What a difference a week makes

I have been back in the US and back living with my parents for almost a week, and although I suspected it would be difficult, I am a little thrown at how unmoored I feel after just this small amount of time living in the house where I grew up.

Case in point: I am writing this entry on my father’s computer (because he doesn’t have wireless in the house, I can’t get online on my laptop) with the private browsing on so there is no record of my blog or what I am writing.  I am alone in the house and I feel like I am sneaking around.

I think back to this post and realize that I am going to have to tap into those skills HARD.  I really had no idea what living with my folks again was going to do to my eating, but whoa boy, it has been triggering being here.  The second night I was here, I asked my mother if she had any ice cream, and she said “oh, have a yogurt, it’s better for you,” and I capitulated and ate the yogurt.  It was yummy, it was fine, but I’m a grown woman and I can eat the ice cream if I want to.  Did I say that out loud?  Of course not.

Then my mom started showing me her book on mindful eating and how it’ll get you to lose weight, and I just sort of brushed it away with some kind of distraction.  Did I mention, oh by the way, I’ve been working with a nutritionist and know all about mindful eating?  Of course not either.

On Michelle’s advice, I bought some food of my own to have in the house, but I felt scrutinized buying it and I feel scrutinized eating it.  Last night I sat in the living room waiting for my mother to go to bed so I could eat some crackers in peace.  I eventually decided I didn’t want the crackers because I had heartburn, but I hated getting wrapped up in all that drama around whether or not I should or shouldn’t want them in my head. 

Now my parents are out grocery shopping (as they do every Monday night, as they have done for the past 25 years at least) and I am home alone and I just ate 7 cookies in a row that I didn’t necessarily want all of out of mild hunger and raging defiance.  I am finding that I am a little hungrier during the day than I prefer to be because I am not eating all I need to stay satisfied because I don’t want the big old judgy eyeball from my mother. 

So I know that this isn’t working for me the way it is, but I am not yet sure how to handle it.  I can certainly work alone on eating what I want out of desire instead of rebellion – I really have no desire to feel 15 years old again – but lurking in the back of my head is the idea that I might have to have a conversation with my mother where I lay down what’s what with me in an adult and reasonable manner, and that is so far from the way my family communicates (or doesn’t communicate!) that it is intimidating the socks off of me.

I guess if nothing else, this is an opportunity to really get to work on being an adult, because this feeling like a kid again really bites.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “What a difference a week makes

  1. ali

    for me, saying that stuff makes a huge difference-when i don’t say it, i feel angry and hurt and helpless and it makes me want to literally stuff those feelings down, with food. which ends up hurting me, because i didn’t want to do that. so, it’s so much easier said than done, but i’d try to stick up for myself a bit. you deserve to have what you want, and say what you mean.

  2. Thanks for the pep talk! I think that I am so focused on getting every word “right” in talking to my parents that I don’t say anything at all. I should just risk not being entirely eloquent or poised and just say something.

  3. Tell them. Please. I know the prospect of confrontation is ghastly but you’ll feel miles better once you’ve said something. What this whole issue boils down to is establishing – or re-establishing – personal boundaries and gently reminding your folks you’re an autonomous adult. I’m not saying it won’t take them a while to get used to the idea that they don’t get to police your food intake any more but they’re not going to disown you. If they didn’t love you, they wouldn’t be cool about your moving in in the first place.

    Pick your moment – preferably before the next food-related episode, when your mum is relaxed and not anticipating any kind of row. That way she’ll be less defensive and easier to discuss things with.

    If I were you I’d start by asking her what it feels like having you back in the house first then feel your way from there. Chances are she’s got issues of her own. Reassure her she doesn’t have to look after you in the way she did when you were a kid. Remind her how long you’ve been looking after yourself and mention you’ve been working with a nutritionist on mindful eating as evidence of your capability. Maybe talk about your experience of that. (i.e. there’s a difference between intuitive eating and dieting) Finally ease the convo towards the real nitty-gritty preferably without sliding into a full on blame-fest. Maybe frame it in terms of, “I know you were only doing/saying what you believed was right for me back then, and I genuinely appreciate you had my best interests at heart – but I’ve come to realise, now that I’m an adult, that instead of helping it actually had x, y and z effect on me”.

    If she takes this well, then maybe you could tell her where you are now in regards to fat, health and food issues.
    If, on the other hand, she’s bouncing off the walls, maybe save it for another time. But at least you’ve created a landmark that you can refer to the next time something she does or says threatens to trigger you.

    Just my 2 cents. I know it’s not easy and I really wish you luck.

  4. I would set clear boundaries with the parents, no discussion about what you are or are not eating, no “tips” on what is better or worse, no comments of any kind on food, on your weight, on your activity level, no sidelong glances and sighs at the contents of your plate. You are an adult, and you are entitled to be one, even in your parents’ house.

  5. Claudia,

    Thanks so much for your honest, revealing posts. I sooooo personally relate to the stress of interacting with the parents around food. What I have come to recognize is that everyone in my family, except my brother, are unable to even hear what my feelings and beliefs around food are ( i.e. HAES etc). This has led me to establishing very clear boundaries that comments about my food, weight, amount of exercise and health are off limits. I set these boundaries with them respectfully, (I sincerely tried to keep it about me and what I needed and stay away from accusing them or blaming them when I set the boundaries) and I have found that on this front, it has worked for me.

