Does your mom, or someone else close to you, make you feel bad about your body? Does she comment on your weight or tell you how much to eat? She might think she’s helping but it’s doing more harm than good. Here’s my guide to get this to stop.

I’ve spoken to many women who tell me a similar story and ask me “how can I stop my mom commenting on or criticising my weight and body?”

  • “When I see my mom, she can’t help but comment on my weight – or tell me all the details about her latest diet. How can I get her to stop?”
  • “The last time I went to visit my parents, my mom berated me for having a second helping of food. I was so embarrassed. I ended up crying, leaving early and going through a drive-through on my way home”.
  • “My mom makes me feel bad about my body all the time. She has always made comments about my weight. She thinks she’s helping but I hate it. I’ve asked her to stop but she doesn’t.”
  • “My mom is obsessed with my weight. It’s all she talks about when we meet up.”
  • “When my mom criticizes my weight I feel so embarrassed. She maintains her weight through a combination of starvation, exercise and plastic surgery, but that’s not the path I want to go down.”
  • “My mother-in-law is always on a diet. She loves to talk to me about it but I hate it”.
  • “Both my parents make me feel bad about my weight. My mom calls me fat… I never know what to respond.”

And they all ask me: “How do I stop my mom criticising my weight and body?”

Weight and body comments do more harm than good

Maybe someone else who is close to you like your dad, a grandparent, your mother-in-law, a sibling or another relative feels the need to weigh in on your weight. Body shaming parents, heck body shaming from family (sadly) happens all the time. The advice I’m about to share will also work to get them to stop making comments.

They think by commenting on your weight or body or food – they are helping. But they are not. Perhaps you can relate? Research shows that teenagers whose parents comment on their weight are 66% more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. 

When people comment on your weight or body – or criticise how you look – it stays with you and affects your self-confidence and relationship with food. It does more harm than good.

On the left is a photo of me when weight-based comments started. The photo on the right is me 10 years later, while in the middle of binge eating disorder. Images: Lyndi Cohen
On the left is a photo of me when weight-based comments started. The photo on the right is me 10 years later, while in the middle of binge eating disorder. Images: Lyndi Cohen

About mothers who constantly criticize their daughters

Unsolicited comments on appearance suck, and they hurt even more if they come from your own parents. The truth is that IF your mom is commenting on your weight or criticising your body and food choices – it says a lot more about her relationship with food than it does about your size. She may be the one with disordered eating or a troublesome relationship with food. And telling her to stop criticising your weight and to stop commenting on your body is one way to make sure she doesn’t pass that on to you.

So I want to arm you with tools to help get your mom to stop commenting on your weight. Or anyone else who thinks that’s OK (when it isn’t). You don’t deserve to have someone body shame you – especially not your mom, your dad or a grandparent.

P.s. If you’re a mother reading this, you might want to read this post (Should I comment on my daughter’s weight?) or this one (10 things to avoid to raise children with a healthy relationship with food). Plus this one (How to teach your kids to eat healthily). And if you are more into listening to podcasts than reading blog posts, check out this episode of No Wellness Wankery.

Next time my mom makes me feel bad about my body, how can I get her to stop?

One of my followers said her mom tried to sneak a scale into her apartment after she told her not to. Another told me her mom has been commenting on her weight since she was eight years old. While another follower said her mom tells her that she looked better when she weighed less, even though it required very disordered habits to be that thin.

And I bet most of us can relate to being told to ‘pull in your tummy’. Research shows that while parents talk to boys about ‘growing strong muscles’, they tell their daughters to be careful not to gain weight. That’s sad. So let’s start to see if we can change that, yeah?

By the way, we also tackle this difficult topic on my podcast No Wellness Wankery. To get to the episode, click HERE.

Podcast No Wellness Wankery

Step 1. Start with empathy.

I really feel for women from the baby boomer generation – and earlier. They were hit so hard by dieting culture. Just think: counting calories and points, group weigh-ins, Jane Fonda workouts, weighing out food, Atkins and cabbage soup diets. They spent their lives being taught that dieting is good. And unlike the younger generations, they didn’t have anyone speaking up against diet culture, informing them that diets are harmful, slow your metabolism, increase your hunger and ultimately lead to weight regain and poor body image.

Having my mom always commenting on my weight sucked and I haven’t magically forgotten about it, but I found a way to deal with it. For me, I find empathy a useful tool to help relieve some anger I feel for past and present comments. Perhaps it can help you too?

Maybe your mom was raised thinking her worth as a person depended on her taking up as little space as possible by weighing less. Everything around her – including her friends – has encouraged her to diet and think of food as fattening and something to control. If she is commenting on your weight, she is still very much stuck in this harmful world. My heart is sad to think of how food and weight probably still control so much of her thinking.

