My Body Is Not Up for Discussion this Sukkos

Becoming a stronger, fitter, more confident you.

My Body Is Not Up for Discussion this Sukkos

This is an edited version of an actual letter I wrote to a close family member of mine. For years, I had tolerated unwanted comments about my size, my weight and my eating habits, and I was not ok with it. 

So I wrote a letter. It took courage to share it, but the response I received was one of 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. 

Right now, with Sukkos coming up, I know that many of you are dreading the comments that you know are headed your way be they from your parents, in-laws, grandparents, siblings, or friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Most of you have that one person that can’t seem to understand that your body, your husband’s weight or your children’s eating habits are simply none of their business.

I’ve updated this letter and included content that is applicable for those of you who are single, married, with children, with or without an eating disorder.

I’m sure I didn’t cover every possible scenario, so I encourage you to edit it and adapt it to your particular circumstances and share it with that person (or people). 

This is the one time where I’m ok with you butchering my writing! 

It may feel uncomfortable now, but think about how much more at ease you’ll feel over the coming eight days without having to stress about when the next remark will be headed your way.

I also encourage you to consider whether you are the person that someone wishes she had the strength to send it to…

Lots of hugs and good vibes! 

Dear Mommy (or whomever this is being addressed to),

There’s something that’s been bothering me for a long while and I feel it’s time to bring it to your attention. I never said anything before because of kibud eim and because I know you only want what’s best for me, but the more I explore and invest in my health, the more I realize how harmful it is and the more I know that it’s time to stop it.

Diet culture has found a home in our community and we seem to have a fixation on 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 these comments 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 despite popular belief, those are NOT indicators of health. If they got their hands on my blood work or medical reports, we’d have something 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 pursue health at every size.

That doesn’t mean that everyone is healthy at their current weight, but by implementing and maintaining proper habits of health, 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? (Yes, eating disorders can lead to weight gain.)

If this were indeed the case, most likely you wouldn’t know about it as I am a private person by nature and typically don’t share these kinds of things. 

I have a number of friends and acquaintances that I personally know who struggle with life threatening eating disorders or have lost weight due to a serious illness and all other people notice their weight loss – and they are complimented for it. 

In the case of an eating disorder, this feeds their illness and makes it that much harder for them to work on their recovery, and in the case of those who are sick, it’s incredibly hurtful as all they want is to regain the weight and be healthy again.

In fact, you know some of these individuals too… 

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 many years later 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. 

I’ve learned a lot since then and I now understand that dieting has a 95% failure rate (with majority of individuals who lost weight gaining back more than they lost). There is so much more that goes into how our bodies function than simply “calories in, calories out.”

I am choosing to focus on habits of health as they relate to eating in a way that nourishes my body, getting in an appropriate amount of physical activity that I enjoy, and more, rather than focusing on what the number on the scale says.

(if you’re in shidduchim) Now that I’m dating, I know that you think my chances will be better if I were thinner. But I want to share with you a truth about the reality of shidduchim: fat women get fewer dates, they don’t get fewer marriages.

I trust that G-d knows who my husband is, He has my address, and when the time is right, He’ll send Mr. Right my way. Until then, I’m going to focus on being the best version of myself that I can be so that when I do meet him, I’ll be ready for him.

(if you’re married) Additionally, my husband is my best friend and life partner. He is the person whom I love and who stands by my side through thick and thin. He is not my property or my child, nor am I his dietitian or therapist. 

He is a man who makes his own choices with regards to his health and eating habits and while I encourage and support healthy habits, I cannot and will not discipline him when it comes to that.

So making comments about my husband to me does nothing but build resentment. 

(if you’re a mom) Lastly, I know you love my children greatly, but they are not yours. They are not yours to educate, to make passing comments about, to discipline without my consent.

How (my husband and) I choose to raise our children in general, and in particular when it comes to feeding and mealtimes is up to us.

You may not agree with our approach and that’s ok. But I do ask you to respect it. 

(if you struggle with disordered eating) 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 body and food.

Bottom line, I’m asking you to stop making comments about my body and my eating habits (as well as those of my family members). 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. 

(if you struggle with an eating disorder) Disordered eating is everywhere in our society, and unfortunately due to multiple factors such as genetic predisposition and a history of dieting, I developed an eating disorder.

I am currently in treatment/recovery and am doing my absolute best to break that pattern and explore what it means to have a healthy relationship with my body and food.

Bottom line, I’m asking you to stop making comments about my body and my eating habits (as well as those of my family members). I’m well aware what size I am, how much I weigh and how I look.

I thank G-d every day that I was able to reach out for support and guidance, and that I have a good, professional team who is supporting my recovery journey so that I can move forward in pursuing what’s actually important to me. 

(for everyone) 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.

If you would ever like to discuss this further and are open to hearing my perspective on Health At Every Size, Intuitive Eating, and the important role of positive body image in my life, I’m happy to have that conversation. 

Until then, let’s enjoy each other’s company and celebrate this yom tov together free from diet and weight loss talk. 

I love you!

Sara (well, your name goes here)

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