#345: My mom won’t shut up about my weight

fun house mirror
Your mom.

Dear Captain Awkward,
        Ever since I can remember my worth in my family has only gone up when my weight goes down. My mom was always telling me I was too fat and that I needed to pull my pants up over my stomach or that I needed to buy larger shirts so my “fat doesn’t hang out”. She even has my brother, grandmother and my father doing it. My mother is a functional alcoholic, and has been since before she was pregnant with me (my dad had come home to her being trashed when she was about 3 months along with me, but that’s not the point of what I’m writing about) and when she’s drinking her comments on my body get around ten times worse. She’s even gone so far as to text my father (whom she’s divorced) that I’ve gained [EXAGGERATED AMOUNT OF WEIGHT] and need an intervention. I honestly am not overweight, or at least don’t see myself to be. [WEIGHT INFO REDACTED] I have to wear extra large T-shirts because  I have an overly large bust and if I complain about not being able to find tops that fit she says that maybe if I went on a diet I would go down a few cup sizes. The only time she ever says anything positive to me is if she thinks I’ve lost weight. I would be completely comfortable with my body if it wasn’t for her breathing down my neck all the time about my weight. One minute she’s angry that I’m eating, and then another she’s angry if I haven’t eaten. There is absolutely no way that I can win with her. How can I make her leave the subject alone?

I’m an 18 year old girl, not a victoria’s secret model.

Sweet Machine reporting for urgent body image duty. Your letter breaks my heart in so many places, for so many reasons, LW. Before I get into details, I want to recommend some resources to you on body acceptance, okay? I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the fat acceptance and Health At Every Size movements, but they are for everybody who is tired as fuck of the expectation that the only way to be a person is to get as thin as possible. Some Awkwardeers know me from my previous gig at Shapely Prose; that blog has been shuttered for a while now, but I recommend you check out the archives, because boy howdy, have we got some stuff there for you. There are so many other great resources online for feminism, body acceptance, and wrenching yourself out of the “thinner = better” mindset, but maybe we should save that for the comments.

I removed your size info from the letter because every time I looked at it, I had this incredibly strong impulse to tell you you are not even fat, by god! But the truth is, your family is treating you as though you are a fat person, whatever your actual size, and you are experiencing the judgment, policing, and shaming that every fat woman in the Western world is intimately familiar with. It doesn’t matter whether you’re fat or not; you’re being shamed and poisoned by fat hatred, which honestly, truly, has nothing to do with you and your body. It has to do with cultural expectations for women, and with your mother’s self-loathing, and with your family’s dysfunction. You, dear LW, are fine. Your body is terrific; it’s your living self, and you can respect and love it! But first you have to deal with your mother.

Oh god, your mother. I am so angry with her. I want to scream at her over the internet, because she is abusing you. That’s what this is, you know—emotional abuse. You’ve heard of Munchausen by proxy? Your mother is committing body dysmorphia by proxy. She is projecting these horrible thoughts about herself onto you, and she is recruiting the (all mostly male, I note) members of your family to join the cause. This is wrong. It wouldn’t matter what size you were: this would always be wrong.

I’m assuming you live with your mother, so if I’m wrong, some of this might not apply. Do you have any plans or opportunities to get out of the house soon? Are you going off to college? Do you have a friend you could split an apartment with? Anything that allows you to put food in your mouth and clothes on your back without your mother’s all-seeing eye on you will help.

Do you have access to therapy? Your mother is gaslighting you about your body (texting your father that you gained OVER HALF YOUR BODY WEIGHT is not, let’s say, reality), and a good therapist can help you deal with these lies and figure out what you feel without your mother clouding it over. Here are some ways to find therapy and other mental health resources.

Now for the hardest part: the here and now. If you live with your mom, this will be a lot trickier, but I think it’s time to pull out the tried and true Awkward tactic: draw a boundary, and keep it. It is not okay for your family members to comment on your body. It was never okay. Now is the time for you to tell them that. Make a script, and practice it in front of a mirror or with a friend until you can say it by heart. Here’s one possibility:

Mom, when you comment on my body, I feel awful. I am not going to listen to you trash me. Drop it, or this conversation is over.

My anger is spilling through in that script, so maybe another, gentler script would be good to have to (although, seriously, FUCK being polite to abusers, ugh). The key to drawing a verbal boundary is to enforce it: if your mom (or whoever) doesn’t drop it, leave the room. Walk away, go somewhere else, hang up the phone—whatever is the clearest way to make the conversation be over when you say. Now, this is going to make the other person mad, and you need to be prepared for that—but it is an act of self-preservation, and better they feel mad because you called them out on their hurtful actions than that you feel ashamed because they are poisoning your mind with self-loathing garbage.

This bullshit about your body is not really about your body. It is about your mom and your family needing to trash someone else in order to feel better. You, LW, are awesome. You’re pretty, you’re smart, you’re sticking up for yourself, and you’re going to make it through this and be a smart, tough, grownass woman. Your body is perfect.

But your mom sucks.

Busty Girl Comics: Speechless
This will be you, probably. (Busty Girl Comics)

p.s. The chest thing: just because you have a rack of doom doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in ginormous t-shirts! If you haven’t already, get a proper bra fitting, which will CHANGE YOUR LIFE OMG. And check out some resources for busty gals (my current fave: Busty Girl Comics) to see where you might find some clothes that are made for your body type. Take it from me, losing weight does not solve the “this top doesn’t button” problem; even at my lowest adult weight, I was still an E cup. When your body changes size, it doesn’t necessarily change shape—you have a big rack now, and you’ll have a big rack when you’re 45. Make the most of it!

UPDATE: Please do not share weight/size info in comments. Comments with specific numbers and clothing sizes will not be approved.

193 thoughts on “#345: My mom won’t shut up about my weight

  1. Oh god, I am 34 years old and was thisclose to sending the Captain a nearly identical letter. I had even written “My mom won’t shut up about my weight” in the subject line. So, dear LW, I can HELLA relate. In my case, it has been going on since I was 12-ish, so nearly two-thirds of my goddamned life.

    sweetmachine has some wonderful advice, especially the part about setting and enforcing boundaries. I did not work up the courage to start setting boundaries with my own mother until a few years ago, and it has been very difficult for me. I have tried to use a version of “this conversation is over,” but my mom most often picks times/places when I am unable to escape to berate me about my weight (e.g., in a car, when the whole family is out to dinner and came in one car, etc.). She also likes to corner me when my husband is not around. The most recent was a few weeks ago, when I was at my parents’ house with my toddler-aged daughter, and my husband was out of town. I tried to take my daughter and leave, but my parents wouldn’t let me go while I was crying hysterically. They didn’t physically restrain me, but it made me even more upset to feel unable to leave the situation.

    My dad will back up my mother 95% of the time, but when he is alone he will admit that most of the weight-berating is at my mom’s instigation. My husband ended up having an email conversation with my dad about all this. My parents have finally (FINALLY!) agreed to never bring it up again, so we’ll see. When we’re not talking about how fat I am, I actually enjoy spending time with my parents, and they are terrific grandparents. I am doing my darndest to bring my daughter up with a positive self-image, and I am not going to let my parents do anything to sabotage my efforts.

    tl;dr: I’ve been there and back, LW. Good luck in setting and enforcing boundaries with your mom.

    Lots of squishy-armed hugs from me if you want them.

    1. Er, “Sweet Machine,” not “sweetmachine.” And because I didn’t make this clear in my earlier comment, big thanks to Sweet Machine for this response.

  2. Boy, reading this post, LW, are you sure you aren’t me?! I’m so sorry you have to go through this. I’m in the same boat– I finally got fitted for a bra as a 30FF, and when I told my mom I couldn’t shop at normal stores because of my bust, she told me that if I wasn’t so fat, I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to shop at places that were ~not normal. She tells me not to eat when I’m not hungry, but when I don’t eat dinner at 7PM when she is, she accuses me of starving myself to be thinner or to deliberately make her angry (???).
    I do live with my mom, and I really don’t have the guts to tell her to knock it off because I will get the, “I am your MOTHER, don’t you DARE tell me what to do!” speech, so how I cope is ignoring her. It took a lot of practice, every time she said something negative about me, I just kept telling myself, “I am okay with myself. I am happy with how my body is. She is wrong.” Fortunately, I do have a lot of friends who are crazy supportive who do know about my mom and I could always text to freak out at, which really did help as well.

    On a topic of getting properly fitted for a bra though, here is another good resource to fit your bust!

    1. I had a relative who told me what crap I am because REASONS! With a lovely side helping of, aren’t you dumb for not realizing this on your own? And I also couldn’t physically leave, as Sweet Machine suggested. What helped is, besides just repeating ‘she’s wrong’ to myself, was to write down ‘I am correct about ‘thing’ even if I don’t do it her way.’ This paper lived in my pocket during visits, becasue research has shown that one person arguing with several people will often give in EVEN if zie knows zie is right, but if a second person agrees with the test subject, zie will not back down. Even if that second person is ‘me from before this conversation started.’

    2. Thank you for the reddit link. I am very o_0 0_o now and irritated at the fashion industry in the US.

  3. I just updated the post to reflect this, but please do not include height/weight/clothing size information in your comments. If you can’t say what you’re trying to say without referencing your own weight, it’s a safe bet that you’ve missed the point of this post.

  4. Regardless of your weight your mother’s behavior is totally out of line. (Which I think you know.) But please keep reminding yourself of that.

    One of my favorite ‘body positive’ blogs is the Nearsighted Owl. She is adorable and fat and witty. http://www.nearsightedowl.com/

  5. Allow me to join the THAT IS NOT OKAY chorus. We do birthdays, weddings, and bar/bat mitzvahs.

    Our standard hits include:
    “My body is not up for discussion”
    “I love you but you’re treating me like crap”
    “Just because we’re related doesn’t mean I have to take this B.S.”
    “Yep, that was super racist!” (Alt versions include “sexist” and “homophobic” and the all-inclusive “hateful”)
    “I need to take a walk… maybe forever”

    So, yeah, LW! What your mom and family are saying? IT IS NOT OKAY. And you are correct to be dismayed. You are awesome, whatever your weight or shirt size.

    And guuuuurl, I hear you on the boobs vs. T-shirt front. I max out the “girly” tee sizes due to my rack. It is not great. And I can’t wear similar sized boy shirts because then there’s just a cliff off of which the rest of the t-shirt hangs, OR it magically morphs into a croptop. SEXXAY. (it is not sexxay)

    Thumbs up for bra-fitting, but prepare for it to… affect you? Like when I finally got properly fitted at the wise old age of 20, it turned out I was a D-cup instead of a C-cup and I cried. FOR REAL. CRIED. Because NONE of the cute pretty bras would ever be mine again! (This was untrue, but the cute pretty bras are invariably much more expensive and difficult to acquire for a D-Cup dame, and will be doubly/triply for those beyond the Valley of the DD. Not impossible! But difficult! And worth the frustrated tear.)

    1. I have a solution for you! Try BraStop, it’s a UK site that caters to D-JJ Cups. The downsize is you do have to find the UK Size if you’ve been using the US sizes, but the upside is that they are much, much cheaper and very cute!

      1. I ordered from a UK store — Fig Leaves, I think? And they had a wider variety of styles and sizes than any regular US store. I’m way more excited by comfy than cute in underwear, most days, but when I can find both, you have my money.

        1. Fig leaves has been my go-to since I got my first professional fitting (at Bravissimo; I did get a couple of their bras but I prefer to wear bras that are less stiff). Just recently replaced my old set; bought two fig leaves ones before discovering that Leia, a regular high street shop, carried similar ones for half the price, which turn out to be more comfortable! This is making me think that maybe the commercial world is catching on to the fact that women who wear a larger than C cup are not actually rare freaks of nature. Check out Leia! (insert obligatory ‘we’re always told that big tits are standard fashion accessories but it’s impossible to buy bras, shirts or jackets that actually fit around them’ moan here)

    2. From a sewing hobbyist to everyone with the boobs-v.-t-shirt problem, it doesn’t take a lot of skill* to fit t-shirts. Don’t do it too dramatically or it’ll wrinkle weirdly, but if you buy a shirt that fits your bust and nothing else, you can put it on inside out, pin the waist to where you want it, take it off, sew it**, and trim the seams to 1/2 or 2/3rds of an inch (ish) (very important; as it turns out, untrimmed seams cause a lot of weird wrinkling). It should help with the flat cliff problem. It’s a hassle, but it’s worth it if you want that one awesome shirt bad enough.

