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Straight Talk TNT: Mom's harassment humiliates her overweight daughters

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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, Monterey: 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, Amherst, Mass.: 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 at a garden. Yet, I’m still overweight. When I lose weight, people find it okay 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, Redding: 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 I’ll show up. Nicole, 21, Grass Valley: 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. I also recommend checking your thyroid. Hannah, 17, Safford, Ariz.: 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, Huntington Beach: 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-work 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 under-functioning today. Get yours checked. Also check out Overeaters Anonymous (www.oa.org), an excellent “non band-aid” (and free) support group. ~Lauren For more discussion, to ask a question, or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit www.straighttalkTNT.com More from Lauren Forcella As a hypnotherapist, I have helped many people quit smoking. The principles are the same for any change. Step one is always finding that place deep within, even if it’s only for a fleeting moment, where the heart is opened in love and compassion for the “smoking” self (or in this case, the “fat” self). It sounds counter-intuitive, but this step of loving and having compassion for the flawed part of oneself is essential for change. Smokers almost universally hate their “smoking” self, just as overweight people have been conditioned to hate their “fat” self. The fat acceptance movement is helping overweight people love themselves as they are and I’m all in favor since I know this is the first step toward lasting change. The person can then lose weight out of self-love, versus self-loathing — which is the only approach that works in a lasting and sustainable way. I like it when parents help inspire their kids to be healthy, but it needs to be done from a foundation of love for the whole individual. We are more than bodies. You have to win over the mind and heart for a change to be successful.