I’ve spoken to many women who tell me a similar story:

  • “When I see my mum, she can’t help but comment on my weight – or tell me all the details about her latest diet. How can I get her to stop?”
  • “The last time I went to visit my parents, my mom berated me for having a second helping of food. I was so embarrassed. I ended up crying, leaving early and going through a drive-through on my way home”.
  • “My mum has always made comments about my weight. She thinks she’s helping but I hate it. I’ve asked her to stop but she doesn’t.”
  • “My mother-in-law is always on a diet. She loves to talk to me about it but I hate it”.

Perhaps you can relate?

(Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash)

Maybe someone else who is close to you like your dad, a grandparent, your mother-in-law, a sibling or another relative feels the need to weigh in on your weight. The advice I’m about to share will also work to get them to stop making comments.

They think by commenting on your weight or body or food – they are helping. But they are not.

Research shows that teenagers whose parents comment on their weight are 66% more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. 

When people comment on your weight or body – or criticise how you look – it stays with you and affects your self-confidence and relationship with food. It does more harm than good.

(Pictured: On the left is a photo of me when weight-based comments started. The photo on the right is me 10 years later, while in the middle of binge eating disorder). 

The truth is that IF your mum is commenting on your weight or criticising your body and food choices – it says a lot more about her relationship with food than it does about your size. She may be the one with disordered eating or troublesome relationship with food. And telling her to stop criticising your weight and to stop commenting on your body is one way to make sure she doesn’t pass that on to you.

So I want to arm you with tools to help get your mum to stop commenting on your weight. Or anyone else who thinks that’s OK (when it isn’t). Btw – I talk about this more in my book.

You don’t deserve to have someone body bully you – especially not your mum, your dad or a grandparent.

So, let’s dive in.

P.s. If you’re a mother reading this, you might want to read this post (Should I comment on my daughter’s weight?) or this one (10 things to avoid to raise children with a healthy relationship with food). Plus this one (How to teach your kids to eat healthily).

How can I get my mum to stop making comments about my weight or body?

One of my followers said her mum tried to sneak a scale into her apartment after she’d told her not to. Another told me her mum has been commenting on her weight since she was 8 years old. While another follower said he mum tells her that she looked better when she weighed less, even though it required very disordered habits to be that thin.

And I bet most of us can relate to being told to ‘pull in your tummy’.

Research shows that while parents talk to boys about ‘growing strong muscles’, they tell their daughters to be careful not to gain weight. 

That’s sad. So let’s start to see if we can change that, yeah?

(Photo by Hanna Morris on Unsplash)

Step 1. You’ve got to set seriously clear boundaries. 

For you to be able to feel comfortable to eat with your family – without fear of judgement – it’s important to set clear boundaries about what sort of comments you won’t tolerate.

You will need to have a conversation with your mum (or whoever makes comments about your weight) letting her know that it is NOT OK.

You choose to have this important conversation at a moment that feels best for you. Here are some conversation points… that you can put in your own words:

  • “I want to talk to about something important. When you make comments on my weight or my body, it makes me feel…
  • “I think you say these comments because you’re trying to help me but they have the opposite effect.
  • “If you making comments about my body or weight worked, wouldn’t I be the weight you wanted me to be at by now?
  • “When you comment on my weight or food it makes me feel less motivated. Your comments set me up for an unhealthy relationship with food and this makes healthy eating harder. (Only as this kinda thing if it relates to your experience).
  • “I would like you to please stop making comments like these. It’s not OK. I will take care of my own health, my body and my food. I do not need you to weigh in on what I eat any more.
  • “Do you understand what I am asking you? Do you think you can respect this request? (I think it’s important to get an opt-in/agreement so that it’s clear what the arrangement is and that is effective immediately).

This conversation might not be easy. There may be tears (and there may be none)! But it’s an important one to tackle.