      (Works with button-downs, too.)

      It is totally unfair that you’d need to alter things in the first place, though. It’s a huge hassle and takes a lot of time and as someone who fits most stuff off the rack, I’m completely underestimating how annoying actually doing this would be. I dunno. I guess I think it’s be nice to know I CAN fix something, even if I decide it’s not worth it.

      *But it takes a metric fuckton of time and energy to do every shirt you own, so yeah, I get why you’d not do it.

      **I sometimes use chalk or a washable marker to draw the line, because it’s hard to sew straight without a guide.

      1. It’s also fair to point out that all those people photographed in fashion and celebrity magazines? Have had things tailored to them, even t-shirts. As a not-all-that-busty woman who still can’t find button down shirts that fit right and sometimes has issues with t-shirts, it is ALWAYS helpful to me to remember that stuff off the rack fits… well, no one, perfectly. It’s not me. It’s the clothes. That’s my fitting room mantra.

    3. Gruh. So much sympathy, both on the mother-projecting-her-issues thing, and on the shirt thing.

      I actually have a brand new problem. My roller derby league has upped the offskates workouts, which means lots and lots of pushups and burpees. My shoulders were pretty broad for a woman before, and now I’ve put on enough muscle that shirts made for men will do the cliff thing (I actually look like I’m wearing maternity clothing), but shirts made for women won’t fit my upper arms and shoulders anymore. I currently have like three shirts that fit and flatter me, and this depresses me.

      1. Could you do the tank top/cardigan combo thing? Sweaters meant to be worn over something seem to fit a bit looser, and the sleeveless top then doesn’t stretch awkwardly around the arm.

      2. Same problem here. My wardrobe mostly consists of soft, drapey knits. Wide necks are also more forgiving. I like the current trend for shirts with puffed sleeves – my shoulders actually fit into them, and they don’t exaggerate my shape more than anyone else’s. For t-shirts, I’ve actually found that the cheap unisex tees that companies buy and have screened with their logo fit really well. I have seven shirts with logos from my last four employers, and they are the most comfortable things ever. I don’t know where you’d find them un-labeled, though.

        I *love* that I have broad shoulders and muscular arms. (Yay Viking heritage!) I just wish it didn’t make finding fitted shirts so difficult. I’ve shelled out for professional tailoring on a couple of items, and it was well worth it. Cheap little black dress + $30 tailoring = looks like a million bucks.

        1. I will probably try all of those things. I mentioned it to my best friend who has a lot more clothing sense than I do, and apparently I am going clothing shopping in the very near future with an escort. I think in her case the sandwich of love is going to be the Properly Fitting Clothing of love.

          I love that about my body- it makes me feel like Brawny Blocker when my clothes DO fit- it’s just… mildly problematic.

      3. I have this same problem. I find that the best places for shirts that understand that women might have shoulders and upper arms also coincidentally seem to understand about the large bustline, and my two big recommendations are The North Face and Banana Republic. BR has stuff on sale constantly, which makes it a lot more affordable, and I usually find North Face stuff on sale at REI or similar outdoor stores.

        I also recommend cowl-neck tops, as they are really forgiving in the top half and flattering for almost all women.

    4. Man, I don’t even care about cute bras, I just want one that fits properly and doesn’t cost a hideous amount of money. Sadly, I’ve only ever found one bra that fit that description… and of course FigLeaves has discontinued it, so I can never replace the one I had that fell apart. Tragedy!

      1. You might want to try Ewa Michelak; it’s a Polish lingerie company that specializes in larger-size bras. Since it’s Polish, they’re super-cheap too (hurrah for not being on the Euro!).

    5. Yep, dealing with big cups is painfully expensive at least. But I have bad news for you – often, when you lose weight, you go up a cup size or two. That’s because your band size goes down, but mostly the breasts are stationary, so the upshot is a bigger cup size.
      And then once you have a good bra fitting, you have to try and find shirts that fit you better. But really, I can only encourage you, it makes such a huge difference in how you look.. Nothing screams frump like dressing for your breasts instead of for your body.
      But be easy on yourself, because this kind of facing reality does make for major head rearranging..

      1. I want to call shenanigans on the frump comment. That term is used to declare a woman insufficiently fashionable according to…. Someone’s arbitrary judgement. Especially when a lot of women types simply must dress for their bust if they want to wear clothes at all. What can you do when shirts for your waist won’t even close over the bust?

        I also consider it a word that others older women, overweight women, and women who are not considered pretty. I’d like to see us not judge each other for those things, on top of everything else!

        1. i feel you cw! something i’ve felt for a long time, and recently realized with a passion is that i’d rather be thought smart than pretty. pretty is something passive, that can be possessed; smart is something that can be contributed.

          i don’t exist for the visual pleasure of others.

          1. Small niggle: “smart” and “pretty” are not mutually exclusive or even related to each other. It’s not like you have to pick one. And although it is certainly true that sometimes being thought to be one makes people less likely to think you are the other, I tend to think that this situation is not something we should accept without noting its undeniable wrongness.

            I, too, would rather be thought smart than pretty, but every time I dress accordingly before going in to university, a little part of me dies inside.

          2. of course i agree, and of course i’m purposefully commenting hyperbolically, but when’s the last time someone commented on how smart you were rather than your appearance? i find it (the status quo) incredibly gendered, and this starts at an extremely early age for females.

      2. “But I have bad news for you – often, when you lose weight, you go up a cup size or two. That’s because your band size goes down, but mostly the breasts are stationary, so the upshot is a bigger cup size.”
        Not so. Breasts aren’t ‘stationary’–they grow and change according to hormones, age, percent body fat, etc. Plenty of people go up and down a full cup size within a single menstrual cycle. If someone loses weight, the fatty tissues in their breasts also get smaller. When I lost [significant amount of weight] I went down just one band size but also lost three cup sizes.

        1. I think it really varies from person to person. I lost significant weight once; I went down in band size but up one cup letter. (My breasts were smaller in an absolute sense, but there was a greater difference between breast size and band size–which is why I’m using “letter”, not “size” to be more precise.) Although I may have been wearing one band size too large before… but that still would mean at least that my cup letter was unchanged. If your cup letter is large, it may get harder to find bras your size if the letter stays the same but the band size goes down.

  6. Just hopping in to say that we generally call alcoholics who are reasonably employed and still have a semblance of a family life “functional alcoholics” to differentiate them from the stereotype of the homeless wino, but the reality is that it sounds like she is still drinking at dangerous levels and taking out her aggression and hostility on the family.

    Because of this, in addition to seeking out HAES materials, it might also be beneficial to look into Al-Anon type communities in person and online, including Adult Children of Alcoholics, because they have many, many methods of dealing with emotional abuse in families. This kind of nitpicking and blaming and chipping away at self-esteem is really common in alcoholic families, and it might be good to figure out ways of avoiding her or not listening to her as long as she is drinking.

    Boundaries are boundaries, and based on what I know and what I’ve been through in my own family, I would stop trying to figure out why or scheming ways to make her stop being mean to you. If she can’t be pleasant with you and enjoy your company, she doesn’t get the pleasure of your company, and you don’t have to plead and beg with her to see your way or to love you like she should. You just turn on your heel and leave the abuse behind you.

    1. I’d like to second this times a million. LW, you’re awesomely strong to have resisted your Mom’s shitty commentary on your appearance, and if you think it would be helpful to check out HAES resources, by all means go for it. But it sounds like the problem is not so much that you’ve internalized her nasty messages about your body but rather that you have to deal with her continual bad behavior that is likely a side effect of her alcoholism. I think it’s a really, really good idea for you to check out Al-Anon or another group of that type and get some support and reassurance from people who are dealing with the same thing (even if not weight-directed) from alcoholics in their lives.

      1. One of the worst parts when dealing with someone who is an alcoholic is being unable to escape the “Why is this happening to me? Is this true/real/actually happening?” internal dialogue and harness the “Fuck you, you don’t define me” internal dialogue.

        The other thing about alcoholism which is really interesting to me is that it almost always plays out in the same ways — the same symptoms, behaviors, etc. People can be more or less successful in hiding the consequences of their drinking (i.e. be “functional”), but they and their families are paying the consequences nonetheless. It’s really difficult to wrap your mind around how it works while you’re still in it, but once you’re able to see it from even the tiniest distance many things will click into place. Based on the details in this letter, I feel like the fat talk may be the subject of conflict, but isn’t really the real issue, which is that Mom is out of control and can’t rein it in.

        LW, the thing is that you can’t *make* your mom get it together, so how this ends up is really going to be based on your decisions going forward.

        If LW wants more information and resources about addiction and alcoholism, I am more than willing to pass some along through the Captain and her moderators. Say the word and I’ll put stuff together.

        1. Would you like to do a guest-post on the subject and compile the resources there (instead of just a comment?) I’d appreciate it greatly. Email me!

    1. I love Bounce! I’ve found that even though their “toughest” sports bras sometimes only go up to DD, they can accommodate my bigger rack pretty decently. I had a couple of Title Nine sports bras last for YEARS.

      1. I had Title Nine sports bras all through high school. Once I moved out of my parents’ house (and my parents stopped paying for my clothes) I stopped getting them, but I have fond memories.

    2. If we’re doing bra-shopping recommendations, I want to put in a good word for HerRoom. (I’m not being paid by them, I swear!) One of the best places to go if you’re willing to buy online. They have, in addition to the company-provided pics, standardized pics on a dressing form, a pic of one of their own models wearing it, fitter’s comments, even videos of a lot of the sports bras in action so you can see how much bounce you get. They carry a LOT of different bras in a lot of sizes, including many good quality ones that can be hard to find even in more common sizes.

      They also have some guides and stuff I like this one. I’ve been a few different sizes, and when I was a smaller cup size, department store bras were fine (but now I just don’t want to put up with their crappy bras). Then for a while, I was a wearing size that was hard to find, which was when I started using HerRoom. (Cup size just big enough to be hard to find in conventional stores + band size below the cutoff for Lane Bryant = no brick and mortar stores seemed to have my size.) Now I’m wearing a size that they have some of in stores like JC Penney, but the support is inferior if you get them from somewhere like that. You basically cannot find seamed cups at all, and even the molded cup ones seem to be less supportive than the ones I can get online.

      Also, this is my favorite sportsbra. You can get it at HerRoom, but I first found it at Title Nine. Unfortunately, it only covers a relatively narrow range of cup sizes–C to DDD–so if you’re above or below that, you’re out of luck.

  7. I ranted a bit about bras and then decided I’d better move it elsewhere.

    Fashions, particularly young-style fashions, are not designed for busty ladies. So it’s hard. But finding ways to feel good in your clothes can help you fight back the anxiety installed in you by your mother.

    It’s hard to draw boundaries about this kind of thing, because it goes against everything society tells us. We’re supposed to diet. It’s what women do! No matter their size. Except it doesn’t work, not really, and it causes no end of suffering.

    I want you to feel proud of your size — whatever it is! — and your rack, because it is *you*. It’s you, and you’re all good.

    Your mom won’t drop the subject on her own. All you can do is make that boundary and defend it. It is *your* body and you get to eat and wear whatever you want! You are whatever size you are, and you are still perfectly awesome you.

  8. Oh sweet lord, how I relate. How I relate so much. I was raised in a culture where commenting inappropriately on a family member’s weight was seen not only as acceptable, but as helpful and loving (Chinese immigrant parents FTW).

    My mother started calling me fat before I was 10, in that light, joking, “Oh your tummy is so round, you should stop eating so much!” sort of way. That progressed to where, in college and for a few years afterwards, every phone call home was punctuated by her asking what my diet was like and how much I weighed now, and ending with warnings about gaining too much weight and not being able to fit into my clothes.

    I finally had enough and began ending those phonecalls soon after she would begin mentioning weight: “I have to go now, Mom. Sorry, bye!”

    It’s been a year or so now since I’ve heard her seriously mention my weight – usually, it’s when she’s sent me clothing and wants to know if it fits.

    But, yeah, when I was living at home before college, this was really hard to listen to, and any sign I made of being upset was laughed off as my being too serious, and my mother was just joking, why couldn’t I lighten up?

    It’s weird, though, how the same person can claim that “You need to eat more, you’re not getting enough food!” while criticizing your weight in the next breath. I sort of understand, in my mother’s case, the cultural need and love of feeding loved ones, mixed with the strange Chinese cultural dance of refusing food and then acquiescing to pressure to eat more as a form of tableside etiquette.

