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I'm an Asian college girl. My university is abroad, so I only come home during long break e.g. summer.

Every time I am home, my parents would be very critical about my weight literally every day. When I walk in front of them, they would say "intolerable. you're very fat. see how your legs squeeze." Or "your body is just like a pregnant woman."

They recently start to make what I would say a weird relation between certain issues I have and my weight: I told my parents I start to mess up my mother language's spellings because I don't use them often. They replied that because I'm fat, my brain doesn't function well. I should consider losing weight seriously.

Even worse, my father started talking about my late uncle who passed away a few years ago. He was overweight. My father said he's worried I would end up like my uncle.

At this level, I start getting extremely upset. It seems to me that every day in their head, my parents are obsessed with my weight and not other things at all. I know I am fat, and I know I must try to lose my weight at some points (very soon) of my life. Being fat puts weight on my body, and it's not like I'm happy about it. But I'm very annoyed how my parents keep talking about my weight as if it would disappear after they said so. They always used my culture as an excuse that they comment about my weight because they care about me, but now it's getting too much for me. I start to feel like they're just happy for venting out their feeling of "unacceptable" toward my weight and projecting that on me. Maybe they're happy to say that because it shows that they care, but on my side, I become overwhelmed by the same comments every day. This along with other problems at home makes me feel like I don't wanna go home again, ever.

Is there any way, if any, that I can stop them from commenting about my weight? I know the possible way to respond is to exercise and reduce my weight. Note that even during the times that I try to exercise, they still say the same things. It will take time to lose weight. I'm very discouraged for that no matter how hard I try, they would still comment.

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    How confrontational are you willing to be? – anongoodnurse Dec 27 '17 at 5:23
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    As someone once said when accused of being drunk: "Yes, I am drunk. But tomorrow, I'll be sober and you'll still be a damn fool" (the sources vary on who actually said it, and I've paraphrased). – user10819 Jan 3 '18 at 1:11
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Their comments appear very harsh, I know it must be difficult coming from your parents.

From your story it appears you are still financially dependent to your parents, so it looks they are still treating you as if you were a child. If that was not the case, I would stand my ground:

I would be very clear that their comments put an emotional toll on you, and even though you love them and want to spend time with them, you would have to limit your interaction with them, if they didn't stop.

This constant scolding is definitely coming from not respecting the fact that you are an adult and you want to live your life the way you want. Even if you didn't want to lose weight they wouldn't have a say on you doing otherwise. Of course you would welcome their opinion, but this would be the extend of it.

Now since it is difficult to make your parents treat you as an adult, especially if you are still under their financial help; you could try the next.

Other ways to deal with it, is to make sure that your parents understand that you wish in the near future to lose weight. Maybe, they still continue commenting relentlessly on your weight, under the impression that you are not taking this issue seriously, and from your post it seems that you do. To help them realize that you do want to do something about it, maybe you can ask them what ideas they have to help you lose weight. That way, not only they will think that you are taking matters into your own hands, but also that they are actively helping you and, hopefully, this will lessen their urge to help you by providing inappropriate comments.

Furthermore, you want to make it clear that their comments are counter-productive. Tell them what you feel is the ideal way they can help you lose weight, perhaps give them something to keep them occupied. For instance, you could tell them you want to start eating healthier food.

Most parents are stubborn and set in their own ways, so it always challenging to change their behavior. I think the answer could be a combination of make them think that you serious about losing weight, throw them a bone so they feel they are helping in a more productive way, and make it clear to them that their comments are damaging you emotionally and subsequently not only not helping you lose weight but also jeopardizing your relationship with them and your well being.

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After reading the - IMHO very thoughtful - answers of clark and John Robinson, I'd like to add a bit of a different perspective.

Is there any way, if any, that I can stop them from commenting about my weight?

Just to be crystal clear about it, this is not about losing weight or not. This is about changing your behaviour in ways to possibly make them change theirs, like reduce commenting.

Still, it may sound simple, but very difficult to do, doable, but very difficult, but possible to do.