📘💫BOOK TIP: If you want to stop handing down disordered eating like a family heirloom and raise kids who have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies – read my book Your Weight is Not the Problem. It’s been ranked the #1 Women’s Health book on Amazon for 10 weeks straight and is probably the best investment you’ll make in your health for under $30. Get the deets and access to a free audio sample of the book HERE.

Step 2. You’ve got to set seriously clear boundaries. 

For you to be able to feel comfortable eating with your family – without fear of judgement – it’s important to set clear boundaries about what sort of comments you won’t tolerate.

You will need to have a conversation with your mom (or whoever makes comments about your weight) letting her know that it is NOT OK. You choose to have this important conversation at a moment that feels best for you. Here are some conversation points that you can put in your own words:

  • “I want to talk to about something important. When you make comments on my weight or my body, it makes me feel…”
  • “I think you say these comments because you’re trying to help me but they have the opposite effect.”
  • “If you making comments about my body or weight worked, wouldn’t I be the weight you wanted me to be at by now?”
  • “When you comment on my weight or food it makes me feel less motivated. Your comments set me up for an unhealthy relationship with food and this makes healthy eating harder.”
  • “I would like you to please stop making comments like these. It’s not OK. I will take care of my own health, my body and my food. I do not need you to weigh in on what I eat anymore.
  • “Do you understand what I am asking you? Do you think you can respect this request? (it’s important to get an opt-in/agreement so that it’s clear what the arrangement is and that is effective immediately).

This conversation might not be easy. There may be tears (and there may be none)! But it’s an important one to tackle.

Lyndi Cohen by the beach after a swim
Like an ocean swim in the middle of winter, the conversation might not be easy. Image: Lyndi Cohen

Here’s how to respond to comments about weight and other possible (rude) outbursts:

  • “Do you just expect me to not comment on your eating when you stuff yourself with food?” –> “Yes, that is exactly what I’m asking of you. We can’t keep trying the same strategy and expect a different outcome. I’m asking you to respect my request”
  • “You’re just going to get fatter if I don’t comment” –> “It’s my body, so it’s my rules. If your comments helped me lose weight, I would have the perfect body by now. Your comments don’t help me manage my weight.”
  • “Sometimes the people who love you the most have to tell you the hard truths because no one else will” –> “If you love me the most, then you will respect me when I tell you it’s not OK to comment on my weight”.
  • “But you asked me to help you lose weight. You wanted me to help you eat less. I’m just doing what you told me!” –> “This is true. I did ask you to help me because I thought that it would help. But it didn’t. I made a mistake. And now I’m asking you to never comment on my weight/food. Can you do that for me?”
  • “It’s just a joke! Why are you always so serious? Geez” –> “It’s not funny to me. I’d really appreciate you finding something else to laugh about that isn’t at my expense”.

Step 3. Repeat those clear boundaries. As many times as needed. 

Here’s the most important part of the process. You need to be prepared for the fact that your mom – or another family member – will probably ‘forget’ that you asked them not to make comments or criticise your weight/body. They will try again.

I can’t explain why but I’ve learned from experience working with many clients that it takes more than one chat. Perhaps they find it hard to break the old habit. Or she has forgotten about the conversation. Or she is frustrated or is trying her luck. Either way – it’s not acceptable.

So when your mother – or another person close to you – comments on your weight again (even after you’ve told them not to) you need to firmly remind them that it is NOT okay.

Try something like this: 

  • “I notice that you’re {Insert offensive thing here e.g. commenting on weight again}. It’s really important to me that you stop these comments. It’s not OK.”
  • “I asked you not to tell me how much to eat or when I’ve had enough. My body will tell me how much food I need. I need you to stop commenting on my food and my body. Do you understand what I’m asking you?”

You can say it in your own way, of course, but I think you need to be firm. Especially if you’re not the ‘firm’ type of person – then it’ll hold even more conviction.

Mother and daughter on the ground smiling at each other
Unfortunately, this likely won’t be a one-and-done chat, but you’ll need to gently remind them. Image: Unsplash

Step 4. Continue to reinforce those boundaries as many times as it takes. 

So tedious. I know. Wish you didn’t have to. But you’ll need to keep those boundaries firm.

Additional edit: Another lovely follower reached out after I posted this and said her family would constantly make ‘jokes’ about her weight even they had unhealthy habits themselves. She had to speak to her dad three times to explain that what he thought was ‘being funny’ or a joke – was not. He finally got it.

Step 5. Don’t fall back into old patterns of talking to your mom or dad about weight.

After enough time has passed, there may come a time later down the track where you might want to talk about weight/food with your mom again. This might happen if you’re going through a period of weight change or habit change or learning a lot about yourself.

If you do go through this, find other people to talk to about food/your body so that you don’t complicate that relationship with your mom and food. You want your relationship with your mom to be about so much more than just weight, calories and numbers of almonds.

