Mom, Thank You For Never Talking About Your Weight (Or Mine)

Mom, Thank You For Never Talking About Your Weight (or Mine)

Like most moms, mine occasionally dispenses unsolicited advice about my appearance. Over the years, she has politely questioned my clunky shoes, my oversized blazers, and the messy bun I once sported to a wedding (for the record, she was right on all three accounts).

But she never mentioned my weight. Even when the cliched Freshman 15 deposited itself onto my five-foot frame, and I brought home a new double chin for spring break.

My mom never talked about her weight either. She has always been petite, so maybe it’s no surprise she never griped about it. But as we all know, there are plenty of people whose BMIs fall within the “healthy” range who agonize over goal weights, deny themselves enough food, and complain about the curve of their hips to anyone who will listen.

So I loved this piece I read recently called My Mother Never Said the F-Word. The author, Nicole Jankowski, writes:

There were no diets, no workout tapes. I did not think much about food, that is to say it was pleasant, it was purposeful and essential. But conversations were never about it. And why would they be, when there were so many books and people and places to talk about? Perhaps my mother said, “Finish your meatloaf” as I drug my fork through mashed potato mountains on my plate. But she never said, “You really don’t need another cookie” as I worked my way through a second Oatmeal Creme Pie. I did not diet, I did not think I was fat. I did not wonder, she did not assign it value. It was a nothing word.

That’s the way it was in my house too: Weight was never mentioned. No one was on a diet. Nobody said anything about their weight or anyone else’s. While so many of the girls I knew were counting calories, calling themselves fat, and comparing ankle circumference, home was a safe haven away from that kind of self-loathing.

Not only did my mom never talk about her weight, but she also never talked about foods being “good” or “bad”. We almost always had home-baked goodies, potato chips, and ice cream stocked in the kitchen. We also always had home-cooked meals every night, vegetables from the garden, and fresh fruit in the crisper drawer.

But when I gained that weight in college, my mom knew I wasn’t happy about it–because I told her. So at my request, she helped me cover the cost of seeing a local dietitian, who taught me that bagels, waffles, pizza crust, pretzels, and cereal were indeed all in the same food group, and that I’d do well to occasionally incorporate some vegetables and protein into the mix.

That dietitian also sparked my interest in nutrition–which eventually led me to become a dietitian too.

So thank you, Mom. For all of it.

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Comments

  1. Kelly says

    Love this post. This is on my mind a lot as I grew up with disordered eating, and am trying to raise my 6-year old daughter to have a healthy relationship with food and her body.

    • says

      Thank you Kelly. Instilling that healthy relationship is so important but such a hard job, especially for moms of daughters. I’m sure your past experiences and your determination will go a long way in creating a good environment for her at home.

  2. says

    totally totally agree. My mom never obsessed about her wait or ours and I think that made for such a positive influence that other girls don’t have. We happiliy ate dessert every night and no one passed judgment on others. But we also always had balanced dinners and plenty of play time.
    Also, that picture is great Sally!

  3. says

    Such a great post. My upbringing was the complete opposite. I remember my twin brother and I keeping ourselves occupied at the local HoJo’s while my mom went to some mysterious meeting room for her weekly Weight Watchers weigh in. We always got coffee-flavored soft-serve cones as a treat for behaving. We also had pantries filled with Nutrisystem boxes, SnackWell cookies, etc. and bookshelves of the latest diet plans. I never liked my body (until relatively recently) and was the only one of the kids in my family without some kind of eating disorder. I make it a point never to use the word “diet” unless I’m talking about regular eating (as in: yeah, ice cream is a critical part of my diet) and to only talk about bodies to my kids in a way such as, “you have strong legs” and “yeah, my belly sticks out because I had the joy of carrying you there before you were born.”

    • says

      Elana–thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sure that has shaped your work in nutrition and sounds like it’s definitely shaped how you talk to your kids. I love viewing a belly as a badge of honor for carrying babies. I’m going to start thinking about it that way too. Thank you so much for your comment!

  4. Charity says

    This is so reminiscent! My mother also took things in stride, never over-reacted to food. Meal time was compulsory, that was understood and there were no excuses. Otherwise there was not fussing about food or snacks. Now I find myself wondering how I’ve become fixated with food. I spend way too much time posing food and instagramming it without even thinking about why I do it. When did food become such an obsession with us and why are we all struggling to maintain reasonable weight? What do we not know that mom and grandma knew? Whatever it is we are doing doesn’t seem to be working.