The strategy I will suggest will apply non-ordinary logic.

Ordinary logic would include giving reasons, asking them to put themselves into your position, feel the detrimental effects of the commenting, and ask them to stop. I assume that has been tried to some extent and failed.

Let me now select distinct patterns from your question and develop and suggest a strategy step by step. This might surprise some of you, even raise concerns maybe, and I would like to ask readers to share their thoughts and comments.

Key No. 1

They always used my culture as an excuse that they comment about my weight because they care about me

I absolutely agree with OP. We need to separate intention from effect here:

For them it is caring and therefore well-intentioned. But detrimental in its effects. They apparently don't consider effects, but continue "caring" obsessively.

Don't go against that. If they stopped commenting, for them it is stopping caring, which is neglecting their duties as parents and become total failures. Your family is strong and proud, they will not let that happen, and they should not.

Rather utilise their intentions and values.

Key No. 2

but on my side, I become overwhelmed by the same comments every day. This along with other problems at home makes me feel like I don't wanna go home again, ever.

Totally understandable and adequate, in my opinion. If I cannot stop an unpleasant stimulus, I can at least avoid it, so it won't hit me. This is ordinary logic though. The stimulus will not hit, but the consequences will: the more you avoid it, the more they obsess commenting. The more you reason and argue, they more they obsess commenting. Am I right?

The key here is to avoid avoiding, to not run away from it, but rather invite it, even demand it from them. This is difficult. This is counter-intuitive. This is sort of like Aikido.

I suggest the following steps, to be presented calmly, directly, one after the other.

Step 1 - connect to their value system

Dear Mum and Dad, I have been thinking a lot of what you said about my weight. At first, I resisted it, then I came to think. It took me a while to realise that you are helping me. But you need to know, losing weight for me is hard work, and in order to achieve that distant goal, let me ask you if I can count on you to continue helping me as good parents, maybe even harder than you did so far (get non-verbal and verbal approval from them)

Step 2 - demand action from them

As you know, I will be going back to college in ..., and won't have you near to support me with your comments, so I want to respectfully ask you - as your daughter - to help me not only today but when I'm back in (...). I need to have your guidance in front of me, in our language, that connects me to you and our culture, so I can go over it again and again.

Step 3 - demand precise and systematic comments

This is what I need from you: Please, look at me, closely and carefully, and write everything down on paper. Please don't let yourself stop by false courtesy and be as honest and as specific as possible. Write your comments on my weight, my body not only in general, different parts of my body, like my legs, my buttocks, my belly, my arms, my back, my neck, my face, my head. Please write about the detrimental effects of the weight to my body, my brain, my language abilities, as specific as possible. Please include references not only to my uncle, but to other people as well. I thought about half an hour per day, until I leave might be the bare minimum. Let's get ready and start today at ...

Step 4 - do it

  • Gather in a room/place with them, bring a clock, ideally an alarm clock or a timer, paper and pens. Set the alarm to 30 minutes. Let them look at you and cheerlead them to write. When they talk instead, respectfully remind them that you need it on paper to take it with you and have it not only today, but every day, have them write it down.

  • In case they complete it before the 30 minutes are over, respectfully motivate them to identify more and write it down, or at least check their notes and amend.

  • If the alarm goes off, stop and set the next meeting for a specific time next day. Take the writings from them, thank them, don't read it. Then go about your daily activities.

  • In case they start to talk about neutral or even pleasant topics during the 30 minutes, join in, and just from time to time respectfully ask them to do their "assignment" (don't call it like this though). Stick to the 30 minutes strictly.

  • Do this again the next day, the day after the next day, on a daily basis.

  • At a certain point, your parents may ask to not continue this, either because they already wrote everything down, or they got tired of it, or both. Respectfully remind them of their valued support with their comments. You may postpone tomorrow's session for one day, but make sure that you get back to them and ask them to continue writing after the "free day".

  • In case they start commenting in any situation, ask them immediately to write that down, because you can't afford to miss a single comment. If there's no pen and paper available in that situation, either carry one with you and hand it to them immediately, or ask them to keep that one in mind and write it down during the next session.

