Thursday, February 12, 2015

That one comment about your weight that sticks

A few times each week, I meet with a new Foodtrainers’ client. In these meetings we cover many of the things you’d expect. We discuss sleep and hydration, omega 3’s all that nutritiony/wellness stuff. I also like to gather a little history, a weight history, medical history etc. I start with the basics but always ask “when do you recall first thinking about weight” or “what were your parents like, were they big on compliments or critical?” The answers to these questions say a lot.  The truth is you can be overweight or underweight, gorgeous or homely and there are often a few comments (negative or positive) that stick with you.
“You have such a pretty face”
“I just don’t want you to end up alone”
“I don’t want this to cause you the pain it has caused me”
I know, from these meetings, that 50 years can go by and these quotes are fresh in my client’s minds. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to utter that one comment that my children will come back to. That one statement that flies out of your mouth and fucks your kids up forever. I know better, I have nutrition degrees and yet I mess up.
A little story, when one of my boys was little (1) I went to the pediatrician. My husband urged me to go,so you know I’m not the only crazy one. I asked the doctor about my son’s forehead. It seemed to protrude a little. My husband had pediatric neurosurgery so there was some basis for concern (or justification). I gave the doctor the background and he looked at my son. He then looked at me…closely. “Can you move your hair a bit?” he asked. I did. “Yup, I see what you mean. He has something called frontal lobing.” I didn’t have time to be concerned because he added, “and so do you it’s harmless, just the shape of your skull.” Years later said son discovered hair gel. The first time he tried a little bang off the forehead action I didn’t miss a beat “you can’t do that, your forehead protrudes and so does mine.” Yup, the good news is that he continued to sculpt his bangs “mom you don’t know what you’re talking about, I look good.” Excellent, future therapy averted (great) but I’m raising a narcissist .
And it’s not just parents and children. Friends, spouses and even bosses say things. Some comments are downright mean; others just sting because they are true. So what to do? Of course try your best not to be nasty. Nasty hurts even if there’s no basis for it. Second, if you’ve said something you regret- discuss it. “Did that hurt?” Or, “I wish I had said   _____” can open up a discussion. I am reading a book called Mindset by Carol Dweck. One interesting suggestion she makes id not to laud what people are naturally given. We don't control these things. Instead reward effort and work and encourage behaviors such as cooking or activity versus the result (weight loss or weight gain).
And finally, focus on how someone feels. An acquaintance mentioned she saw a relative who was much larger than in the past. I asked her how she handled this and she said  "I said, You’ve gained so much weight." Obviously we feel comfortable enough with family members to say things like this but I suggested, “you’ll probably do a lot more and help more if you ask how he is doing?” After all weight is never really about the weight.
What comments about your size or appearance have stuck with you? If you are a parent, have any “stingers” ever come out of your mouth? Have you ever noticed my forehead?


  1. Excellent topic. I seem to remember you talking to my mom once upon a time when I was seeing you as a Foodtrainers client when I still lived in NYC. (Did we call her together from a session? Did you call her outside of one of our sessions? I can't remember. But I do remember discussing that call with you.) Thanks to her, I've been able to recite calorie counts for certain items since about 5th grade (when I was on the skinny side of average and did not need to know those things). Thankfully, I don't remember the calorie counts for every item anymore and am more focused on eating real food, in better balance (with the very occasional sugar-coma-inducing french toast :) ).

    I always wished my mom had had her own Lauren... someone sane and practical, who advocated real food. When she's tried to go that route with a nutritionist who is practical, she's always either thought she knew better or tried to get 10-year-old me who didn't have any weight/eating issues on a super-rigid plan (which backfired and made me ridiculously self-conscious and made me believe I had a weight problem at that age). She's yo-yo'ed all her life and always sought the 'quick fix' (including many rounds of pre-packaged meals and such from certain "diet" companies - packed with chemicals, of course, and the weight loss isn't sustainable because it's not real food... but that's her favorite time to get preachy to me). Her comments and pieces of "advice" to me have always been cutting, but I've been slowly learning to tune it out more and more. I bought her your book when it came out and she loved it, but I don't know how much she's actually tried... although I actually think she's starting to turn a corner and realize that she has to figure out how to eat *real* foods in a smart way over the long-term if she wants to lose weight and maintain it without pumping herself full of things she can't pronounce (and also be able to eat at restaurants, with friends, etc.) - but I credit your book with showing her there are ways to be able to do that. Let's hope she puts them into practice. Anyway, I've held firm to the "I'm eating real food" thing myself, and it's seemed to slow her critical, preachy comments to me somewhat recently. I only partly blame her, too - her mom was about 100x more critical! So - progress, I suppose.

    Yeesh. That was long. Anyway - really excellent blog post!

  2. Jill- yes I recall speaking to your mother and many mothers. Many of them sound similarly with a mix of love, their own stuff and "I know better". Kudos to you for finding your own path and mantra with food. It says a lot about your own constitution that you can look back and assess things so clearly. Real food over chemicals is always the way to go. She probably hated my book, ha.

  3. Actually she loved it!! And even though I have no idea how much she has implemented, I do know it has traveled with her. I'm hoping it's taking a foothold in her brain. I think deep down she knows the chemical stuff just keeps the yo-yo going and she needs something practical and sustainable, and she likes to have rules to follow. She told me she liked your writing style, too :) So I'm hoping she takes it to heart. We'll see how it goes. But it's definitely been progress for me, anyway, to be able to separate my process from hers!

  4. Hi Lauren, this is a great post! My 13 year old son is in the throes of a hair gel fixation (oh, excuse me, a pomade fixation) - that story really hit home. And no, while I am new to your blog I've never noticed your forehead haha! But the suggestion about not commenting on the things that come naturally to people is really a good one and it helped me understand why I find it so cringe-worthy when my husband (good person, he tries) makes comments to my son like "you're so lucky to be thin" or "I wish I had your abs." I haven't been able to articulate very well why these comments bug me, but this suggestion helps. I don't want either my son or my ten year old daughter (who is of course listening to everything) to feel pressure (or rewarded) for looking a certain way, I want them to LEARN HOW TO LIVE A HEALTHY LIFE!!! The looks are secondary - they follow. After I read this I went home and shared it with my husband, and I tried to do it tactfully (ie. not suggesting that he actually could have our son's abs if he got his butt to the gym every now and then lol!). Not sure it sunk in but it helped me so thank you!!! I really loved your book and am enjoying your blog and Instagram posts. :)