What I Said When My Dad Said He Was “Concerned” About My Body

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“I’m concerned about your eating habits,” my dad said to me. 

We’d just had dinner, leftovers from Christmas. I’d eaten a salad. 

He wasn’t worried I was eating too little, as he had been when I was a skinny teenager. “Whatever do you mean?” I asked, faking ignorance. I wanted to hear him actually say it.

“I’m concerned about your health,” he said, by which, of course, he meant my weight.

My Weight Has Fluctuated With Age — and I’m Okay With That

I am no longer the typically presenting anorexic of my youth. I am fat now, with the BMI to prove it. Fun fact: So is he. He’s always been, as long as I’ve been alive. But, of course, we’re not going to talk about him or his health, which is his business. Fortunately, I have a therapist who helps me navigate the rocky, trap-filled diet culture terrain. Ahead of Thanksgiving, she sent me some resources, including free downloads from The Empowered Palette on how to respond to various comments. 

I Told My Dad What He Needed To Hear 

I love my dad and my dad loves me. I’m okay being honest with him and also maybe, just maybe, teaching him about my needs and how people maybe “should” treat each other.

“Dad,” I said, “I’m fat because of you.” (I said I was going to be honest.) “You and mom have given me a genetic predisposition to carry more weight. The diet standards I was held to as a teenager messed up my metabolism, and now my body thinks I’m starving and holds onto weight for fear I’ll starve myself again. I don’t have diabetes, but thanks to your family history, I might someday. I have a congenital hip impingement and can’t do some exercises. Because of my anxiety disorder and trauma history, I carry a lot of muscle tension and am prone to injury, which further limits my exercise. I do exercise. Frequently. I’d like to be happy and feel like I’m able to do everything everyone else can do, but I can’t and I need to make peace with it. You don’t need to worry about what I eat or my health. I go to the doctor and get bloodwork as recommended to make sure I’m healthy.” 

And then straight from the download, I said, “I don’t want to discuss my body with you anymore.” He was quiet. He nodded. He changed the subject. We had a lovely visit, playing with my kids. 

Will he bring it up again? Maybe. But I will shut it down if he does. When I was a kid, I was his responsibility, but I’m an adult and he’s no longer responsible for my body or my well-being. Like many people my age and older, he and I were raised with a certain culture around food, diet, and bodies, and it created a lot of harm. 

The Bottom Line

In tiny ways, I’m hoping to change that culture, at least for my own life and my own body. Hopefully, my kids can avoid some of the self-hate and judgment I experienced. 

It’s hard to stand up to family — but it’s worth it.

Tags: Body Image, healthy, Self Confidence

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Written By

Laura Wheatman Hill

Laura Wheatman Hill lives in Oregon with her two children. She has been published by CNN, Real Simple, Parents, and others. See Full Bio

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