    Frustrating, nonetheless, and I deeply empathize with you, LW.

    (note to Sweet Machine: good advice! Just wanted to point out a small correction; where you said “and she is recruiting the (all male, I note) members of your family to join the cause” – the letter actually included the grandmother: “She even has my brother, grandmother and my father doing it“. )

    1. Oh, thanks for the catch! For some reason I read “grandfather.” I do still think it’s significant that LW is apparently the only young woman in the picture — she becomes an obvious target of body-shaming by others.

  9. I want to echo the recommendation to read the Shapley Prose archives. Reminding yourself that you’re not even overweight can be one defense against those comments — but I’ve found that it’s even better to really examine and reject fat hatred for people of all sizes.

    While my situation is not nearly this bad, I’m also a normal weight person who is “the fat one” in my family because the other women are thinner — and they are judgmental toward anyone who is not as thin as they are. So there is a lot of harmful body talk. Growing up, I spent a lot of time looking in the mirror and trying to convince myself that I was thin enough, which worked sometimes but not always.

    But now that I’m a grown up fat accepting feminist, I reject the whole idea that being thin is better. So I don’t have to scrutinize myself and assure myself that I’m not really fat. Now, when I hear negative statements about weight, I have the same reaction that I’d have to someone saying women belong in the kitchen. I shake my head and think, “Wow…”

    Shapely Prose absolutely changed my life for the better. I strongly recommend it to anyone dealing with theses issues, no matter what size you are.

  10. Amazing advice from Sweet Machine (I expected nothing less)!

    Oh LW, I too have this issue with my mother, although she is much less aggressive about it and I think it does come from misplaced concern with her (maybe not so much with your mother?). We have very similar body types, and her mother was exactly the same with her about it – the body-snarking has been passed down through the generations. I have now managed to get her to stop telling me to lose weight by explaining to her that it makes me feel bad about myself and hurts me (I have also tried getting her to read some of the FA resources and evidence, but I think the idea that fat isn’t evil and bad is too much for her to accept right now). She’s tried really hard not to talk about my weight, but she does buy in to the . However, I can’t stop her talking about her *own* weight, and that can be almost as painful as it reinforces all those years of being told I should lose weight or not to eat something. My sister (who is thin and never gets these comments from my mother) also told my mum that it hurt me, so I think it helped that it was reinforced by someone else.

    I think the worst thing is when you are feeling quite happy and confident and managing to accept that this is the way you are (in the teeth of IMMENSE social pressure to feel differently), and then someone in your family whom you love out of nowhere says something about your weight or passes on a dieting tip or something of that sort – it’s like a sucker-punch. It feels like you thought you were okay, and suddenly someone whose opinion you actually value suddenly points out that there’s something wrong with you and you’ve disappointed them. That’s not their intention, but that’s how it always feels to me.

    I lost a lot of weight several years ago (and have gained it all back plus some more because diets don’t work – and that was the THIRD time I’d lost a substantial percentage of my body-weight) and got measured for a new bra. I was the same bra size as I’d been wearing before I lost the weight. Chances are I was wearing the wrong size before, but the bust is always the last place I lose the weight – the Rack of Doom seems to stay the same proportionally to the rest of me whatever my weight. Getting fitted for a good bra was the best thing I ever did – suddenly my boobs were in the right location and my clothes fitted so much better!

    In the UK we have a shop called Bravissimo which sells fitted shirts that have a range of “curviness” so that you can buy a shirt based on whether you have big boobs, ginormous boobs or a Rack of Doom (note: may not be actual names of the sizes) and it should fit AND button up. I’m not sure if there is an equivalent in the US? Although a word of caution – Bravissimo has a good range for non-plus-sized women and smaller band sizes, but gets a bit pants when you get to larger band sizes or larger clothing sizes. Also, their Pepperberry clothing range seems badly made for the price you pay for it.

    1. Oh man I was doing a blog post for busty girls! Forget that, this is important.

      big boobs, ginormous boobs or a Rack of Doom
      AH yes. No, those are the actual names.

      The Bravissimo fitted shirts have been folded into the Pepperberry brand now! But I actually do warmly recommend Pepperberry. I know it’s expensive, especially if you live outside of the UK. I am sorry for the expense. But oh my god. It is worth it, to have a button-up shirt that gives you room to move your arms, doesn’t gap across the chest, and puts some structure and definition around your belly, so you feel professional and sleek. It IS UK sizing, so it might require a bit of math. My experiences with them have been great.

      There is no known equivalent in the US. But there are always soft jersey dresses, combined with a lacy modesty panel to cover your bounteousness, or a “bosom button” to adjust the neckline. (Hurray! Now you, too, can buy a whole range of consumer products, just to feel like you can get dressed in the morning like a normal person!)

      Oh, and by the way – you are gorgeous, LW. ❤

      1. Oh, god. I just thought to myself, “But elodieunderglass doesn’t even know what the LW /looks/ like… OH.” And made myself cry. Because then presumably you mean me, too. Yup. Crying.

      2. elodieunderglass – I have to admit, the last time I looked in Pepperberry was a while back and the shirts weren’t great quality (trailing threads, weird material), but it was quite early on, just after they launched the clothing stores. So maybe there were some teething problems with the manufacturing that they hadn’t quite ironed out. I will check them out again now that you’ve recommended them (I have all but given up on being able to wear shirts for work – I just buy smart-ish jersey tops with necklines that aren’t too low and hope I look professional enough)!

        I was quite taken with a Pepperberry leather biker jacket, but sadly they only had it in stock in big and ginormous sizes, and I required Rack of Doom.

        1. 🙂 me too–thanks for this thread, everyone; I’m actually getting excited about the idea of buying a button-down shirt, and maybe a blazer I can button.

      3. Aaaaaaaaand Pepperbury doesn’t go up to my size, regardless of curviness.

        Too bad, it is a great idea.

        I use pretty scarves. I tend to drop food on shirts, too, and scarves cover it up. I have to keep replacing shirts so I get very cheap t-shirts with various necklines and dress them up with scarves or necklaces.

      4. I *love* Pepperberry. I buy a shirt or two whenever I can afford it. I have some shekels saved up for the new fall stuff. It’s so nice to be able to wear button-downs again; I haven’t been able to do that since I was in high school!

    2. > However, I can’t stop her talking about her *own* weight,

      Girlfrommarz, you may be able to get her to stop slamming her self *around you*. That’s one of our Fearless Leader’s favorite ideas, right? “You can’t stop someone from doing xyz thing, but you can stop them doing it *around you*.”

      Good luck to you with this. (Me, I’m fine with my mom, but I’m learning lots here about setting boundaries in general and speaking up when something is only a little bit bad, instead of waiting.)

      1. That is a very good point, and actually my mother has been pretty good about this lately! I was thinking of a specific incident where something about her weight slipped out and the comparison with mine was unspoken (possibly something unintended, but still triggered that thought in my head), but she really has been trying. She’s just as much conditioned by the culture as I am, and I’m still really struggling with the cognitive dissonance phase (what the ever-brilliant Kate Harding described in The Fantasy of Being Thin as “I’ve written several times about how I spent ages in the cognitive dissonance phase, thinking it made perfect sense that the OBESITY CRISIS hype was way overblown, and even if it weren’t, dieting doesn’t work anyway — but still wanting to lose weight, still feeling like I, personally, needed to be a size 10, max, before I could really get started on my fat acceptance journey.”) even after finding FA and Shapely Prose in particular back in 2007, so it must be so much harder for her.

        I will try the “Please don’t talk like that around me” approach, however!

  11. Not sure if this will help or not, but it might sometimes be useful to focus on Moms size ranting as a symptom of her problem. Her problem, which is her alcoholism. It’s not about you at all.
    When she starts ranting, it usually means she’s been drinking ( is what I get from your letter) and of course there’s not much point in trying to reasonably deal with a drunk. So don’t even try. She’s drunk, conversation over.
    Please considor visiting some Al Anon meetings and especially Adult Children of Alcoholics Meetings. You don’t have to sign up and go forever, Just visit, I think you might find some good resources.
    I have some good friends who’ve been dealing with this issue their entire adult lives. Congratulations on starting in on this while you are young, It takes a lot of courage.

    1. While I wouldn’t be surprised if Mom’s alcoholism is contributing to her problem, plenty of sober mothers do the same thing. It’s entirely possible that she could dry out and still have the same issues with her child’s body. So let’s not assume it’s all about the alcohol.

      Al-Anon meetings are an excellent idea, but not a replacement for setting boundaries with the mother.

      1. What’s that old saying, that when a drunk horse thief quits drinking, you still have a horse thief.

      2. Al-Anon meetings are actually excellent for this exact reason. Al-Anon is basically a meeting designed on how to process feelings of abuse and set up boundaries between abusers and their targets, up to and including cutting them out of their lives entirely, or figuring out how to tune out the drunken rants without letting it affect your sense of self.

  12. If this is too much of a derail please remove it, but hopefully it will be helpful to the LW as well? I am very curious about these resources for finding clothes (not just bras) for the relatively small and very very busty. I am pretty confident about how to get bras that fit at this point, but am mystified by attempting to dress myself. Back when I merely had Very Large breasts, I just let tops stretch a bit basically, but now I am nursing and have Unbelievably Large Breasts compared to the rest of me, and haven’t found much of a solution other than buying shirts that are otherwise too big. Everyone says buy large and get it tailored but:

    A) I work and have a baby and that takes time that may never materialize
    B) that does not seem like it would work for many/most kinds of tops, including pretty much everything I wear (I dress pretty casually). Do I never get to wear knits, t shirts and sweaters again? I know pretty much nothing about sewing, so maybe I’m wrong here?

    I found out that there was a whole secret world of bras that fit me online (as pointed out by some other commenters) – is there also a secret world of clothes sized for the very very very busty?

    1. Pepperberry. Expand what you own with modesty panels and bosom buttons. I am getting to the blog post, but start with that.

      Soft, styled button-front cardigans – who wants a crew-neck sweater, anyway?

      Structured knits like rayon/viscose, and drapey stretchy knits.

      If you have scoop-necks and v-necks that still fit but have suddenly become cleavage-y, wear them with a modesty panel and make up the difference with a softly layered scarf (also good if your lovely sticky-out bits are prone to attracting tomato sauce – just adjust the folds of the scarf and move on.)

      If you learn about sewing for yourself: Dynamic Bust Adjustment (DBA.)

    2. I wear a lot of pretty vests under tops that would otherwise be a bit cleavage-y, and under pretty much anything with a crossover top (I have a lot of nice jersey dresses that would be far too “here are my bosoms” without a vest underneath, but work really well with a vest) so that the vest acts as a modesty panel, as elodieunderglass mentions below. It’s not a perfect solution, but it does mean that I can wear things that I otherwise would feel uncomfortable about wearing for anything other than a date or clubbing.

      I hope someone does have a secret source of clothing for the very busty – it would be very useful!

      1. This is what I do as well, a pretty camisole (note UK “vest” = US tank top/undershirt /camisole) under a blouse that fits appropriately through the waist and has no chance of buttoning across the bust, or under a too-low cut sweater/jumper or t-shirt.

        Avoid high-necklines. I know it seems counter-intuitive but a high neckline will make boobs look bigger.

    3. I had never even heard of modesty panels before this! Thanks Awkward Army, specifically elodieunderglass, for the awesome tip!

      But as a fellow woman with a Rack Of Doooooooom, I’ve been doing something similar for years. I wear a lot of cross-front tops, the kind that fit just under the breasts then drop below – I suck at fashion so have no idea what they’re really called! Then I wear a lace-topped camisole underneath, and lots of scarves.

      For inbetweenies/fatsronauts with Racks of Dooooom, I recommend Igigi (if you can afford it). They have lots of beautiful wrap dresses and tops!

      Oh, also eShakti! They make lots and logs of beautiful clothes in both straight and plus sizes, and they customize items to order. They run a bit small (at least compared to the US stores I usually shop at), and everything I’ve ordered has taken FOREVER (where FOREVER = often 4-6 weeks) to arrive. But totally worth it!

