Lola Rolls
Advice on Life from a Former Sideshow Fat Lady

Let’s Talk About Something Else

Posted By on Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Dear Lola,

For as long as I can remember, my mother and I have been at war over my weight. When I was a kid, she used criticize what and how much I ate and then she would fill the house with snack cakes and cookies. She used to show me the boxes so she could tell me that they weren’t for me. As a result, I got very good at stealing food and eating it in weird places, like under my bed. Then the guilt would set in and sometimes I would make myself throw up to feel better.

That behavior was borderline bulimic. Fortunately, I haven’t done anything like that since I was a teenager.

I wish I could tell you that I also outgrew the overeating and eating in secret and that I lost all the weight, but that’s not what happened. I’m still overweight as an adult, and the battle continues with my mother.

Whenever we see each other, which is about 3 or 4 times a week, she asks how the diet is going or tells me what to order from a menu or reminds me how hard she tried to get me to lose weight when I was younger. If say something back, she will tell me she’s only trying to help, and we end up arguing. Most times, I try to let it slide to avoid conflict.

The truth of the matter though is that I’m worn out from the tension and the criticism, and I want to find a better way forward.

–Let’s Talk About Something Else

 

Dear Let’s Talk About Something Else,

It hurt my heart to read your letter. You deserved better treatment and more love from your mother. Her insensitive cruelty led you to an eating disorder and to disordered eating, which continues to this day with you consuming food, as if you were engaging in some shameful activity. All bodies need food, and all people deserve to eat and feel satisfied without being embarrassed or ridiculed. This includes you.

I recommend, and this is an extremely strong recommendation, that you find a good, empathetic therapist who can help you overcome the critical, unkind, and unloving environment in which you were forced to grow up. You were not nurtured as you should have been. Though this is very apparent from your letter, I’m concerned that you don’t see it that way, especially given your willingness to engage with your mother various times a week, and, by extension, to subject yourself to her unkind behavior.

I think you need to take a big step back from your mother. You’re tired of fighting, so walk off the battlefield. How does that translate into everyday life? Take a week or two or several off from seeing your mother, and, if she inquires about your absence, you could tell her some variation of the following: “Mom, every time we’re together, you talk about what I’m eating and my weight, and I’m tired of it. Maybe we can do something toward the end of the month or after that.” If she pushes back with the same, worn-out arguments about just trying to help, which she quite possibly will do, then you can end the conversation with her. That is within your power. Simply put, you don’t have to listen just because someone is talking.

Use your reprieve to start therapy, to rethink your relationship with food, and to design more detailed strategies for making it understood that you will not participate in conversations or listen to comments about your body or what you choose to put into your body.

I’m rooting for you. Good luck!

   
Barbara Boehm Miller
Fiction Writer and Creator of the Character, Lola Rolls

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