Step 6. Lead by example

There’s a chance that your positive relationship with food will rub off onto your mom by her watching you. This will be a great outcome. If you’re learning to accept and respect your body – and diving into things like intuitive eating – it might become intriguing for your mom. You can choose to navigate these non-weight based conversations however you like.

If you’re stable enough, I think there is an opportunity that you may help to improve your mom’s relationship by leading by example. Be the change you want to see, right?

Challenges you may face when trying to get your mom to stop commenting on your weight

Having family commenting on weight gain or loss is no fun, especially if it’s coming from your mom. It’s easy to resent your mom (or whoever makes comments about your body) because the message you’re being sent is hurtful. And harmful. And unhealthy. And it’s not ok. It took me a while to not feel angry about body comments. Even after they’d stop. 

Here are a few things that helped me not hold onto the anger:

Firstly, realise that your mom probably went through the same thing with her mom. She might have been told her whole life to stop eating or to pull in her tummy or that she was the wrong size.

That is sad to me. Try to imagine your mother being a child or the same age as you – receiving mean, unfair comments about her body. Think about how it might have hurt her and impacted her self-esteem. Without anyone around her to help unlearn what she was taught, she thought it was okay behaviour and passed it down to you.

I’m not saying her behaviour is OK. But having sympathy for your mom as a child helps you to let go of the resentment.

Lyndi Cohen with her son and Golden Retriever Panko at home
The good news is that it stops with our generation. Image: Lyndi Cohen.

What to do when your mom says hurtful things

I believe our mother’s, our mother’s mother – and possibly our great-great-grandmothers – have been passing down the same disordered eating and poor body image lessons from generation to generation. We will not pass down disordered eating advice to the next generation. 

Your mother’s generation is also a generation where the husband may have thought it was OK (it’s not) to tell her she looks fat – or needs to change her outfit before she leaves the house because he doesn’t like how she looks.

Plus, your mother is getting older and in a society obsessed with 18-year-old photoshopped models, she clings to the idea that looks are how a woman is valued – and then she puts that on you. No one taught her the essential life lesson that she is more than what she looks like. She grew up in a generation where a woman’s looks were her biggest asset. 

Another thing I think about is that our parent’s generation (baby boomers and older) were arguably hit the hardest by dieting culture. They are the generation who experienced Jane Fonda, calorie counting books, the Atkins diet and lived in a time way before ‘body positive’ was a hashtag or idea.

Back then, thinness was prioritised over health. Luckily, things have moved on. You can help your mom do that, too, by learning how to do it yourself – by becoming a role model. By becoming someone so self-assured and grounded (and someone who knows that it’s not worth sacrificing 95% of your life to weigh 5% less), your healthy thinking and actions may be passed on.

Some thought-provoking conversation starters

  • Mom – you’ve been dieting your whole life. If obsessing about your body worked, wouldn’t you be at your goal weight by now?
  • If you spent less time worrying about food, do you think you’d have more time for other things in life… and then perhaps healthy eating would become easier?
  • You’ve tried hating your body and it hasn’t helped you lose weight and keep it off. What if you tried accepting your body and see what happened?

You also might not create any change for her at all. And that is okay. As the time old saying goes: You can lead a mother to carbohydrates, but you can’t force her to eat them.

The tiny milk dictator and I. Image: Lyndi Cohen
If you can’t change her comments, at least you can, your response to them. Image: Lyndi Cohen

Your mom may never stop dieting. Or commenting on your weight. 

This is a sad – but important thing to realise – your mom may never change. You can set clear boundaries. And remind her that dieting is an off-limits topic with you, you can lead by example, but she may not ever ‘get it’.

Luckily, you can change how you respond to her comments – and see them for what they are, disordered eating and really crumby body image compounded over many years. You can feel grounded in what you now know. Have empathy for experience. And learn to be more like a duck letting water roll off its back. What a relief.

What to do when a family member comments on your child’s weight? 

If you’ve read this blog post Should I comment on my daughter’s weight? you’ll know that I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to comment on your daughter’s weight.

But what do you do when someone else (another family member perhaps) comments on your child’s weight – or another young person you love?

If it’s your child, then you set exceptionally clear boundaries with whoever is making these comments. You pull them aside and explain that it’s not OK for them to comment on your daughter or son’s body or eating. You draw a firm line so that you can protect your child from comments that will stick with them for life.

You can explain that kids who receive comments about their weight are 66% more likely to be overweight or obese. Plus – it sets them up for a complicated, un-intuitive, all-or-nothing approach to food. Be firm and stay firm. It’s important for your child’s health.

If you want a healthier lifestyle and better relationship with food check out my FREE 5-day course. I created it for people who’ve tried every diet and want to feel more in control around food again.

Free 5-Day Course. Image: Lyndi Cohen
Troubled relationship with food? I teach you all the strategies I used when I stopped binge eating in my free 5-day course.