  13. The Captain is right, it’s not you, it’s your mother’s abusing you and poxy-ing you so she can feel better. It’s like a burp, she trashes you and get it out of her system and there now, feeling all better; and because she feels better then so should you. Heck, I was a model and guess what, mom and dad used the “you’re so fat, you need to lose ## pounds” because the “you’re so stupid, your friends don’t like you and I’m only telling you this truth because only your mother/father will tell you the truth because I’m the only ones who loves you” crap wasn’t working anymore.

    These adults know what they are doing. I seen it so many times through my sisters’ and friends’ experiences that when these abusers can’t get you down through the usual methods because you’re strong, awesome, intelligent, and wildly talented that attracts attentions and complements from other awesome people, then dissing your weight is a sure fire way to knock you a peg or two (or several more) and at the same time make them feel better about themselves…. for a short while, but then they are with themselves again so they repeat the “you’re so fat” protection to get their upper fix.

  14. LW, I read this part of your letter, “I would be completely comfortable with my body if it wasn’t for her breathing down my neck all the time about my weight,” and thought you were a bad-ass.

    When strong figures in your life make negative assertions about you, it’s VERY hard to resist them, and the fact you can even say things like “I honestly am not overweight, or at least don’t see myself to be” makes me so happy for you. Getting through the mom bullshit is going to suck, but you’ve already built yourself a pretty great ship for sailing through the Sea of Assholes.

    It will really help if you keep the don’t-call-me-fat boundary for everyone else, too. It’ll make it harder for her to be a bitch about your non-existent weight problem if your friends and partners are also willing to walk away when she starts making rude facenoises at you.

  15. Oh, LW, I’m so sorry. I have been there, and it’s incredibly painful. There’s two things that were ultimately really helpful for me with this exact struggle.

    #1: You’re reality is not her reality. When it comes to body image, your mother sees the world in a profoundly distorted way. What this means is that you cannot reason with her. Any attempt to convince her of your perspective will only emotionally exhaust you and make you more vulnerable to her distorted perspective. The thing is, as soon as you’ve tried to justify yourself in this situation (“Mom, I’m not fat.” “Mom, I work out/eat healthy all the time.” “Mom, you’re not supposed to treat me this way.”), by engaging with her at all, you’re actually reinforcing that she has something relevant and worthwhile to say, something worth responding to.

    Which brings me to #2: You’re response, like a broken record, every single time this topic comes up (even when it is faux-compassion “I’m concerned about you because I looove you” b.s.) has got to be: Mom (brother, father, etc), I’m not having this conversation with you. This topic is off limits.. Then change the topic or leave the room if you have to. The less emotional you can be in saying this, the better. If you have to say it 5 times in one afternoon, say it 5 times. The important thing is that you hold that boundary, because this sh*t will eat away at you, and you’re too strong and amazing and beautiful to give any more space to these cruel, negative voices.

    1. I agree that the boundary method is the only one that really works. But please note that it may require drawing some additional boundaries, because your mother and her minions will quickly learn to do their fat-shaming during Captive Lecture Time so as to prevent you from being able to get away. When you’re all in the car together is the worst, and that’s a difficult situation to avoid. But never go anywhere with them without having enough money for bus/cab fare home, and don’t hesitate to walk out and use it.

      The real key to stopping this is to GET OUT, so that you’re not living with them. At that point it becomes much easier not to be trapped. You can refuse to ride in the car with them, and if you have your own car, you can always leave with a minimum of fuss. You can kick them out of your home if they start in with that shit, or establish another boundary that they don’t get to come into your home at all. You can hang up on phone calls and delete e-mails.

      Be prepared for the abuse level and guilt-tripping to double or triple once you start trying to establish a boundary. This is a well-documented phenomenon in the study of abusive relationships — the abusers will pull out all the stops in an effort to restore the status quo. That’s another reason for getting out, because it removes one of their major levers. As long as you live with them, “do what we want or we’ll make your life hell” is a viable tactic. Once you don’t, it becomes more like “yeah, and what are you going to do, keep me prisoner?” and walking away (aka finding a more pleasant environment) is your reward for standing up for yourself.

  16. I agree with Sweet Machine: “The key to drawing a verbal boundary is to enforce it: if your mom (or whoever) doesn’t drop it, leave the room.”

    I have spent years (eight altogether) in therapy figuring out among other things to how to deal with my mom’s criticisms. I am 38 years old. I live with my parents, because I have bipolar disorder and I’m on disability. My parents, mostly my mom, were emotionally abusive when I was growing up and into my adulthood. I still care about my parents. I don’t think they’re bad people, just bad parents.

    When I was a kid, the hardest thing for me to reconcile was that my parents, whom I wanted to believe and look up to, were treating me in ways that made me lose respect for them, that didn’t align with my personal values. All I wanted was for them to be nice to me. Sometimes, they were. My mom was especially proud when she thought I was beautiful. She liked to dress me up to look like here, loved it when people said she looked like my sister not my mom. I can’t think of any happy moments with my mom or dad in my childhood. Stuff like this used to distress me so much, but I’ve gotten to the point, where I don’t care what my parents say to put me down. I just got tired of talking about it in therapy. I’m still overweight, really overweight, and my parents still complain about it.

    In fact, up until a few weeks ago, all my mom would talk about whenever she saw me was what I call the Holy Trinity: Food, Diet, and Exercise. I took this for a couple weeks, tried to ignore it, then I sort of blew up, without any yelling or excessive melodrama, and told her that I understood she was trying to help, but she was only making me feel worse. So, she stopped. I think the only reason my telling her to stop worked this time because I’m on disability and I’m bipolar and they see everyday how low-functioning I am. So, basically, she must have felt guilty or felt sorry for me. I really don’t know or care. Because I don’t think it is gonna go away. One day, in the near future, my mom won’t be able to resist warning me that if I don’t lose weight I’m going to have health problems, or maybe she’ll buy me a shirt that doesn’t fit me because she thought I had lose weight.

    I wasn’t always like this. I used to be skinny and I used to work out almost religiously, but even when I was in shape and looked good, I still didn’t believe I was good enough for them. There was always something wrong. They didn’t like my boyfriends. I didn’t have the right job. I could always do better. If I had been a stronger person, if perhaps, I’d just stopped caring what they thought earlier in life, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now. But I still have a very real and serious mental illness, so I can’t really say for sure. All I know is that I didn’t have having healthy coping skills to survive my childhood, and now, I’m in this fucked up situation, and in my head, still pretty fucked up.

    So, my two cents: Don’t listen to your mom. You’re young, and you have so much life ahead of you. Therapy can help. Find a good therapist you can connect with. Most of all, don’t feel guilty. She’s still your mom. She’ll always be your mom. But you’re her daughter, and a good mom would treat you like a princess.

    1. “When I was a kid, the hardest thing for me to reconcile was that my parents, whom I wanted to believe and look up to, were treating me in ways that made me lose respect for them, that didn’t align with my personal values.”

      Thank you for writing this. I have spent the longest damn time trying to articulate this almost exact thing. For different reasons, but that dynamic.

    2. “I wasn’t always like this. I used to be skinny and I used to work out almost religiously, but even when I was in shape and looked good, I still didn’t believe I was good enough for them. There was always something wrong. They didn’t like my boyfriends. I didn’t have the right job. I could always do better.”

      Wow. My parents are the same. They keep moving the goalposts around so that, no matter what my sisters or I do, it’s never good enough. They will always find something to complain. Realizing this has made a huge difference to me.

      Thanks a lot for this, and I wish the best to you.

    3. Some parents just keep moving the posts. That’s who they are. They don’t see anything wrong with it and wouldn’t change if they could see it. So go about your life and tell them where they can put their metrics. It took 2000 miles of physical distance and limiting contact – but I finally got something resembling my life going one around me as a result. Good meds and a great doctor help me manage on my own without their Feeling Bombs killing me.

  17. Millions of Jedi Hugs!!

    My roommate’s identical-to-yours body-fascist mother just mailed her yet another diet book, and this weekend we are going to make an altered book sculpture or collage out of it. If anyone has any links or inspiration for projects like that, we’d appreciate them.

    1. You could turn it into a hollow book hidey-hole, stuff it full of Health at Every Size info sheets, and send it back to her! Though I’m aware that this is may be stirring the pot and not the kind of outlet your roommate is looking for.

    2. Can you turn it into a dress? take a picture wearing it and scrawl across the photo “Does this book on weight loss make my butt look big?”

      Use the pages as cookie sheet liners and bake delicious cookies on them. Take pictures!

      If there are special tips, see if you can illustrate them to a logical extreme. For example, “Butter is poison.” SO MANY OPTIONS.

      1. Love the cookies idea. You could even expand this into an entire cream tea experience.

        What about making the pages into pretty cupcake holders and serving your mom cupcakes piled high with yummy delicious CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM.

        Other pages could be little doilies for serving arrangements of scones, jams and whipped cream.

        Or those little paper thingies that chocolate cream eclairs come in so you can hold them while you eat them.

        Others? Placemats for your cream tea guests.

    3. I dunno, I’d be in favor of using it as papier-mache material for a sculpture — maybe a self-portrait? I’d take particular joy in obliterating the text by glopping tons of glue on it.

  18. Nods of agreement to those above who said that this subject needs to be outlined as forever and ever Off Limits. It certainly sounds as if your mom will not be at all receptive to trying to explain your position on your contentment with your body, and the issue is primarily hers, not yours.

    Sweet Machine gave you some excellent links from Shapely Prose, but I’ll throw in one more: The Fantasy of Being Thin. I honestly believe that reading this changed my life in ways I cannot even begin to articulate. It took me quite some time to really come to terms with it all, but it’s so SO worth pondering.

  19. Oh my gosh, just wanted to reinforce the information re: your chest–I’m a busty gal, and I was busty when I was skinny and I’m busty now that I’m not. My boobs have been in the exact same proportion to my body through thick and thin (LOL). Losing weight will not make your cup size any smaller, probably.

    And hooray for a professional bra fitting! It’s amazing how much more comfortable you’ll be and how much better you’ll feel in your clothes when your bra isn’t riding up, or pinching, or bits of boob are hanging out of the wrong places.

    Lastly: you rock. Your description of yourself and your body literally made my day. I wish I’d had half your body confidence at 18. You are totally and completely awesome–yay, you!

  20. I feel like I could have written this letter. I am also busty, and my mom has always harped on me about my weight. It really does not matter what size you are or how much weight has been gained, the fact of the matter is that shes being awful. I am 29, and I still get comments from her about how after I have kids I should just get it over with and get lypo and a breast reduction. Honestly, the advice here is great, the only thing that works is to say “I am not discussing this” or “I’m not having this conversation.” Any reasoning or talking about my feelings has always been met with the ultimate cruel insult, that I am just way too sensitive and I should just buck up. To the letter writer: I hope you can get out of the house soon, I was lucky enough to meet a great guy and move in with him at 22, and my life has been all the better for it.

  21. When I still lived at home and my mother would comment on my weight, I would never dare argue back with her (it started when I was 13). I used to read books on diets and one day the librarian at my local library suggested I read ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ by Susie Orbach. It annoyed my mother into silence on my weight, so much so that I bought a copy and would pull it out and read it every time she mentioned my weight.

    This is a passive aggressive coping mechanism at best, and should not be treated as advice on how to deal with her. But it’s an excellent book and well worth reading 😀

  22. Oh, LW, I feel you. I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t a mummy-body-issues endemic. My mum isn’t as bad as hers – my mum’s comments clearly come from a place of misplaced concern and love, rather than alcoholic emotional abuse, but there are SO MANY SIMILARITIES.

    I’m the biggest member of my family. I’m also the only adult in the family who has never smoked, while the rest of my relatives each get through between 30-50 a day, except those who were forced to quit in old age due to health problems.

    My mum will give concerned talks about my weight and try to interrogate me about my lifestyle because I “must be doing something to be so big”, and claims that she just wants me to be “as pretty as I was when I still lived at home”. Note, when I was still living at home I had undiagnosed mental health issues, was a self harmer and treated dieting as another form of self harm. And back then, she was still always trying to get me to lose weight and suggesting frankly dangerous diets and policing my eating habits.

    She will list every single thing “wrong” with my diet (nuts and seeds have lots of calories! They are full of fat! Cheese is fatty! No adding sugar to herbal tea!) and then turn around and serve me, for dinner, so much pasta that it cannot fit on the plate, topped with more cheese than I normally eat in a week and some pieces of deep-fried chicken, then act concerned and prod me into eating more if I don’t finish my plate. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a huge plate of pasta and fried chicken, but the cognitive dissonance, it is there).

