Help! My Insensitive Family Won’t Shut Up about My Weight

I have low self-esteem and it doesn't help that I am over 220 pounds and my family is always telling me that I need to eat better and lose weight. I know for my health I probably should, but I have tried and it's so hard, and it still stings when they make comments about my body and my weight. I wish my family just accepted me for who I am and what I look like. I know they care about me but their comments I feel are insensitive sometimes and I've told them that but the comments keep coming. I don't know what else to do. Sometimes I just want to scream, "SHUT THE &%@# UP ALREADY!!!" But I usually just sit there and sigh and feel bad, or I say "please stop" and they act like it's just a joke and my feelings shouldn't be hurt. I am not the prettiest woman to have walked the earth but I feel less pretty around my family than I do by myself or even at work. When I talk about my family, I mean my parents, brothers (three), and sister, and extended family. My sister has told everyone to back off at times but even she makes subtle comments that hurt once in a while. What is the best way to handle this situation? Thank you. —Not Laughing
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Dear Not Laughing,

Of course you’re not laughing! This all sounds incredibly painful. Ideally, family provide a place of warmth, comfort, and support. It sounds like you feel like you are getting shame and ridicule from your family. People very often internalize the voices of family members, particularly parents, and these voices become a significant part of how we view ourselves. The torment your family put you through about your weight is probably a significant contributing factor to your low self-esteem.

If you are not already in individual therapy, I suggest you consider it. A therapist can help you challenge the negative, internal voices of your family that are influencing your sense of self-worth. The more you can distance yourself from your family’s negative views of you and build your self-esteem, the better able you will be to establish and work toward your own life goals, whether they involve weight loss or not. People are most likely to change when they feel strong, not weak. So, the more your family puts you down and compromises your self-esteem, the less likely you are to grow in your life.

Part of drawing boundaries is also setting up consequences if the boundaries are breached. A therapist will be able to help you establish clear boundaries along with reasonable consequences that you can stick to.

Seeking the help of a therapist will also be able to help you draw boundaries with your family. It sounds like you have done your part by letting your family know that their comments are hurtful. They, on the other hand, haven’t respected your requests to stop making comments about your weight. Part of drawing boundaries is also setting up consequences if the boundaries are breached. A therapist will be able to help you establish clear boundaries along with reasonable consequences that you can stick to.

Finally, at some point in your individual therapy, you might invite some or all of your family members to come in for a series of family sessions. It seems like there are some unhealthy family dynamics at play that have had a negative impact on you. It makes me think that others in the family have also experienced some painful consequences of these dynamics. Your whole family could benefit from an opportunity to process these family dynamics and begin to develop healthier ways of being with one another.

Best wishes,

Sarah

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Edie

    Edie

    April 3rd, 2015 at 11:40 AM

    I know that this has to cause you so much hurt and pain. I am sure it is not always just the words but the fact that it is coming from the people who are supposed to love you more than anyone else in the world. It can be hard when you feel so betrayed that way.

  • Ann

    Ann

    April 3rd, 2015 at 6:10 PM

    Some families know how to show love, but suck at showing empathy! This lack of empathy can crush the family member being scapegoated. Before you can decide what you want, these family “voices” must stop. Until you set firm limits, they will continue to make you feel shame and poor self-esteem. To do this it helps to have a caring therapist and supportive friends. Most of all don’t give up on focusing on the parts of you that you would like to develop. It took me over 40 years to get my family to stop making comments about my body- good or bad. It isn’t their business. Good luck!

  • hallie

    hallie

    April 4th, 2015 at 10:05 AM

    sure would be nice if they would abide by the old adage about if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all

  • Mance

    Mance

    April 6th, 2015 at 2:46 PM

    I grew up in a home like this, where nothing was ever right or good enough for my mom and dad. They criticized me at every turn and eventually I couldn’t take any more and just left. Up and left one day and have not ever looked back. Never. Best thing I ever did. Not something that everyone will want to do, completely sever those ties, but I knew that for my own sanity I had to get away from that family. I didn’t need to be with people whose only goal in life it seemed was to tear me down over and over again.

  • Linda

    Linda

    April 7th, 2015 at 12:31 AM

    I did the same when I was 21 and 42 years on I have never regretted the decision xx

  • Mance

    Mance

    April 7th, 2015 at 1:20 PM

    @ LInda- we are kindred spirits. It may seem harsh to others, but you shouldn’t have to endure this type of behavior from other people in your life. It would be okay f they would agree to just listen to you and hear you out, but most of the time these are people who have no true idea of how much they are hurting you, and think that what they are saying has your best interest at heart. They might actually, but in no way should they continue after you ask them time and again to shut it.

  • Peach

    Peach

    April 9th, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    Hello! they need to get with the times! Girls with curves are IN!

  • sania

    sania

    April 13th, 2015 at 4:05 PM

    You tell em Peach! You are so right. I think that society as a whole has become so much more accepting of all shapes and sizes, or at least it feels like it is becoming a little more that way. I hope that the trickle down effect takes hold soon!

  • Sheria

    Sheria

    April 16th, 2015 at 5:43 AM

    Hi. I’m on a diet myself and am wanting to lose just ten pounds. BUT, I’m very sorry to hear about your situation. I think that that is very unloving and very awful that your family had no clue. It doesn’t sound like this is about your weight at all. It sounds like you’re in a situation where you’re being victimized. If it wasn’t your weight it would probably be something else!!I’m familiar with being the scapegoat in the family and being picked on. I’m right now looking to move away from my current situation with my mom who has recently started becoming verbally abusive, saying that in business I’m a “bitch”, when in fact I’m a very good business woman and just started my little company making beautiful designer bracelets. But, other awful things have been said and my husband loses his temper and called me fat one day, in my size 7 jeans that are too big!! My point Is that abuse is abuse regardless of the reason be it your weight or whatever,,,,. I’m sorry you’re hurting and living with sub par individuals. They sound as though they need to get a life and to feel better about themselves or something. Keep the faith, stay strong and maybe you could live alone or something….

  • Ruthie

    Ruthie

    April 20th, 2015 at 4:53 AM

    Sometimes, to protect your own well being, we must ‘let go’ of people who really are not ‘true’ friends, and that includes family. I am 66 and sadly I have had to do this with a couple of siblings and a long-time friend. Siblings in misery themselves wanting to take me down to their level, and a close friend who hypocritically was telling me how to spend my money when she is a known spendthrift, in deep debt by living beyond her means. I learned that Familiarity Breeds Contempt upright and personal and about hypocrits. That termed my 58 year relationship by my choosing, as over that many years, too much information passed between us as to our personal affairs. Other than our childhood/teenage past, we have very little in common in our senior years. Very opposite in our values and beliefs, who we are as people, and our interests and commitments. At my age, I enjoy nature’s beauty and getting out in it, doing volunteer work helping people who need it and I do not have a personal relationship with, and going to Church and Church events and volunteer work. I have new friends with the same interests. I am happy in my retired years, my children and their families are doing well in life, and we have a true and solid bond. I like who I am and what I am doing with my time.

  • betty d

    betty d

    April 20th, 2015 at 11:29 AM

    Good grief they don’t have the weight to lose but should at least respect what you are trying to achieve!

  • Therese

    Therese

    April 23rd, 2015 at 2:11 PM

    They may not think about it this way but being like that could actually sabotage your efforts to do something good for yourself. Sometimes especially if you are like me i would take comfort in food and eating and so if someone said something like that to me then chances are I would head straight to some comfort food. I hope that you are doing better with that than I have ever been able to do! Good luck to you as you continue this process, because I know it isn’t easy.

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