I am a 20-something, single, plus-sized woman and I am very happy with myself. I am successful, attractive, stylish, and have plenty of friends. The problem is that my parents, who are both in the health field, have been making comments about my weight since, well, forever. They watch me closely when I eat and aren’t shy about telling me what they think about it at every turn. I think they mean well; they want me to be healthy. But, Rivkie, I am healthy! I eat nutritiously, exercise moderately, and don’t smoke or drink. Sure, I like to eat out once in a while and eat dessert on Shabbos, but overall, I am proud of my health habits. How do I explain this to my parents without starting a fight?
(Happily) Zaftig Zelda
Girl, if you could bottle up some of what you have and sell it, you’d be a rich lady! Kol ha’kavod (well done) for having such a great attitude — I’m going to hit you up for some personal coaching after I answer your query.
First things first. Your parents love you and want the best for you. This is the assumption that I am making because, well, this is largely true of (especially Jewish) parents. Yes, they can make you crazy. Yes, they can be intrusive. But hey, how else would we learn to roll our eyes so effectively? Based on this assumption, then, let’s learn how to optimize your relationship and minimize your annoyance levels.
To start with, you must realize that this is their issue entirely. Whatever they are wrapped up in with health/fitness/weight, etc. is their thing. And you are within your rights not to discuss it with them. Therefore, if they bring up something to do with these topics, you can gently change the subject.
Let’s practice. Mother: “Zelda, did you know that there are more carbs and sugar in a banana than in an apple? You should try to eat an apple before your workout next time.” Zelda: “Wow, that’s so interesting. Did you know that if you keep a goldfish in a dark room, it will eventually turn white?” (At least, that’s what randomfacts.com told me.)
If throwing weird facts at them repeatedly doesn’t solve the problem, you can have a conversation. Start with, “Mommy, Abba, I am happy with myself. I appreciate you trying to help, but I feel good the way I am.” Show them that you are happy and that your life is going well. Share your work triumphs and introduce them to your friends.
Then, at another time, share some of your fitness goals — not in a defensive “yes, I do work out!” way, but in a way that shows common ground. Additionally, for Shabbos or Yom Tov, with your mom. She might have ideas for lightening up favorite recipes and would probably love to share her expertise with you. And you can show her that you care about what she cares about. It’s also an opportunity to have fun together. And on that subject, try to have fun with your parents away from food! Watch a movie (“Hairspray” is great, ahem), play a game, do a puzzle — something that does not revolve around food/exercise is a good way to strengthen a bond.
Also, please realize that your parents want to make sure you are truly healthy. Get your yearly physical so you can get a clean bill of health from your doctor. And, let’s get real, maybe your parents are wondering what’s going on in your personal life, if you get my drift. No Jewish parents are complete without grandchildren. And the fact that they don’t appear to be bugging you on that front is a nes (miracle) in and of itself.
In the meantime, I think you are the coolest, and I wish you the best of luck in creating a loving, respectful relationship with your parents. I think you could teach them a thing or two.
All the best,