    Last time I visited her I took an old friend from school (my parents live abroad and my friend wanted to see their new place) and my mum tried to recruit my friend into staging an intervention-style talk when we were taking a walk.

    I’m afraid I’m not very good at Using My Words or Enforcing boundaries with my mum. But I can vouch for distance being a great way to relieve the pressure of it all. When we talk over the phone, there’s no diet talk because, having previously told her I can’t afford to spend a long time on the phone, she’s learned to treat every minute of conversation we get as something precious. It does make visiting more of a trap, because I can’t very well leave the house and fly home if she starts up, but for you, putting some kind of physical distance between you and your mum, taking control over how often and under what circumstances you see her, and combining this with some boundary rules will hopefully make a big difference.

    I also greatly encourage you to follow Sweet Machine’s advice and look into some HAES. It’s really helped me.

    1. Our moms are under the same cultural pressures we are, so it’s not surprising that their own body issues and upbringing and worry gets mixed up in it.

      1. This is really true in my family — my mom, who is in general an exquisitely kind human being, sometimes just doesn’t seem to be able to restrain her own bad body image, and it sort of spills out on me and others in indirect ways. General culture toxicity along with being viciously teased for being fat as a young person left some deep marks, even though she’s more or less on the opposite end of the weight spectrum now.

        The mental dissonance between her usual personality and her nasty comments about the weight of various relatives is what really shakes me, you know? Especially because she /must/ know these remarks aren’t really appropriate to make, given that she never comments on my relative fatness to me. Even when we had a huge fight about me wearing clothes she thought I was too fat for, she never actually said the word “weight” to me, just that a coat I had looked “unprofessional” (though I got what she meant.) Admittedly, I’m not sure this is because she gets that it’s not okay to comment on other people’s bodies, or because she personally would find it so devastating to be called fat that she can’t imagine doing it to someone else. :/

  23. I got body-shaming from the other side – I was married to a man who thought I was too thin and too “sexy.” He regularly pressured me to eat unhealthy foods that I didn’t enjoy, yet at the same time, he berated me for being “obsessed” with eating and sleeping at regular intervals throughout the day. He also told me that I was selfish for wanting to work out at a gym.

    After a year of that (yay divorce!) I was so out of touch with my own body that I felt guilt for feeling hunger. When I started dating again, my new boyfriend was mystified by my constant weakness and dizziness until he realized I was consuming far fewer calories per day than I needed. Slowly, and with much hesitation on my part, I have learned to eat food and nourish my one and only body properly.

    LW, therapy and boundaries (enforced with physical distance if necessary) are your friends. As so many others have said, you can’t fix your mother, and you can’t “fix” yourself to her specifications.

    1. Yay divorce indeed, your ex makes me angry, I’m glad you are rid of him.

      My ex boyfriend (yay dumping!) was also obsessed with my weight, whereas I don’t give a damn about it. He told me I have “fat wrists” (WTF does that even mean?) and that I am “genetically fat” and “the fat is on the inside where I can’t see it” and I have a “fat body shape”. The worst thing about this is that he is a doctor so he spoke as if what he was saying was SCIENCE. He also body shamed his ex-wife, saying she was also “genetically fat”.

      Tragically both his mother and his sister were anorexics and his father body-shamed both of them.

      Wow, he was an idiot.

      1. I had* a male friend who would do that to me and his girlfriends. He had an eating disorder himself, and was projecting his own feelings about bodies onto us.

        I mention it because you say your ex’s mother and sister had eating disorders, and his father was part of the unhealthy shaming dynamic. It may be that their whole family engaged in disordered eating, however because we are not taught to see it in men, they never get diagnosed unless they get so sick as to need hospitalization.

        *past tense

        1. Actually, I think you might be on to something. I remember he went on the Atkins Diet (ugh) for a while and was pretty obsessed about his own weight. It’s pretty sad and extremely messed up. As is all body shaming.

  24. Strong agreement with everything SM said, plus a note of caution re: bra size calculators recommended by some commenters. That kind of thing might be useful for finding sizes in your general range, but it won’t show you how a proper bra should actually look and feel. If you’ve never had a good fitting before (i.e. not at VS), it’s well worth going into a nice boutique and having one done. If you don’t know how a bra should feel, a calculator won’t help you, because sizing varies so much from brand to brand and style to style.

    1. Volcanista, I completely agree regarding understanding what a proper fit should look and feel like. A few years ago, I stumbled over The Lingerie Handbook, and it was such an eye opener. It’s a great resource with lots of pictures of good fitting and poorly fitting bras, underwear, etc.

      1. I have to wonder if that book is safe for anyone with an eating disorder or any serious body dysmorphia. Just looking at the “look inside” stuff on Amazon made me feel miserable. I’d caution anyone against buying it if they have similar issues.

    2. Actually, a fitting by a qualified professional is a very different thing from a calculator. You get not only a proper size, but which brands fit your style of body/breasts best. And that’s invaluable, even if, well, you can’t always afford what fits you best.

      Most women I know have had great luck with Nordstrom’s lingerie ladies. Be sure to bypass VSecret, which merely shoehorns you into the sizes they carry, which do not qualify as busty by any means.

      1. That’s what I said–avoid the calculators that some commenters were suggesting. Use a person who can show you how it should actually fit, and who works in a proper boutique (meaning a reasonable size range and custom alterations).

      2. Oh, VS is kind of horrible! Personally, I’ve always favored the Hanes outlet store, but that’s because I only get bras when my mother takes me shopping (yay, still being in school!).

  25. Hi LW. I can commiserate. My mother has made similar comments to me, especially when I was a child. It sucks, I know! And makes it seem as though it is completely WRONG for anyone to see the shape of your body at any time. One thing my mom would do was make loud, exaggerated shocked noises at the doctor whenever she took me in for a physical and I got weighed. At my pediatrician’s office, the scale was in the hallway where all of the people waiting could hear. Humiliating.

    This is totally not about your body. It is about your mom wanting to control you and your emotions. I don’t know if she does this in other areas, but my mother certainly does this with me and my finances (which are fine, I am financially independent) and also other aspects of my physical well-being and medical history (my cholesterol numbers are some sort of personal insult to her–by the way, they are also fine!)

    The only thing that has worked for me is using what I call the “See? Your opinions don’t matter here.” method combined with “And it’s none of your business.”

    Here are some options:
    Mom: LW, have you gained weight?! You look very fat! How much do you weigh now!?
    You: My weight is between me and my doctor, who is not at all concerned about my health.

    Mom: LW, you shouldn’t wear that top because it shows your fat!
    You: I’m very comfortable with how I look in this top.

    Mom: You shouldn’t eat that piece of cake because you can’t afford to get any fatter!
    You: I’m not very interested in your opinion about that.

    I inserted exclamation points because it was my mother’s voice in my head saying those things, and she never says anything without an exclamation point, but please punctuate to taste. If she freaks out at your reaction, walk away.

    Hopefully, she will no longer find these interactions with you satisfying, and they will occur less frequently.

    It would be nice if you told her that she was hurting your feelings and she stopped doing this, but that doesn’t always solve the problem with people bent on keeping your emotions on a roller coaster.

    This summer, after years of believing that “fat people are not allowed to wear bikinis, they have to wear swimdresses and shorts and coverups and should really just not ever go to the beach at all” I bought my first ever 2 piece bathing suit and totally rocked it.

      1. Just wait until you reach 50 years and then they will tell you “too old to wear a bikini” cos you know we women shouldn’t force men to see wrinkles, it is the same body shaming thing only no one talks about it. It’s probably why I prefer to go to nude beaches where people don’t care if you are old or heavy or whatever, we are all of us beautiful and to hell with what other people say we are allowed to wear or whether being naked after we are no longer conventionally “pretty” is allowed.

        1. Totally second the worth of nude beaches in fighting body shaming :-). And saunas, and hot springs and all that. When you see the beautiful diversity of real bodies, it’s very hard to get worked up about yourself..

  26. When I was a teenager, my mom started telling me I was fat. She would say I had a potbelly if my stomach wasn’t perfectly flat, she would ask if I was pregnant (I had never even had a boyfriend!). My coping mechanism was to tell me mom SHE was fat! She would be so hurt when I parroted her same words back to her as a response every time she said I was fat. After a few months or so of this she finally gave up on calling me fat because she was so hurt by my response. Cruel of me? Maybe. But I was repeating her own words back to her.

    The interesting part of this was a couple years ago, when my sister and I began talking about it. Turns out she did the same thing to my sister when my younger sister was a teenager! My sister coped by saying things like “Mom, you are nuts. You are crazy.” and walking out of the room and refusing to listen. Mom eventually gave up. My sister and I were amazed to find out that we had had the same experience. Not sure if anyone would want to try either of these methods of responding but they worked pretty well for us.

    Why do moms have these kind of delusions? It had nothing to do with our actual weight (who on earth has a perfectly flat stomach?)

    1. It’s sad and cruel, but sometimes you do need to go there just to make it stop. Once I was crushed beyond crushed because I was crying to my mom about how I felt like I was just being used for sex but no one would commit to me, and out of nowhere, she said, “It’s because of your body. Men don’t want a girlfriend your size. Sex is different.” (My mom didn’t habitually make these kinds of comments to me growing up, so it wasn’t an “Oh Mom” thing, I knew she meant it.) When I told one of my bad-ass friends about it, she said, “You should have been like, ‘Oh, what, like anyone would want you either if you were single?'” At first I was like THAT’S SO MEAN AND NOT RELEVANT, but now my mom’s ramped up on criticizing my body, and when she says nasty things about my weight and how I “just CANNOT be this big,” I say things like, “Why, because I look too much like you?” Ideally I don’t want there to be any of that kind of talk, I think it’s bad for both of us, but saying as much to her didn’t really register. Unfortunately, making it personal does.

  27. I have an older sister I no longer talk to, why . . .

    Conversations with her for going on 30 years, she was very derogatory, always letting me know I was too fat, only had a job because i was in a union, didn’t have the right friends, didn’t wear the right clothes, didn’t take the right vacations, was a loser because of who I dated, was a loser because I wasn’t dating and on and effing on.

    A couple of years ago I got sick and could easily have died, she let me know how ‘weak’ I was for getting ill. I called her on it and haven’t talked to her since. I set the boundary clear and hard and she couldn’t deal. Oh well.

    She also drinks and her behaviour gets worse when she does. I spent a lot of time and effort putting up with her and feel only relief to not have any contact with her.

    The moral of my story is, nothing I could have ever done would have been good enough for whatever is going on with her and what she reflected back on me.

    I can only hope that LW can safely get out on her own as soon as possible and enjoy her life without the constant negative mothering.

  28. Man, what is it about alcoholics and their daughters’ weight? My step-father was (is) an alcoholic and could not shut up about my weight. When you are 14 you don’t realize that calling someone, let alone your adolescent daughter, “lard ass” is beyond wrong and beyond cruel.

    You don’t realize at 15 that when you are having massive growth spurts (3″ in 3 weeks!) that giving me crap about any food I eat is not only wrong, but dangerous.

    You also don’t realize at 16 that he is projecting his own self hatred. There I was shining like a star with my whole life ahead of me and full of potential. Guess he couldn’t help trying to bring me down a peg or two.

    I also didn’t realize at 18 that I wasn’t fat. Not even remotely. I was willowy! This isn’t to make it about one size being right or wrong. It was about the moment I realized what body dysmorphia is and that someone else can have it and wreck havoc on your life.

    It is amazing what a person in your life can convince you is true even if it is a lie. Read up on HAES and get counseling. As a child of an alcoholic you have some truths to figure out (living with an alcoholic is all about living with lies and false fronts). If you are going to college, some universities have fabulous counseling services on campus. A lot of counselors will work on a sliding scale and there are free groups for adult children of alcoholics.

    And the rack? Is awesome. Love it. Dress it well. Wear beautiful bras that fit, clothes that are flattering (v-necks are your friend) and embrace being curvy. You are beautiful. I’m sorry some one in your life is so jealous they can’t see straight. She is the one who is screwed up. Not you.

    You have everything awesome in your life ahead of you.

  29. I’m going to leave this poetry slam here because I just found it last week and it applies no matter how you are being body shamed. Jedi hugs LW and so many others in the comments.

