the middle.”) She also denigrates my child to others when we’re all together. I need to shut this down once and for all. Give me the words.

–Steamed, And It Isn’t Veggies

Attention, people. Carping about a loved-one’s body ranks with the worst kind of toxic abuse. You can’t change your fat-obsessed mother or mute her neuroses, but you can be your daughter’s protector. Not only will Ms. L.B. give you the words to do so, she will also tell you the actions to take. When your mother starts in with body-issue criticisms, you pack up your child and leave the premises, no discussion. (If you can’t drive away, you take your daughter out for a walk in the park.) Stand strong and don’t feel guilty if your mom reacts badly or accuses you of not being able to take a joke. Pick a moment when she’s feeling good, when food and your daughter are not around, and say this:

Mom, I want to talk with you about something serious, and I want you to listen for the sake of your granddaughter. The negative things you say about Paula and food and her body are unacceptable. Her pediatrician assures me she’s a healthy, normal two-year-old, and she’s active and engaged. You’ve always been concerned about weight – you brought it up constantly as I was growing up, and you still do. It’s taken me a long time not to be hurt by your observations and to realize that you can’t help your obsession. So, to protect Paula, I’m setting new rules: Starting now, no discussion, ever, about food, weight and body image to her, me or others in our presence. If you do, Paula and I will leave immediately, no arguments. I know you love being with your granddaughter, and I don’t want to take her away from you, but I will do it. You’re a great grandmother in so many other ways – let’s concentrate on that.

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