Here are some responses to possible (rude) outbursts:

  • “Do you just expect me to not comment on your eating when you stuff yourself with food?” –> “Yes, that is exactly what I’m asking of you. We can’t keep trying the same strategy and expect a different outcome. I’m asking you to respect my request”
  • “You’re just going to get fatter if I don’t comment” –> “It’s my body, so it’s my rules. If your comments helped me lose weight, I would have the perfect body by now. Your comments don’t help me manage my weight.”
  • “Sometimes the people who love you the most have to tell you the hard truths because no one else will” –> “If you love me the most, then you will respect me when I tell you it’s not OK to comment on my weight”.
  • “But you asked me to help you lose weight. You wanted me to help you eat less. I’m just doing what you told me!” –> “This is true. I did ask you to help me because I thought that it would help. But it didn’t. I made a mistake. And now I’m asking you to never comment on my weight/food. Can you do that for me?”
  • “It’s just a joke! Why are you always so serious? Geez” –> “It’s not funny to me. I’d really appreciate you to find something else to laugh about that isn’t at my expense”.

Step 2. Repeat those clear boundaries. As many times as needed. 

Here’s the most important part of the process. 

You need to be prepared for the fact that your mum – or another family member – will probably ‘forget’ that you asked them not to make comments or criticise your weight/body. They will try again.

I can’t explain why… but I’ve learned from experience working with many clients that mothers it takes more than one chat.

Perhaps they find it hard to break the old habit. Or she has forgotten about the conversation. Or she is frustrated or is are trying her luck. Either way – it’s not acceptable.

So when your mother – or another person close to you – comments on your weight again (even after you’ve told them not to) you need to firmly remind them that it is NOT ok.

Try something like this: 

  • “I notice that you’re {Insert offensive thing here e.g. commenting on weight again}. It’s really important to me that you stop these comments. It’s not OK.”
  • ” I asked you not to tell me how much to eat or when I’ve had enough. My body will tell me how much food I need. I need you to stop commenting on my food and my body. Do you understand what I’m asking you?”

You can say it in your own way, of course, but I think you need to be firm. Especially if you’re not the ‘firm’ type of person – then it’ll hold even more conviction.

Step 3. Continue to reinforce those boundaries as many times as it takes. 

So tedious. I know. Wish you didn’t have to. But you’ll need to keep those boundaries firm.

Additional edit: Another lovely follower reached out after I posted this and said her family would constantly make ‘jokes’ about her weight even they had unhealthy habits themselves. She had to speak to her dad three times to explain that what he thought was ‘being funny’ or a joke – was not. He finally got it.

Step 4. Don’t fall back into old patterns of talking to your mum or dad about weight.

After enough time has passed, there may come a time later down the track where you might want to talk about weight/food with your mum again. This might happen if you’re going through a period of weight change or habit change or learning a lot about yourself.

If you do go through this, find other people to talk to about food/your body so that you don’t complicate that relationship with your mum and food. You want your relationship with your mum to be about so much more than just weight, calories and numbers of almonds.

Step 5. Lead by example

There’s a chance that your positive relationship with food will rub off onto you mom by her watching you. This will be a great outcome. If you’re learning to accept and respect your body – and diving into things like intuitive eating – it might become intriguing for your mum. You can choose to navigate these non-weight based conversations however you like.

If you’re stable enough, and once you’re far enough along the path, I think there is an opportunity that you may help to improve your mums relationship by leading by example. Be the change you want to see, right?

(Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash)

Challenges you may face when trying to get your mom to stop commenting on your weight:

How to stop feeling angry at your mom or dad (or grandmother) for commenting on your weight or body

It’s easy to resent your mom (or whoever makes comments about your body) because the message you’re being sent is hurtful. And harmful. And unhealthy. And it’s not ok.

It took me a while to not feel angry about body comments. Even after they’d stop. 

Here are a few things that helped me not hold onto the anger:

Firstly, I realised that your mom probably went through the same thing with her mum. She might have been told her whole life to stop eating or to pull in her tummy or that she was the wrong size.

That is sad to me. Try to imagine your mother being a child or the same age as you – receiving mean, unfair comments about her body… Think about how it might have hurt her and impacted her self-esteem. Without anyone around her to help unlearn what she was taught… she thought it was OK behaviour and passed it down to you.