    1. damn, no idea why the rest of my comment is missing. I meant the above to remind us all that our mothers believe what they are saying to us because they were inculcated with these ideas about what a woman is, so they pass it on to us and we are all a product of it, that’s why it’s hard to overcome. I think the reason your mom becomes worse when drunk is likely because she is projecting her issues on you more strongly at those times. I’m only speaking from dealing with an alcoholic ex-husband who projected his issues on me all the time so take with a grain.

  30. My mom is like that, and I am almost positive that she’s projecting onto me because I am smaller than she is (not by much, maybe two sizes, but then, I haven’t had kids). It’s pretty clear she had issues with her body image when she was younger, from comments she has made to me. It also doesn’t help that my dad was horribly skinny when he was younger (abuse, not having enough money to buy food) and is now obese with associated health problems (diabetes, asthma, the big C word), so my mom is constantly holding my dad up as an example of what could happen to me.

  31. I’m speaking up in favour of Sweet Machine’s hatred of being polite to abusers. What finally got my entire family off my back about my weight, where polite letters, angry rants, shitfits, hanging up, refusing to speak about it, linking them to HAES blogs and even my assorted attempts at weight loss didn’t work?

    Sending them a note that informed them that all future inquiries after my weight or weight loss or weight gain would be answered politely and fully – after I had given them equally full and polite details about my last masturbatory session. It was a horrible, crude, brash and ugly letter in content if not style, and it caused tantrums and “trauma” and people refusing to talk to me for weeks (like that was a fucking threat), but it worked. YMMV of course, not all families are alike, etc etc.

    1. macavitykitsune, I know this was serious and you had to go to great lengths to fix it, I have to say that I got a huge laugh when I read your post by thinking about how my first polite detailed explanation of the masturbation might go if I were you; it started with “I just got a wonderful new buttplug” oh god, I can’t believe I’m posting this…

      1. Hee, no worries! I giggled like a 12yo the entire time I wrote that letter, and though I made sure to be “sufficiently” sorry about it I can’t help but think of them biting back each comment because they’re terrified I’ll make my threat good…

        And yay for wonderful new buttplugs! They are a good thing in the world.

    2. And did you get to tell them :-)?? Love the idea though..
      I was actually going to suggest that one good strong episode of defending yourself fully would be necessary. “well mom, i’ve noticed you always get particularly aggressive about my weight when you’ve been hitting the bottle hard. so how have you been doing lately? dad, has she been passing out again?”. I think that would help enforce your more abstract boundary setting..

      1. *lol* Actually, I didn’t! They’ve behaved impeccably, since. Which only makes their behaviour before seem even more boorish imo since they were all “I can’t HAAALP ITTTTTT”. Oh well. And it worked for my family because they were/are incredibl skittish about all things female and sexual.

        I’ve found that even restating things they say or do in a more aggressive fashion works. Like, my grandmother who insisted on checking if I was wearing a bra and panties all the time backed the fuck off once I started saying in a loud and clear voice “You are currently touching my breasts. Now you’re touching my hip. Why are you touching my breasts and hip?”

  32. Another daughter of a thin-obsessed mother here. Her method was never direct or confrontational (goodness – that would be RUDE!), more along the lines of favourable comments about other – thin – girls, or ‘oops, must have grabbed the wrong size’ gifts. The last time I remember her complimenting my figure was about fifteen years ago. My fiance had dumped me and out of heartbreak I could neither eat nor sleep properly, nor stay still, and I rapidly dropped about ten pounds. I was unhealthy, knew I was unhealthy, and finally understood that her perception of my body was totally skewed. I take after my father’s side, broad-shouldered and strong-muscled, and never would be willowy. Going back just a couple of generations, my female ancestors had very physically demanding lives and lived them well, and I became proud to resemble them.

    Not that my mother ever gave up hinting that I wasn’t thin enough, even though I’ve put half a country between us and see her maybe once a year. I do take after her in the non-confrontational department and hoped that just ignoring her sideways hints would be enough. However, during a visit about two years ago her comments – plus the fact that I now have nieces (who live in her town) and hate the thought of her putting them through what she put me through – made me take a stand. Via email, because the visit was over before I finished being angry, I told her how her attitude towards my size had negatively affected me throughout the years and quoted her most recent comments as being the last straw. I told her that I was proud to take after my strong female ancestors. And I told her in no uncertain terms to keep her thin obsession under wraps around her grandchildren and be sure to compliment THEM and not their skinnier friends.

    Her reply was apologetic but she of course had never intended to be hurtful and the email caused her hurt so I must forgive her now and apologize for hurting her. Oookay…so she didn’t really get the message but at least I had finally spoken up and cleared forty years of hurt out of my system. Since then she has been careful around me, which I hope also means she’s careful around my nieces, and that’s as good as I can hope for.

    TL;DR – From personal experience I can say with other commenters that setting a clear boundary can work. In my case there was no alcoholism to deal with so I don’t know how much that affects LW’s situation. At the very least, for me to speak up and take a stand got rid of pent-up hurt and made me feel stronger and in control. If my mother slips back into her old ways, she now knows I will call her on it.

    1. ‘oops, must have grabbed the wrong size’ gifts

      Ugh, my mother did that once. Over lunch in a pub just after we’d scattered my grandmother’s ashes, my mother blurted out (in front of the whole family) “So, when’s the baby due?” and I had to explain that no, I wasn’t pregnant, I just hadn’t managed to shift the belly I’d been left with after my third child was born.

      That Christmas, one of her gifts to me was a black tunic-style top; when I tried it on a few days later, I noticed it seemed strangely baggy below the breasts. I checked the label and found it was from Mothercare’s Maternity range.

      Way to go, Mum. Then she wonders why I never want to go visit or spend Christmas with the family.

      1. I so hate this indirect method of weight-commenting, don’t you? I mean, how are you supposed to respond? A flat-out disapproving comment such as “I see you’ve put on weight” can be countered right then. But the wrong size shirt – “Mom, I haven’t been a medium for years and you know it.” “Sorry dear, I must have been distracted and just grabbed the wrong size.” – always has a convenient excuse to sidestep any possible confrontation.

        My mother still doesn’t get that these comments and actions are hurtful – I’m pretty sure she frames them in her head as ‘helpful hints’. Lessening contact with her definitely helped, and finally taking the “This is not acceptable” stand released my years of hurt.

        1. In my mother’s case, it was one more boundary she just couldn’t accept but had to try and tap-dance all over, and meant she hasn’t seen her youngest grandaughter since. My mother has had to learn the hard way that she needs me far, far more than I need her. My youngest sister tells me mother dearest hasn’t breathed a word about her weight since I didn’t show up to visit last Christmas, so perhaps my mother has learned to behave herself.

          I’ve had to basically train my mother slowly into behaving like a decent human being by walking out of her life every time she’s crossed a line. She only calls me when there’s a death in the family now. She gave me a perfect example of how now to parent. I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and admit I am never going to win any awards for “World’s Greatest Mum” – but at least all three of my daughters actually talk to & confide in me, so I must be doing something right.

      2. Bizarrely, my MIL for years bought me things a few sizes too LARGE. I was at the time the same size as my SIL, but she would always buy me something much bigger. I don’t think she was trying to be mean, but in her mind I was just bigger when I wasn’t there.

  33. LW, reading Shapely Prose changed my views on and relationship with my body drastically without having the body shaming you’re getting from your family. It may be a lifeline for you, since you know your mother is wrong and the archives there will validate you. Your situation is intense (and horribly abusive), but body shaming is rampant in most of Western culture. The fact that you’ve resisted the cultural inculcation AND your mother enough to reach out makes me think that the future is bright for you. You will come out of this strong and awesome, I can see it.

  34. My mother’s given up on commenting overmuch on my weight (there’s nothing wrong with my weight and my body-image is relatively healthy, thanks very much) now that I’m in my thirties and haven’t lived at home for nearly 2/3 of my life. She’s finding subtler, more abstract ways of getting at me, instead.

    One of the comments here reminded me of a really strange incident when I was in high school (I went to boarding school). My best friend was a bigger girl – not fat, just heavier than me. A little taller, but with this incredible head of super-long, super-curly, thick dark blonde hair. She was pretty in a hippy-ish sort of way – I thought she was gorgeous, anyway. My mother met her, and afterwards pronounced my friend to be beautiful – her word was “statuesque” – right before derogating my own weight. Knowing my friend’s and my own respective body stats quite well, I was, to say the least, confused. Thankfully, that confusion was a good thing, because it meant my brain was working and Mum’s gaslighting wasn’t.

  35. I’ve got a very mild, almost opposite version of this problem. While my weight is within tolerance, it’s drifting and I am trying to make a small correction and eat less for a month or two. My parents keep sabotaging this: When living at home, I need to talk to them to control how much food I eat. While I think it should be my concern, they always insist on arguing against me, telling me that I need to eat more, etc and accuse me of having anorexia when I press the issue. Finally I am at college again, where I can control how much I eat myself.

  36. Your mom and my dad have been taking pages from the same playbook. (He recently told me I should stop training for a half-marathon because I am too fat. Seriously, fuck that dude. But I’m a lot older than you and so it’s easier for me to get away from his behavior.) Best of luck drawing boundaries with your mom.

  37. LW, one thing I want to reiterate if the Captain thinks it’s on track. Your weight does not have anything to do with the pattern of behavior you’re seeing here. To borrow a phrase from your letter that really hit home for me, you can’t win with her… unless she has already decided that she wants you to win. She’s making up the rules, so she can control the outcome, even if it’s harmful to you.

    The response suggested in the post and in several comments is to simply refuse to play. There may be nothing simple about it, of course. It may be that your mother won’t interact with you if you don’t play, or she might try to bully you into playing. She could just get less blatant about it, or pick something else about you to attack instead. Whatever she does, you can always choose not to respond, not to play her game. And you can set your own rules.

    What I want to add is this, I don’t know if it’s an issue for you but it was for me. Refusing to play can be a hard thing to do, because the prize is approval and affection. But you shouldn’t have to try to win love like this. That isn’t right. It is okay to demand better than that for yourself. And it’s important to do what you can to take care of yourself. Go out and be who you are, keep liking that person and treating her well. You deserve that.

    Many, many hugs and good luck.

    1. Seconded. My mom has been heavy-ish all my life, and she would sometimes make remarks about my weight, and ways I could slim down. The thing is, she legitimately meant well (not that that helped), so when I explained to her that I hated when she said things like that (because it implied that my funny, compassionate, Fulbright-winning awesomeness was less important than the size of my ass), she cut that shit out. Now, we can talk about things like working out, and buying clothes, and such, because we are both committed to getting rid of That Which Is Fucked Up. Unless you get a similar commitment, just get rid of That Which Is Fucked Up on your own: draw boundaries, draw strength from Team You, and do some serious self-care. Much love!

  38. The scripts from Sweet Machine and the Awkward Army (excellent name for a rock band) are great. I really only have one thing to add: safety first.

    If you think getting confrontational will end up with your being in physical, emotional, or financial danger, you’re allowed to hold off. It doesn’t make you weak. (You’re always allowed to hold off, for any reason at all. As Ragen Chastain says, you are the boss of your own underpants.)

    Not confronting her about it doesn’t have to mean just taking it. There are alternatives, like many of the folks here have suggested — leave the room, change the subject, ignore her while thinking mean thoughts about her.

    Is your brother your only sibling? If so, can he be swayed to be on your side? My sister and I used to play “Look At the Shiny Thing!” with a relative who was overly focused on my weight and my sister’s love life. If she started on one of us, the other would ask her [the relative] a question about something she was interested in, and divert the conversation onto the new topic. If she has a subject on which she likes to tear down your brother, the two of you could form a mutual defense alliance.

    LW, your body is amazing. It can do wonderfully and weirdly complex things, like bend and move and oxygenate your blood. It can break down food and extract nutrients and vitamins from it. (Imagine trying to get the vitamin C out of an orange — you’d need a non-trivial chemistry lab, but your body does it without even breaking stride.) It can use sugar and salt to make electricity. It is astounding, and it is the only one you get, and nobody should badmouth it. Criticizing people’s bodies is like disparaging the best book ever written just because you personally are not crazy about the cover art. I’d feel sorry for people whose worlds are so limited and frightening if I weren’t so busy being mad at them.

  39. So…I’m not sure if that’s even a problem for you/something you do.

    But how about having no contact with the scale for a while? That way it can’t be about the lbs and is more about body shape/general well being?

