Parents Teasing Their Daughters about Weight
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%!!! Permanently!!! 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?