I’m not saying her behaviour is OK. But I think having sympathy for your mum as a child helps you to let go of the resentment.

I believe our mother’s, our mother’s mother – and possibly our great-great-grandmothers – have been passing down the same disordered eating and poor body image lessons from generation to generation. 

The good news is that it stops with our generation.

We will not pass down disordered eating advice to the next generation. 

(Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash)

Your mother’s generation is also a generation where the husband may have thought it was OK (it’s not) to tell her she looks fat – or needs to change her outfit before she leaves the house because he doesn’t like how she looks.

Plus – Your mother is getting older. And in a society obsessed with 18-year-old photoshopped models, she clings to the idea that looks are how a woman is valued… and then she puts that on you.

No one taught her the essential life lesson that she is more than what she looks like. She grew up in a generation where a woman’s looks were her biggest asset. 

Another thing I think about is that our parent’s generation (baby boomers and older) were arguably hit the hardest by dieting culture. They are the generation who experienced Jane Fonda, calorie counting books, the Atkins diet… and lived in a time way before ‘body positive’ was a hashtag or idea.

Back then, thinness was prioritised over health. Luckily, things have moved on.

I feel sorry for that previous generation. But I also realise that this is a situation where the child (that’s you) may be able to become the parent. 

You can help your mom learn to be more accepting of her body, to learn to stop dieting and to put her health first. Even if she has been dieting for decades.

And the way you will do this is by learning how to do it yourself – by becoming a role model. By becoming someone so self-assured and grounded (and someone who knows that it’s not worth sacrificing 95% of your life to weigh 5% less), your healthy thinking and actions may be passed onto your mother.

Some thought-provoking conversation starters: 

  • Mum – you’ve been dieting your whole life. If obsessing about your body worked, wouldn’t you be at your goal weight by now?
  • If you spent less time worrying about food, do you think you’d have more time for other things in life… and then perhaps healthy eating would become easier?
  • You’ve tried hating your body and it hasn’t helped you lose weight and keep it off. What if you tried accepting your body and see what happened?

You also might not create any change for her at all. And that is OK.

As the time old saying goes: You can lead a mother to carbohydrates, but you can’t force her to eat them… 

Your mum may never stop dieting. Or commenting in your weight. 

This is a sad – but important thing to realise.

Your mum may never change. You can set clear boundaries. And remind her that dieting is an off-limits topic with you… you can lead by example but she may not ever understand ‘get it’.

Luckily, you can change how you respond to her comments. 

In a way, it’s OK because you’re crossing on to the other side – away from dieting. So when she makes comments about her weight anxiety or explains how she loves her new diet, you can see her comments for what they are… disordered eating and really crumby body image compounded over many years.

Knowing what you know (that is… real health is about how you feel in your body – not how it looks), you’ll have perspective when she talks of her troubled history with food. You’ll realise you can’t fix someone who doesn’t want help. But at least you’ve found the light – and it doesn’t involve counting points, calories or obsessively thinking about food. What a relief.

You can feel grounded in what you now know. Have empathy for experience. And learn to be more like a duck letting water roll off it’s back.

What to do when a family member comments on your child’s weight? 

If you’ve read this blog post -> Should I comment on my daughter’s weight? you’ll know that I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to comment on your daughter’s weight.

But what do you do when someone else (another family member perhaps) comments on your child’s weight – or another young person you love?

If it’s your child, then you set exceptionally clear boundaries with whoever is making these comments. You pull them aside and explain that it’s not OK for them to comment on your daughter or sons body or eating. You draw a firm line so that you can protect your child from comments that will stick with them for life.

You can explain that kids who receive comments about their weight are 66% more likely to be overweight or obese. Plus – it sets them up for a complicated, un-intuitive, all-or-nothing approach to food. Be firm and stay firm. It’s important for your child’s health.

Related blog posts: 

Want to eat healthily without dieting or obsessing over food? Check out Back to Basics. It’ll help take the stress, guesswork and confusion out of food – and making cooking simple and fun. Check it out here.