    My stepmother and I had a bit of a go around what I ordered when we ate out together, and I suggested and we agreed that we do not go out to eat together. My post about that is here if you are interested.

    Once or twice I have needed to defend the boundaries since then. Once was at a family gathering where my stepmom made some sort of comment when she saw me getting a second plate of food at a buffet type family lunch. My body language to her was, don’t; f*ck with me, but I just put the plate down and I walked out of the room to cool off. I played some Wii with a nephew for about fifteen minutes and them I returned and finished my plate of food. The other time was when my stepmom started pleading with me to do something about my weight, I told her that I prefer to not talk about this, she continued, I then said something like, look I think I am gonna go home now, she then relented and said no don’t go, I’ll stop I just want you to know I care.

    Another thing that I want to mention here is that there is this big emotional space inside me that wants to get my parents to respect my choice about food and size and Fat Acceptance. Thankfully there is also a logical, mature, part of me that recognizes that my family truly believes that I am killing myself with food and the Fat Acceptance community are simply enablers that support my delusions that I can be happy and content without addressing the deatfatz. There is a part of me that feels slighted and disrepected because when I have tried to explain FA and where I am coming from, they get loud, angry, combative and do not allow for even one breath to consider my thoughts and feelings. To them I am wrong and hurting myself. I can feel angry at them for this and at the same time I recognize that there is nothing I can do to change this.

    So I find that the no diet talk type boundaries are a way for me to navigate towards a loving, peaceful relationship with my parents.

    By no means am I always where I want to be with this stuff, but it is nice to be able to connect like this with others who really understand what I am up against with my family.

    Cheers,

    Ivan

    p.s. if you ever have occasion to be in NYC, lets do coffee!

  6. Norma

    I have gone through this exact same experience. The negative to moving back home was that it was extremely triggering and further screwed with my body image as well as eating patterns. However, it was a great time to get to know my parents better and become closer. In my situation, I spent years arguing with my parents over food and weight. Eventually, I realized I needed to stop spending emotional energy on trying to change them and focus on not allowing others negativity affect me so much. So basically this has meant avoiding the topic of weight and food. I try to honor my own eating patterns but it is definitely hard when people are watching and judging you! At times, this has meant eating in secret. Ugh, I hate that! BUT it just makes me realize that to preserve my mental health and my relationship with my parents I have to get my own place asap.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any great wisdom… but I have been there and totally feel your pain. Hang in there and just focus on the time when you will be back in your own place. : )

  7. Constance

    Back when I was in my thirties, I also went home and lived with my parents for a few months, and your post brought back a lot of memories. There was something so infantilizing about going home and also bizarre because it’s like I was entering a time warp, and all my adult experiences were suddenly stripped away or rendered insignificant… In short, I found myself reverting to my adolescent self almost immediately. I was aware it was happening but powerless to stop it. A lot of conflict and angst in my relationship with my parents had been about eating and my weight, of course. I remember sneaking around and taking treats out of the freezer surreptitiously, late at night, and wolfing them down… compulsive behaviors I thought I had outgrown. Anytime I had to go home for any period of time, I always packed on weight like crazy. And I felt crazy.

  8. Boy oh boy I remember these feelings so well. I went back home to live with my mother and stepfather when I was in my 20’s because I had bought a small business and needed to save money. Right from the outset I was treated like a child who did not know what was “best for me” and it sent me into a huge spiral of shitty feelings and bad habits.

    I think that for your own long term health, you either need to get it all out in the open with your parents and let them know that you don’t need to be driven through life, and that you have firm beliefs about food and bodies that you are not likely to change, OR you need to get out of the situation if you can.

    What’s most important is that you remember that you know what is best for you, and that you need to take care of yourself first and foremost.

    I hope that things turn to a better place for you ASAP.

    Supportive hugs!

  9. Tracey

    be firm and direct, and you will feel so much better. My grandmother, who I loved dearly had huge issues with eating and weight,and would always make comments about my eating out loud infront of the whole family. One day she said in front of everyone, ” Isn’t funny your cousin is losing weight and you are gaining it.” I stopped looked at her and said calmly but firmly, “Why do you think that is an okay thing to say, It really hurts my feelings! How would you like it if I commented on your weight infront of everyone?” To her credit she apologized and never said anything to me about weight again. Once she commented on another cousin’s weight gain and I stopped her in her tracks. Saying that to her improved our relationship because that was something about my grandmother that I frankly didn’t like, and once it was removed I could focus on all the other great things about her. I know its hard with parents and being around family can trudge up all sorts of of issues, but you will feel so much better if you say something. You can’t control your parents, their thoughts their responses, but standing up for yourself always feels good. Do you think they realize what they say is so hurtful to you? Parents, myself included, do and say lots of things, and that we are not always aware are impacting our children. When confronted with it , it makes us aware that we need to do better. Anyhow good luck with all of it.

  10. Pingback: Sometimes a salad is just a salad « The Embodiment of Fat

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