Dear Mommy: Stop Commenting On My Body
There’s something that’s been bothering me for about 15 years and I feel it’s time to bring it to your attention. I never said anything because of kibud eim and because I know you only want what’s best for me, but the more I learn about this, the more I realize how harmful it is and the more I know that it’s time to stop it.
The orthodox community has an obsession with thinness. So does the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the secular influences have infiltrated our community and we’ve become one that lives life in pursuit of thinness. Something that in and of itself is so incongruent with our values as Torah true Jews whose focus should be on what really matters, and not on looks based on someone else’s belief system.
What’s worse is the extent to which we comment on other people’s bodies.
The main reason given for this obsession is health.
But… let’s be honest – 99% of people who say they’re commenting “because they care about my health” don’t know anything about my health. They’re commenting based on looks and weight alone and that is NOT an indicator of health. If they got their hands on my blood work or bone density, we’d have what to talk about, but until then, they have no valid claim.
This is for a longer conversation, but suffice it to say that people CAN be healthy at every size. That doesn’t mean that everyone is healthy at their current size, but with proper health habits, they can be. And it’s not for a family member, friend or stranger to comment on that.
Additionally, who’s to say that I don’t have a medical condition, a hormonal issue, an eating disorder or am on medication that makes me gain weight?
Thank G-d, I don’t and I’m not, but if I was, most likely you wouldn’t know about it. I don’t tend to share those things.
Did you know that Adina struggled with bulimia for a while? To be honest, I don’t think any of us knew (and as far as I’m aware, most still don’t).
And yet, everyone still made comments about her size.
In fact, a friend of mine just told me that her grandmother only stopped making comments about her weight after she was hospitalized for the fifth (!) time with eating disorders.
Growing up, I would always go on a diet before yom tov clothes shopping or a family simcha. I loved how good it felt when you told me that I looked good, that I had lost weight. It wasn’t until my high school years when a mentor pointed out to me how unhealthy it was that I was losing weight for you that I realized how flawed that was.
I’ll be honest. I think in actuality, I was just trying to avoid your negative comments about my weight.
Disordered eating is everywhere in our society and I’m so thankful it didn’t lead me to an actual eating disorder. I am doing my absolute best to break that pattern and learning to have a healthy relationship with my food.
Bottom line, I’m asking you to stop making comments about my body. I’m well aware what size I am, how much I weigh and how I look. I thank G-d every day that I have a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence and never let my weight – and what everyone else has to say about it – get in my way of pursuing what’s actually important to me.
I know that you love me, care about me and want me to make the best impression I can, but talking about my looks really doesn’t help. It’s hurtful and unnecessary. So, yes, I’m asking you to stop.
I love you!
This is an actual letter written to someone close to me, but it was not my mother. In fact, she has always been supportive of my every dream, instilling within me a confidence that I wouldn’t have achieved on my own and it was she who pointed out to me that I should never do anything with my body for other people.
I chose to address this letter to her because I know that for so many of you, it IS your mother who’s that person making comments about your weight, your kids eating habits and your husband’s growing belly.
If not your mother, it might be your mother-in-law, your sister, your close friend, your colleague, the woman who sits on the bench at the park or even your husband.
I encourage you to share this letter with them, or edit and adapt it to your unique circumstances and then send it.
The response I received after sending this letter was one of utmost respect and the comments about my weight loss – or lack of it – and dress size immediately declined. And we have a healthier relationship because of it.
I hope you have the strength to show this to the person in your life who needs to see it. Or consider whether you are the person that someone wishes she had the strength to send it to…
Lots of hugs and good vibes!
Check out this recent ELITalk I gave in collaboration with Tzivie Pill of Nourish-Keit for more info on breaking free of dieting norms – The Eleventh Commandment: Thou Must Diet.