Dear Moms of Daughters Who’ve Gained Weight

Have you ever seen the SNL parody commercial for the “Dysfunctional Family Christmas” album? It’s a skit from back in the ‘90s. My husband and I recently watched it…and then watched it over and over ‘cause it cracked us up. In particular, I laughed at a line in one of the fake songs sung by a mom to her daughter: “Underneath the mistletoe is a two-by-two jingle bell world, and underneath all those extra pounds is a very pretty girl.”

Underneath all those extra pounds is a very pretty girl…

Ooof—It’s funny because it’s soooo relatable. How many times did I come home for the holidays and get comments like that about my weight?

I can laugh now. But to younger me, there was nothing funny or helpful in those comments. Often, the not-so-subtle jabs only worsened the spiral of self-loathing I was already in.

When I came home for Christmas my sophomore year in college, I braced for commentary on the 17 pounds I’d gained since the start of the semester. Fact of the matter, I was battling a low-grade depression that year—for the first time ever, I was living totally alone, I’d changed my major, and…dang…growing up is just hard. I didn’t recognize it back then, but I know it for sure now: I emotionally ate my way through that year.

Suffice to say, I did not find my mom’s suggestions on portion sizes and reminders about how pretty I’d be “if I’d just lose the weight” helpful at all. Not during holiday break my sophomore year in college. Not in my mid-20s. Not in my early 40s.

Thankfully, I figured this weight stuff out on my own, in the real way that addresses what’s on my mind even more than what’s on my plate. In figuring all that out for myself, I came to a place of compassion for my mom who had her own work to do on herself.

Today, my goal is to help moms and daughters—fathers and sons—clear the clutter of overeating and judgement of ourselves and others, stop making food and weight such big deals, and get to what really matters.

So—as we’re here at the holidays, a letter for moms of daughters who’ve gained some weight…

Dear Mom,
Can you make a pinky-promise that you will not, under any conditions, mention your daughter’s weight when you’re together for the holidays?

Don’t make this promise and then look for a loophole! It’s a binding, all-encompassing promise. – It includes even the most subtle mentions that come in the guise of helpful observations or gentle recommendations.
– There shall be no sneering or eye-rolling if she goes for seconds at dinner or sneaks a midnight snack.
– There shall be no breaking of the promise because you choose to not hold your tongue out of “loving her and just wanting the best for her.”

Surely you realize those comments, reactions, and—uh, expressions of quote-unquote loving concern only cause rifts between the two of you, right?

There is literally nothing…NOT A THING…you can say that will help.

Your daughter is fully—probably painfully—aware of the extra pounds she’s carrying, and you know dang well that the commentary playing in her head is burdensome enough. Do not add to it.

Seriously, have you ever witnessed a mother chastise a daughter into a sudden, miraculous diet that she then maintains forever? Um, no. It sure as heck didn’t work when your mom made the comments to you back in the day.

The fundamental truth here is her weight gain isn’t actually about eating too much pizza or not exercising enough. There’s something else going on. It may be something small or it may be a big deal, but I guarantee you the extra pounds didn’t happen because your daughter’s desire for tasty snacks suddenly increased.

So, howsabout you focus on having real, meaningful conversations with your daughter during the few precious days you have together?

I’m not suggesting you give her the third degree—not at all. Just talk with her. Dive into topics that spark her. Find out what she’s focused on, who she’s hanging out with, where’s she’s at with goals and dreams, what she’s up to in her downtime.

She’s got to find her own way in dealing with weight issues.

Meanwhile, direct that urge for personal improvement toward yourself. Turn the spotlight on you with curiosity, honesty, and love—no judgement (click here to get ideas on how to overcome self-judgement). In taking care of you, you’ll be taking care of everyone else.

Remember: the pinky-promise is in effect!

oxo & Merry Everything!

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