    I don’t know if your mom obsesses about your weight in terms of numbers, but that way you could just tell her ‘no idea what I weight right now but it feels good’ as well as ‘you can’t even know how much weight I gained/lost lately. I don’t even know myself’

    1. Before I learned to Use My Words about this with my mom, I would use this. “I have no idea what I weigh”, “Wait, we own a scale?”, and “I dunno, I just use it for my luggage” were all regular phrases in my repertoire.

      1. As a random comment, me and my kick arse no body shame flat mate own no scales other than the kitchen ones, but turned out to be a problem when I needed to know if I could take my luggage as carry on

  40. Oh, and another bra tip: if you’re in the US, find out whether you’re near a Hanes outlet. (I don’t know whether Hanes has outlets in other countries or not.) The one I went to had excellent bra fitters and good selection and prices. (They also have a line of no-slip underpants [under the Bali brand, I believe] that are true to their name. Put those suckers on and they stay put, and they’re really comfy.)

    1. YES. Hanes is wonderful. They aren’t terribly pretty, but they are so functional. In the US, Tanger Outlet Malls usually have them; also, anywhere in North Carolina. I bought my bras there a year or two ago, and they are still in great condition and make my boobs feel loved.

  41. I have extremely bad body dysmorphia because of my mom’s constant gas-lighting and weight shaming. I know that I do not look the way I see myself, but I still have not been able to figure out a good way to deprogram my distortions of my appearance It started when I was about 8 or so and did not let up until I moved out, got married (how’s that for “no one wi ever love/desire you,” mom!!!), and got diagnosed with PCOS. Now I just snowball her with medical terms until her eyes glaze over.

    Of course, she has found more insidious ways to make me feel like a loser. Now, she attempts to imply that I am a bad mother, that I am making my daughter fat, even though she is of normal size. She swears up and down that my daughter has “speech problems” even though we have had the doctor evaluate her and her grasp on language and syntax is actually pretty advanced for a 3 year old. Etc.

    And, of course, she does this infuriating thing where she talks about her diet or body but it is obviously in such a way to put my body down.

    The thing is, if it wasn’t weight, it would be something else. People like this get their rocks off on making others feel inferior. Weight is just more of a socially acceptable way to abuse people in public and plain view. They can hide the abuse behind “but I just want you to be HEALTHY” and then tell you in the same breath to starve yourself or begin an overly rigorous and self-punishing exercise program (both of which are not healthy).

    It feels like the ultimate betrayal when someone who is supposed to love and support you is like this. I have cried many a night mourning for the mother-daughter relationship that I will never have. And when my only true ally and confidant (my grandmother) died last August, all I could think was that I would rather have heard that my mom died instead.

    The worst thing is that from time to time, I still must rely on my parents’ help and my mom always lords it over me. How much of a burdan I am because the scholarship I got for college only paid for the first two years. How selfish I am for living over 3 hours away. How much of a failure I am for not owning my own house or being able to save enough for a down payment on a mortgage. Etc.

    So I feel your pain, LW. I just wish I could tell you that there was an easy solution.

    1. You sound like you have your head on incredibly straight about this. I hope you have access to therapy and can go and get some comfort and a safe place to feel your feelings (ANGER…BURNING ANGER) and work them out.

      1. No therapy as of yet. Working full time, having a 3 year old, and being pretty close to my due date for my second pregnancy, I have neither the time nor the money at the moment. Although you wouldn’t believe how good it feels when people validate my experience and let me know that I am not just imagining things or am crazy for thinking that my mon is s toxic person. Having my husband, siblings and couple best friends on Team Me has been utterly essential. Also, the love and affection that my daughter shows me tells me that, no, I am not inherently broken and horrible. How could I be? I grew and birthed and fed this gorgeous little person with my freaking body. If that doesn’t make my body awesome, I don’t know what will.

        1. In that case, allow me to join the chorus of people with their heads on straight: your mom is a fucked-up, toxic person. You are amazing and strong.

          Ragen Chastain’s book, Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact is available as a name-your-own-price ebook. It’s great, and it’s structured such that you don’t need to set aside half an hour to sit down and read a chapter. Five minutes works. I strongly recommend it to, well, pretty much everybody.

  42. Two slightly contradictory thoughts:

    1. Even people who really really hate the whole idea of being fat, or even worse, being OKAY with being fat (see: my mother) are capable of thinking, “Hmm, even though this concept is REPULSIVELY DISGUSTING to me, much like the fact of the Butter Cow’s existence is to the majority of people raised outside of Iowa,* expressing this opinion will distress and/or hurt this person that I love very much. Therefore . . . I shan’t express it.” So: I agree, this issue is largely one that is not about weight.

    2. But, I mean, shit. Eliminating someone’s ability to feel good about their own body and their own weight is such a /normal/ thing for parents to do to kids. The lack of empathy that people (generally non-abusive people!) have for their own children around body issues just . . . stuns me. It’s like these parents have been beaten down by the Stick of Bodily Self-Loathing so often themselves that this part of their emotional makeup has just been scarred into dysfunctionality, and seeing it working in another human being just seems fucking bizarre to them. To use a crappy metaphor, it’s like docking tails of dogs in the U.S.: after a few generations of this being the norm, you don’t realize that those breeds that usually have it done even HAVE tails, let alone what they look like. (I guess it’s not such a bad metaphor, because it’s an unnecessary and moderately cruel procedure performed for the sake of Being Normal, much like the instillation of body hatred in many a child.)

    There’s of course the added distress of the fact that if a parent admits that the way they talk to their child about weight is maybe fucked up, they also have to admit that the way they feel about their own body is maybe also really fucked up, which is exhausting and hard and frightening.

    Also, can we have another shout-out for the blessed, blessed moderation on this site (and the shiny awesome moderators)? I rejoice, positively REJOICE, in an online space where I don’t have to worry that a conversation pertaining to weight is going to devolve into . . . the usual.

    *Figure not supported by scientific research

    1. ven though this concept is REPULSIVELY DISGUSTING to me, much like the fact of the Butter Cow’s existence is to the majority of people raised outside of Iowa

      What… is the Butter Cow, precisely? Or am I better off not knowing?

      1. It is a life-size cow carved entirely from butter, displayed every year in the Iowa State Fair. I find it awesome, but many non-Iowegians* seem to be horrified by it.

        *not actually the state adjective

        1. Hey, it’s not the Fair unless you’ve gone to see the Butter Cow! I have never had anyone tell me that’s weird, actually. Huh. Maybe I just have seriously accepting friends? Or friends whose states produce things that outsiders find equally weird so they just don’t mention it?

          ~Not-that-Jane-the-other-Jane. 😉

          1. Really? Thinking back on the reactions I have gotten when I explained the butter cow, they have ranged from excessive hilarity (i.e. THAT IS SO WEIRD, YOU CANOT BE SERIOUS LOLOLOL) to utter disgust (I thought the young French gentleman to whom I was explaining the “vache de beurre” the other day was actually going to vomit.)

            I have also been told that this means thats Iowans worship a golden calf, so. Heh.


          2. It’s a grownup cow, not a calf. Also not actually golden, just a pale shade of yellow. Ergo, totally separate things. And see below re: the butter heads– a lot of my friends are from Minnesota, so that could have something to do with it. At least the butter cow is nominally a way to promote the Iowa dairy industry. Plus, you can stroll through the line in a reasonably cool, shady place while sipping something cold and catching your breath. (Like character greetings at Disney World, only, you know, butter.)

            Isn’t it perfectly delightful that humans always seem to find a way to be bizarre? Just in that “nope, I don’t know why we do it, but we do and we like it” way. I think the best thing is really to not attempt to explain it, just to let others experience and discover the glee for themselves… hee hee hee…

          3. Well, and also the butter cow is in one of the buildings with very cheap, very enormous cups of delicious homemade ice cream, and one needs something to do while eating one’s ice cream . . .

            Infinite hurrahs for the weirdness of humanity, though.

          4. I’m happy for the butter cow, but I’m going to close off discussion of the butter cow, ok? I don’t know why, but every single one of these comments is coming through moderation and it’s clogging us up. Not your fault! But no more butter cow.

        2. Wow. That’s… special. Not horrifying, just… odd. How does it not melt? Is there a toast stand nearby where you can use the cow to butter your toast?

          Enquiring minds want to know.

          1. It, along with the other yearly life-size sculpture made of butter (past companions to the cow have included the Last Supper, Superman, and Garth Brooks), are kept in a refrigerated case with a nice little window through which one can observe them. HOWEVER, I am not entirely sure how this was accomplished in 1912, when the first cow was carved and displayed.

          2. I have wanted to go to the Iowa State Fair to see the Butter Cow ever since I first saw that episode. And to eat deep fried butter, because from teh video I saw of someone eating one, it’s actually basically a VERY buttery pancake and not that different from the butter-and-cinnamon-sugar-filled crepe you can get at xmas markets here in Germany.

            One of the things I miss most about living in Germany is not having State/County Fairs. (I grew up not far from the NY State Fair)

          3. instead of a cow, the Minnesota State Fair has Butter Princesses – actual living Butter Princesses, and also every one of them has a 90-pound sculpted butter head. (Bust, actually. The sculptural kind).

            MPR did a cool story on this during the fair this summer – some Butter Princesses keep their busts forever but most eventually use the butter for something, like hosting a community sweet corn meal and serving the butter with it, or donating it to a holiday cookie baking project.

        3. That ain’t NOTHIN’ to the Minnesota State Fair butter heads.

          See, after the Princess Kay of the Milky Way competition is complete, the winning Princess Kay and her court are all immortalized(ish) as busts carved of superior-quality butter.

          After the fair is done, and the butter heads have ceased rotating in their refrigerated glass case, the heads go to the ladies who inspired them. http://www.mnstatefair.org/entertainment/timelapse/butter_sculpture.html

          State Fairs forever!

  43. Oh, LW, I feel you. What I’m going to give you an Internet high five on is being 18 and realizing how full of it your mom is about your weight. It took me an extra decade to reach that point. For years and years (been on a diet since I was ten, yayes?), I accepted for truth that when my mother told me I was fat (nicely, but still) and helped me with dieting (Weight Watchers, not buying crappy food, etc.) that she was genuinely trying to help me. Well, she was, of course, in her mind, but I finally realized that my mother’s own messed up views of body size and fat had morphed me into a HOT MESS when it came to food and my own body. (plus culture/media/society — I won’t just blame my mom!) I was never fat–I was young, a bit chubby and height/weight/age proportional. But obsessing about my weight and thinking I was fat lead to the vicious cycle: I now weigh more than ever BUT I’m more happy, healthy and fit than ever. Bye bye body dysmorphia!

    But what has been DRIVING ME INSANE is that now that I’m into body positivity/HAES, my mom simply can’t accept it. She thinks I’m secretly miserable and in denial. She even had a concern troll conversation with me about diabetes, and I simply lost my shit at her, for the first time. Most epic fight we have ever had, in 28 years. (without mentioning sizes/weight, as it is Verboten, I’ll just say that in addition to be damn fit and healthy, I am by no means close to being obese, or at risk for diabetes. Even if I were larger, she’d have no right. HAES!) In addition to endless concern trolling, my mom cannot have a conversation with me without talking about *her* weight. The diet she’s on. How miserable she is “fat.” That “last five pounds.” It’s endless. She used to provoke me into talking about my own weight she she brought it up, but now I simply don’t let her bait me. I also talk to her less and less. I maybe call once a month, and I see her twice a year. Because she’s trying to brainwash me with body hate and I refuse to participate in it.

    All of the above advice is fantastic, and honestly, if you are able to get out of the house, I would recommend hardcore mom detox. The longer I’m away from my mom’s close sphere of influence, the better I feel about myself, and the easier it is to recover from each comment she makes about my weight. Set boundaries with her, and back away.

    ALSO! For bra fittings, if you have an Intimacy (http://myintimacy.com/) nearby, run, DON’T WALK, and get a bra fitting. They changed my life! Also, my recent YAY find has been eShakti, because for the first time I can custom order something that both fits my waist, shoulders AND bust. It’s awesome. http://www.eshakti.com/

  44. My mom does pretty much the same thing to me, LW, and I’m just now learning that I don’t have to listen. My therapist gave me Official Permission to use her as an excuse for setting boundaries (ie, “My therapist says we can’t talk about this” or “My therapist said I shouldn’t let you insult me anymore”) and I don’t see any reason why you can’t use the same excuse, even if you aren’t seeing a therapist. I don’t know if it’d help with your mother, but it seems to with mine, so it’s worth a try.