  5. chrsinte says

    I find this so difficult. I am not overweight but my daughter is. My husband (who still has terrible eating habits) comes from a family where all the women have had gastric bypass and still are severely obese because they keep their terrible eating habits. So I have a daughter who is 9 and sneaks food (I follow Ellyn Satter and everyone else) and is gaining weight at a tremendous rate. I have given up. I am not supposed to mention it. I put something sweet in her lunch and we have dessert a couple times a week but she still finds things my husband has and she gorges at her friends house. There is food everywhere at school. I can’t compete against a culture.
    So I continue not saying anything and I can only hope that someday she will realize that she does it for herself but I don’t know if it will be too late then.

    • says

      Christine–I’m so sorry you are feeling so discouraged about this, and I can understand your frustration, especially with the current food culture. Have you considered seeing a registered dietitian or a feeding therapist? If your daughter is gaining weight rapidly and sneaking food, you might find it helpful to talk with someone who specializes in pediatric nutrition or feeding. Please don’t hesitate to email me if you need some direction or names! realmomnutrition@gmail.com

  6. says

    I agree, and I was also a lucky one whose mother did not stress on the F word. In our house with two small children (ages 2 and 6), we hardly use the F word related to what we eat, but we do stress healthy eating in conversation. that includes eating too much sugar is bad for our health, and we do not eat fast food we see on commercial. But then I wonder sometimes if they are getting too much information at this young age. Both my husband I are very health conscious. I am a health coach, and he is a martial arts teacher. We talk a lot about being and eating healthy. I am pregnant with the hired child and was told that my blood sugar level was elevated. So, I have been eating according to the guideline that was given to me and I stay away from everything sweet. My daughter hear the conversation between my husband and I about this, and now “polices” me when she sees me eating something new. “Mom, that might raise your blood sugar level”, ” are you sure you can eat that?”, “you cannot eat that, I saw it on commercial!!!”. My 2 year old tells me when I ask her what she is making in her toy kitchen, “I am making organic”. I do hope that they are getting education and not developing phobia…

    • says

      Thanks for your comment. There’s certainly a fine line between teaching kids healthy habits and creating worries and anxieties surrounding food. As a parent, I feel the pull between wanting to raise kids who are informed about food and yet NOT wanting them to obsess about food. I want them to enjoy all foods but understand what foods make them feel the best. I think the fact that you are concerned about your kids developing healthy attitudes about food means that you will most likely help them develop those healthy attitudes! 🙂 As parents, we don’t always say the right thing in the moment (I know I don’t!) and sometimes I have to go back and clarify things or make sure my kids aren’t interpreting something the wrong way. It’s okay to have those talks with your kids if you worry they are being anxious about food. Teaching kids about food is certainly a work in progress!

  7. says

    Such a great post Sally, and what a beautiful ode to your mother. My parents, siblings and I were all healthy weights and my mom cooked balanced meals pretty much every night, didn’t force us to eat it and often made me something else like chicken nuggets or spaghetti since I was a picky eater, sugar cereal was always allowed and the junk drawer was always full. No food was off limits (other than non-kosher food items for religious reasons), yet there was often and still is talk about good and bad foods and comments of “I shouldn’t have eaten that,” which I know shaped how I thought about food and my body when I went through my teenage and college years. I made a point of telling my mother she cannot say those things in front of my girls and I have to remind her of that frequently. I don’t speak to my girls that way and I even get upset when my father in law calls one of them the “little one” and the other the “big one” since they are different sizes despite being twins. I of course can’t control what they will hear from other girls at school or women eating lunch together, but I’m doing my best to prevent them from hearing it at home. I hope one day my girls will feel thankful to me like you are to your mother!

    • says

      Thank you Jessica! You are so right that you can’t control what your kids hear from other people about body image and food but as parents, we are such a powerful and strong influence. I love that you’re so focused on creating that healthy environment at home. That will give your girls such a good start in life!

  8. Katy says

    This is powerful! I am so thankful to my parents for being the same way. Which I think is why sometimes it is a mystery to me why food is so complicated for people. I hope that as a dietitian, I am can help make it uncomplicated.

  9. says

    SO thankful for this, because my mom never did either. She was confident in the way her body was made. She was joyful about it, and she never talked about it. It was such a gift.

  10. says

    This post is so inspiring – I hope I can be a mother like your’s, who gives their children a health outlook on food and body image. What a lovely post dedicated to your mum – she definitely had the right attitude to food a balanced diet consisting of everything in moderation! I am still trying to find this balance after many years of suffering with anorexia.

    • says

      Hi Natasha–thank you so much, and I’m glad you enjoyed my post! I’m glad you are working on finding a balance, it can be hard for everyone so be kind to yourself. 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. […] Mom, Thank You For Never Talking About Your Weight (Or Mine) If you have little ones, this is a must read! Even if you don’t, read it! I  feel so thankful to my Mom for not talking about her weight or dieting when my siblings and I were growing up. She may have embarrassed us by exercising to Sir Mix A-lot every morning or wearing short tennis skirts to pick us up at school, but the F-word was not a problem! […]

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