Dear Carolyn: Each and every member of my immediate family views thinness as the absolute key measure of success in life.
I’m in my mid-50s, athletic, and of average weight according to medical guidelines. My weight has fluctuated about 15 pounds through the years. I visit as frequently as I can from a several-state distance.
The first thing said to me upon arrival is: “You look like you’ve lost weight.” Or, if I’m up 15, nothing is said but diet tips will be given throughout the visit.
My parents are elderly, and it’s too late to change that pattern now. My sister, though, is an unwanted, talking scale.
Recently, in the middle of a conversation about what to do about ailing parents, she chimes in with, “You’re doing so well with your weight!”
I never want to hear a word from her again on the topic. What to say to stop it, once and for all? – Family Obsessed With Weight
Assuming you keep up the visits, I offer three words: “I don’t recall.”
“I don’t recall asking your opinion of my weight.”
“I don’t recall any part of our parents’ care that involves my weight.”
“I don’t recall any mention of weight in discussions of morality or values.”
“I don’t recall ever agreeing that weight is a measure of a person’s character.”
“I don’t recall ever judging your worth based on your appearance.”
Each and every time, speak with minimal emotion, and follow each and every time by disengaging – changing the subject, leaving the room, getting up to “stretch my legs,” maybe with a two-handed slap to the belly – or a decision to stay gone for good.
I actually pity your sister and parents for how many of their life chips they’ve put on this meaningless square. With resolve and some practice, you too can react to their comments more with pity than outrage. I expect that will help.