    Also, in my area there are state-sponsored facilities that help with mental health and therapy and such, so long as you reside in the county they serve. Their fees go on a sliding scale based on income, so they might be affordable for you. At the very least, the assessment should be free.

  45. Just wanted to thank CA for removing actual size info here. It’s not relevant.
    Although I’d like to point out that unfortunately most of the consoling comments have been assuring LW that she isn’t really fat. And what is she was, actually? You know, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. And her mom still shouldn’t be trying to make her feel bad about it. Because it’s none of her business, not because LW is fat or not.

    Sure, LW should inform herself about HAS, it’s a healthy thing for everyone, and especially every woman, to do. But the deeper problem of bad boundaries with an alcoholic parent seems much more like the real sticking point to me.. You can get help with that too LW, as many people have pointed out, and I send you my best wishes with it, along with a good jedi hug..

    1. I’d like to point out that unfortunately most of the consoling comments have been assuring LW that she isn’t really fat.

      Are you reading the same comment thread I am?

      1. Thank you. I tried to emphasize that in my advice as well (btw, unagi, this was my post, not the Captain’s). But I do think that LW’s mother is trying to induce dysmorphia in her daughter — LW’s clothing size, for instance, is in the single digits. The fat-shaming would be wrong no matter what, which is why I advise reading years of our Shapely Prose archives. But the LW’s mother is not just participating in The Usual Obesity Panic OogaBooga; she’s lying to LW’s father about LW’s weight, and she’s lying to her daughter about where she falls in the wide and awesome range of human body size variation. If LW was a 6’5″ woman and her mother kept telling her she was short, that distortion would matter as part of the abuse even though there’s nothing wrong with being tall.

  46. LW, I had a mother from hell too. And what was worst, was believing I deserved it. Which I did for what feels like the longest time.

    After I graduated from uni, my great-aunt asked me “Did I have any clothes suitable for interviews?” I described what I had, she said that wasn’t suitable, and (she was a pensioner, and this was a big financial deal for her) took me out clothes-shopping.

    No adult had taken me out clothes-shopping since well before I went to uni – my memories of going clothes-shopping with my mother were invariably of endless traipsing round shops during which my mother made increasingly-critical comments about my weight and my shape – to me and to shop assistants, who would offer my mother tired smiles – and complained that if only I wasn’t fat it would be so much easier to find clothes that I would look nice in.

    I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. My great-aunt could be pretty sharp-tongued. But I knew I needed clothes for job interviews.

    It took, I think, three Saturdays. And to my astonished surprise, I had a nice time. My great-aunt believed that Shopping Is Tiring and requires at least one sit-down in a cafe every two or three shops. If we didn’t find clothes that suited me / fitted me, my great-aunt would complain loudly (sometimes in the shop. to which the shop assistants gave the same tired smiles they used to give my mother, about how dreadful the clothing manufacturers were these days, how they didn’t have enough range and enough sizes.

    She never uttered a word of criticism about my appearance – indeed, said several times to shop assistants that as I was tall, I needed an outfit that would set that off.

    And eventually, I had a smart suit for job interviews, and a much better idea of how to find clothes that would work for me, and a strong sense of self-confidence that I could look good in the right clothes.

    I never realised until that month of shopping Saturdays that my mother really was just that fat-phobic. What else convinced me? I had gained more weight than I felt comfortable with, and over a few years, with a combined awareness of metabolic dieting/exercise, I’d lost weight. When I lost enough weight to be obvious (I didn’t discuss it with my family) my mother started getting emotionally abusive again, as she hadn’t since I stopped living at home. I figured out then that it didn’t really matter what weight I was, how “fat” I was: my mother just plain didn’t like me to look good/feel comfortable with my body. Because she doesn’t.

    And that’s sad, but it’s not my fault. And it’s not yours either. Your mother may never change.

    1. Your great-aunt sounds like a gem. Seriously. It’s so important to realize that if the clothes don’t fit, it isn’t about you, it’s about the clothes. Also, shopping is tiring, and multiple breaks for tea and cake are in fact required.

  47. Delurking just to suggest ways of ending conversations and putting “space” between yourself and a boundary-breaking parent who is insisting on talking about weight/size when you have to stay in the same place as them.

    MP3 player or similar. Put on headphones right after saying “We’re not going to talk about that”.
    This is very useful for car journeys especially.
    Books. I seriously survived my childhood by reading. Fiction, nonfiction, anything. Keep insisting you need to finish a chapter or you’ve just got to a good part. When you feel like resurfacing, start the conversation yourself instead of waiting for them to talk about weight.
    Homework / study / research / band practice / household chores – anything that you can pretend to have “forgotten” to do earlier and needs doing for tomorrow or you don’t do “enough” that your parent might consider to be more important than the conversation.
    Insist that you can hear the phone ringing / someone at the door – this one’s for when you’re desperate but it works.
    Pretend your friend has sent you a text message and needs urgent consoling because of “relationship troubles”(or other upsetting but not too terrible situation) and you have to go to your room to call them – be vague about what’s happened and which friend you’re talking about and insist on going to your room as soon as possible.

    I guess everyone can see what kinds of things I’m thinking of. Some of them can be combined with actually saying “I don’t discuss weight” but if you can’t say that (at all / every time) then a conversation ender is a very useful thing to have.

  48. My Japanese mother-in-law had trouble accepting that she had a European-American daughter-in-law. She showed this by, among other things, giving me clothes that would fit *her*. It is indeed upsetting, even in this case when it was also totally ridiculous (I’m 8 inches taller than she is).

    My advice on boundary setting: Don’t explain. Don’t justify. Just state the boundary and then act on it. “I won’t discuss this with you.” And if she persists “I won’t discuss this with you, so I’ll be leaving now.”

    She stopped buying me wrong-sized clothes (or indeed any clothes at all) when my husband explained politely to her that we were giving everything that didn’t fit or suit me immediately to charity. She was very angry and wanted him to stop, but he stood firm, and *she* stopped. I’m happy about this. While her chosen clothes look great on her, even in my size they wouldn’t look good on me–we are totally dissimilar people–and guilt-tripping us over gifts was a rotten thing to be doing anyway.

  49. Second-time commenter (hi everyone! *waves*) commenting a little late:

    I’ve had that conversation with my grandmother over and over again. First she was complaining about how thin I was; now that I’m in a healthier weight, it’s about how my belly is too big and I look like I’m pregnant. (Whether ot not I really do look like that is not relevant.) The conversation goes like this:

    First time:
    ME: Please don’t comment on my body.
    HER: (shuts up)

    2nd, etc. time:
    ME: I’ve asked you before to not comment on my body. Please don’t.
    HER: (shuts up)

    If your mom doesn’t shut up when you ask her to, you have ALL THE RIGHT to walk out of the room, out of the house, whatever. The most important thing, I think, is NOT to start apologizing or making excuses. Your body is yours to love. Nobody has any right to tell you your body is in any way wrong.

  50. LW, I fully sympathise with you. I’ve had such issues with my entire family and my weight it’s put me off ever going back home again. Until I moved up to University, my mum kept suggesting that I diet with her and used phrases “big girls like us” which has stuck in my head until this day. My granny offered to pay me £1 for every pound of weight I lost, just so I didn’t look fat anymore. Once I did lose weight (unintentionally and healthily), I lost over 3 stone and now there is a whole new fixation with how thin I’ve become even though I don’t feel like a thin person. I went home for a few days, and one of the first things out of my mother’s mouth was a comment about my weight.

    It’s been hard trying to accept the fact that my family are obsessed with weight and image, and I’ve found it really damaging and difficult to deal with my body dysmorphia. Now I’m being supported in telling my mum to stop talking about my weight like I’m a piece of meat and to keep her nose out of my business. Best of luck with your mum.

  51. Thank you, awkward army. The chorus of righteous indignation over anyone daring to say mean things about the LW’s body has really helped me believe I might actually have the right to tell people who give me shit about my hair (I started going white in my early teens) where to stick it.

    1. My dad started going silver at 16. His hair was completely silver by 18. My whole life (I’m 39) he’s looked exactly the same age – the only clue to his age has been a few more laughter-lines. 🙂

  52. Am I related to this girl? My whole family does this to me. I moved away and they wonder why I don’t have anything to do with them.

  53. Oh LW, I feel for you so so much!

    I, like a lot of little girls, was pudgy for about 3 years before puberty kicked in. It did not help that my mom fed me crap. When puberty came, I became slim and was slim until my early 20s, when terrible illness caused me to gain a lot of weight.

    But the thing is, that even though I was slim, I didn’t know it. Because my mother constantly fucking harassed me about my weight forever more. She had struggled with her weight and like your mom, she projected her issues onto me. She harassed me about my weight, about everything I ate ever, etc, all the time, she told me how fat I was, etc. So I had a terrible body image throughout high school and my early 20s, even though I look back now and realize I was positively tiny.

    My big boobs and big butt were another reason I felt fat, because clothes for teenagers were not made for women with a large waist to hip ratio, but for women who are straight up and down. So when a piece of clothing didn’t fit me, I thought it was because I was fat.

    Nowadays, I AM fat! But I am a lot more self-accepting and realistic about my body than I was then. And when I read your letter I just want to hug yo and tell you that you are FINE. And I want to stand between you and your mother and tell her to STFU. I want to tell all the teenage women of the world that they are not fat, they are JUST FINE and gorgeous.

    I eventually did have to just stop talking to my mom. We basically only see or talk to each other now when there is a family emergency- in fact I haven’t seen her in person since 2008-ish and my life is so good! Your mom is toxic and the sooner you can get away, the sooner you should. It is so good that you know you are not fat, but the abuse and gaslighting wear on you, so getting out of that environment will be great.

    The Cap’n is totally right that you don’t need to live in oversized tshirts. I did that for years and it actually contributed to my bad body image. I actually wear form-fitting clothes as a fat chick today and I look freaking awesome. I invite you to check out my blog and the links on it- I am part of a wonderful community of bloggers with big boobs who review clothes and bras and such for each other and share information. I have a hard time finding non-casual clothes that fit my boobs, tbh, but for casual stuff, stretchy tshirts are my friend, and for non-casual, there is tailoring, or some of the clothing companies in Europe that cater to large-busted ladies.

    Love yourself, please.

  54. Hi LW and Cap,

    I just want to say, thank you so much for this article.

    I am 30 year old lady, still living at home (it is more culturally accepted in my part of the globe that single daughters stick around at home) and in recent years my relationship with my mother has really deteriorated because of this. It used to be she was my best friend, and I could tell her everything and anything about what happened. In recent years, my mom has gotten really obsessed about my weight, such that I am always walking on a tightrope as to what I can and cannot say about my day.

    I may comment that I love Scarlett Johansson’s dress on TV. My mother would suddenly enter into a rant about how I would look great in that dress too if I wasn’t so fat.

    I would profess a love of Jeremy Renner. My mother would suddenly start moaning that if I wasn’t so fat, I would definitely be able to get a man like that.

    Once, I even mentioned a co-worker’s disturbing tendencies to get close to another female colleague, which was bordering on sexual harassment. My mother’s response, I still cannot believe it, was that if I was thin, I could have gotten some male attention myself.

    Repeat ad nauseam about any topic you can or cannot shoehorn in.

    She has even more than once said that she herself would have a much more fun life, free to do what she wants, if she wasn’t forced to monitor my diet. Forced by whom???

    The only reason I can possibly come up to this obsession with is that I had been single since the day I was born. My mother is quite pretty and thin, never had a problem with any substance abuse, and as far I can tell led a good life and great marriage. It is just that, I, her daughter, had not seemed to follow the mass media promoted “21 year old with boyfriend, 28 year old gotten married, 30 year old have kids” life that females apparently must go through. And the only reason as to why she can come up with is that I am fat.

    Now, yes, I do agree, I am chubby. Imagine an inverse Zhang ziyi. I was never, ever the girl of the prom. The skinny one. The one boys went after. But I started to accept myself more now. Sometimes I look in the mirror and pose, and I think, hey, I do not look half bad. And I have no problem with being single. I am still living my life well, with great friends as emotional support, great hobbies to indulge in, (and a great vibrator to boot, lol).

    I have not yet learned a coping mechanism with my mother on this issue, and I’ve been trying to lose weight, hoping it would appease her. Maybe in time I would either move out or become strong enough to stand up to her. For now, thank you all of you for the kind words, to know that I am at least not alone in this struggle.

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