  • I don't know how much time you spend at home with your family, so it might be appropriate to - after some time - just have 1 session per week. Remember to be active about it and ask if they can provide additional comments in writing. If they decline, let it be for now but ask again a few days later.

Background

Non-ordinary logic has been studied and applied thousands of years ago in Asia, Greece and Rome as stratagems for winning wars. Those strategies have been scientifically researched and implemented in interpersonal communication by various scholars, among them Paul Watzlawick from Palo Alto Mental Research institute.

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    Brilliant! I'm actually hoping the OP gets what you are saying here. Just reading this and imagining it being implemented would have made me give up if I was the OP's parents unless I was some sort of a masochist, really. – Tycho's Nose Dec 28 '17 at 17:18
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There are, unfortunately, layers to this question that are going to make it a bit tricky to navigate. First, I should say that giving advice is easy - any idiot can do it; I do it all the time. It's taking advice that's the hard thing to do; you have to consider and assess what people suggest, then decide what you think you can do, and what you think is the wisest and perhaps most useful course of action. Then you have to try to put it into effect - no small challenge! All that being said, though, here's where the fun starts.

First, one layer is the child:parent one. As a parent and a former child, this is the one that really lights up for me. Many of us parents really love our kids and really want to help them avoid the problems we wrestled with, but many of us are perhaps not so good at remembering what we wanted to hear when we were kids (and what worked or didn't work on us).

Then, there's the cultural layer - not, perhaps surprisingly, the Asian culture, but the generational culture. The rules change from generation to generation. What we got from our parents is often what we use on our kids (unless we resolve not to make our parents' mistakes, in which case we make our grandparents' mistakes..). However, our kids are not the same as we were, other than being young, somewhat inexperienced and a bit sensitive to well-meant parental badgering. The rules that we are expected to accept are not the same as the rules our parents were expected to accept, and they're often rather different from what we're willing to accept.

Then, there's the other cultural layer - the Asian one. This one I'm not too competent to comment on, other than what I've picked up from my wife (the daughter of two Chinese parents of the 1930s vintage).

Then, there's the female layer, which in my observation is a Real Thing - young men and young women have different expectations from the parents, and often have to deal with different well-meant badgering (although of course there's a lot of generic, non-gender-specific parental nagging that takes place).

OK - so what can you do? Here, speaking as a former child, I found that standing up for my autonomy as a young adult in my own right was surprisingly ineffective. It led to more conflict, rather than less. If conflict is the goal, that's fine, but my goal was to get less of the personal badgering about my perceived failures as an adult (and I suspect you may feel that way as well).

As a parent, I rather surprisingly found that parental badgering was not the ideal approach - as it tended to make my kids dig in their heels and (if anything) do the disapproved behavior even more (exactly the way I had, although in my case it was due to strong-willed, principled self-determination, while in their case it was pig-headed self-destructive foolishness).

Interestingly, my lovely wife found a very effective method, although she is still, all these many years later, dealing with the emotional baggage that having two well-meaning, but very traditional, parents can impart. Her method, which I heartily recommend, was (and is) to smile, and agree, and then do whatever the hell she intends to do without saying anything.

Admittedly, this situation is less suited for that method, but there is a way to approximate it. Perhaps you could do some pre-emptive maneuvering; when you arrive for a visit, maybe you could be full of enthusiasm about the gym you have just joined, and how much more energy you have, now that you're exercising regularly, and whatever other baloney you can quickly toss out to distract them from their well-meant but supremely irritating criticism.

If (as may perhaps be the case) this concern about your weight has some ulterior motive - which would not be at all surprising (my lovely wife, for instance, is increasingly concerned with when our two sons are going to generate another generation of family) - some casual mention of the various nice young men at the gym might also be a useful gambit. Be aware, though, that this is a Highly Risky maneuver, and has been known to backfire.

