Dear Straight Talk: My sister and I are overweight. Every Saturday, our mom makes us strip naked and weighs us. We find it humiliating and embarrassing to stand there naked and be weighed like pieces of meat. If we haven’t lost weight, we get punished with extra chores or reduced privileges. We diet and exercise and sometimes lose a little but always gain it back — which makes her furious. She’s never had a weight problem so she doesn’t understand how hard it is. Our parents are divorced, and our dad says she badgered him about his weight, too, which was partly why he left. We’ve told her how humiliating this is, but she says if we don’t like it, we can just get down to normal weight. Please help. — Sacramento
Peter, 24: Your mom is being cruel. It’s good to be accountable — but only to yourself. I entered high school weighing 230 pounds. By graduation, I was 50 pounds lighter. Today I’m 70 pounds lighter. I didn’t diet and I didn’t do sports. I simply changed for good what and how much I ate. No more McDonalds, loads more fruits and vegetables. I also began walking to school each day (a mile each way). Going home was uphill. I suggest changing your diet wholesale and checking Google maps for a good walking route.
Catherine, 24: This borders on harassment. Parents should be inspiring kids with exercise programs, new ways to eat, or support groups. Shaming is hard on anyone, especially teens who get a daily onslaught at school. I have struggled personally with body image and shame. The word “fat” has been terrifying, not only because I might not be attractive or lovable, but because of the health risks. I am the healthiest eater my friends know. I also exercise regularly and have an active job. Yet, I’m still overweight. When I lose weight, people find it OK to make “fat” jokes or say how “great” I look — as if this wasn’t shaming, too. The fat acceptance movement has helped me reclaim my body as my own business.
Justin, 22: They can’t print what I’d like to tell your mom. A nutrition class taught me that being overweight is more learned than hereditary. Instead of “dieting” you need to relearn all your eating habits. Also, how much exercise are you getting? I need to hit the gym five days a week. Having a training buddy is essential so it’s harder to quit.
Nicole, 21: Your mother has no right to make you get naked. Just refuse. If you — for yourself — want to lose weight, exercise EVERY day and eat smaller portions.
Hannah, 17: This verges on abuse. If it continues, inform a school counselor. Regarding diets, never include laxatives, vomiting, or starvation. Starvation diets slow metabolism and make it harder to lose weight. Instead eat healthfully and exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Try something fun like dance.
Katelyn, 16: Your mom needs a doctor.
Dear Sacramento: This isn’t “verging” on abuse, it IS abuse. Absolutely refuse to undress. Don’t even let her weigh you. Shaming is not only cruel, it doesn’t work. I recommend rejecting your mother’s approach and starting your own. Step one in change is loving your flawed self (enter the fat-acceptance movement). Step two is “be the change.”
The panel is correct: diets don’t work, wholesale relearning your eating habits does. Regular, strenuous, way-of-life exercise, such as Peter’s walking routine, is key. Allow six months to see results. Thyroids are commonly underfunctioning today. Get yours checked. Also check out Overeaters Anonymous (oa.org), an excellent (and free) support group.
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