Parental Management is an interesting field of study, and will perhaps serve you well later on the fields of Significant Other and (if you so desire) Spousal Management. These are all more of the judo than the kung fu styles of emotional martial arts, at least when it comes to the successful forms I have observed. The more you can focus on your opponents, and avoid getting too reactive (again, no small challenge), the better your chances of having the outcome be more to your liking. In the meantime, anything (within reason, of course) you can do to soothe and distract your parents from their fixation (however well-meant) on your appearance, especially if you find yourself reacting uncomfortably to it, will be helpful.

And, for what it's worth, my personal feeling about excess weight, something I have been very prone to over lo, these many years, is that it's a real bugger to get rid of, especially when you really pay attention to it. I didn't actually lose a lot of my accumulated weight until GI tract problems forced me to stop eating many of the things I loved the most (especially baked goods). When you stop eating things that contain gluten, the pounds just drop off on their own. I'm not recommending it, mind you - I still have wistful dreams about muffins - but it is astonishingly effective. And, I found that not paying any attention to it made me less likely to weaken in my dietary choices. checking the weight about every season seemed to work out fine, too. Much more satisfying to see that I now weighed 20 pounds less than only 1.2 pounds less.

Also, for what it's worth, whatever you feel about the weight is not going to match what other people feel about it. For instance, take a moment some time to look around you at the various couples you see. I'm always amazed at how strikingly unattractive many of us couples are, married or unmarried - on the outside only, I hasten to add - which always made me feel much better about things, since I'm a whole lot less unattractive than most of the people I saw (and I suspect you are as well). And the great thing about diversity is that there really is someone who will think someone else is the most irresistible thing going, regardless of the opinions of the parents involved. But that's another answer to another question, so perhaps I'd better stop here before I have to edit this into chapters.

Good luck!

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    "As a parent, I rather surprisingly found that parental badgering was not the ideal approach - as it tended to make my kids dig in their heels" Exactly. Badgering can just make kids not want to give their parents the satisfaction of "being right", but them "being right" is in the kids' own best interest. It's self-destructive. – Alexander Jan 2 '18 at 19:12
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I would use your primary care provider as the key to this. You could invite your parents to go with you to an appointment.

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on whether your health would benefit from a change in weight, and if so, what approaches are advisable to effect this change.

Your doctor can explain to your parents how they can best be helpful. Your doctor can also answer any questions your parents may have.

You could, alternatively, go to your appointment to discuss your weight with your doctor on your own, without your parents.

Either way, it is perfectly fair to tell your parents that your weight is something you are addressing with your doctor.

At the same time, you may wish to look for an alternate summer activity. Sometimes a bit of a break from family ends up strengthening the relationship in the long run. It's nice to visit family because one wants to rather than because one has nowhere else to go on break.

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From my personal experience, reminding them multiple times worked in my favor.

This might be a bad example but when my parents refused to knock on my door for a very long time I just reminded them every time and also knowingly knocked more heavily on their door so they notice that I'm knocking on the door instead of just coming in.

I also noticed at a very early stage that my parents were showing me all these obese people on television, kind of trying to warn me of what's ahead. The thing is that I knew what the consequences would be but didn't really want them to remind me of them all the time. It became annoying even though I knew they only meant it in a good way.

So what I did was reminding them that I know what I'm doing and what's gonna happen if I don't stop. And if that didn't help I actively avoided them whenever they commented on it to show them that I really don't like these kinds of comments.

Parents won't just stop caring about their child's health overnight, even if the child in question knows exactly that obesity is a bad thing and they should avoid it.

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Perhaps try taking over the situation.

Whatever you say, beat them to the punch: "I was so delayed by traffic today! I guess it's because I'm so fat, I could have driven faster otherwise."

"Sure is nice weather! I'd enjoy it more if I weren't so fat!"

"I got a B+ on my quantum physics test. All that fat cost me an A."

After a few hundred times, they might get a clue.

  • 1
    Welcome to Interpersonal Skills. We expect answers on this site to be more than just "Try this." Can you edit your question to provide some justification for why you think your suggestion will be helpful? – sphennings Feb 23 '18 at 22:17

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