Friday, August 21, 2009

Boundaries with Family

Well I need some help with what seems to me to be a difficult situation. I could use some help with this before I decide what action to take. I'd appreciate the thoughts of anyone willing to comment.


I got this email from my stepmother today responding to my reinforcing my boundary that we should not talk about my food, my weight and my health.... it read, "interestingly, once again i reread your communication and i totally understand your apprehension concerning discussions that might lead to disagreements causing you anxiety that you would rather avoid......i too like to avoid anxiety..

therefore i will share with you an apprehension of mine that creates anxiety for me.

it seems to me that when we take you out to dinner, you frequently order excessive amounts of booze and food and somehow i am put in the position of enabler by your maneuvering me into feeling that it is inappropriate to comment on or discuss.

i too want to avoid anxiety....does this mean we cannot eat out together??


Simple enough. I guess I will send her an email agreeing that we should avoid going out to eat together.


Then all the questions stared flooding my mind. What about the upcoming Jewish New Year dinner? Do I ask her if I am still invited to the Holiday dinner? If I do go, do I edit what I eat at the meal to make her feel better? Do I restate my boundary before the dinner. Does she find when we eat at her house different than when they take me out to a nice restaurant? If there is a family meal happening at a restaurant, do I decline the invitation knowing that she is monitoring what I order?


Do I say something to her to the effect that I would prefer that she not invite me to join them for dinner if what I order upsets her or do I say that I prefer she not invite me to a meal where she feel she is not able to honor my boundary.


I spoke with my brother about this today and he pointed out that there is no way to avoid uncomfortable situations


I have a boundary with my family that we not discuss my weight or my health. For the most part, my Father and Stepmom have honored it. I set the boundary in an email last October or September and my folks agreed and we went on for many months enjoying each other's company.


FEEL FREE TO STOP READING HERE. THE REST OF THIS POST IS THE HISTORY OF MY SETTING THE BOUNDARIES WITH MY PARENTS ABOUT DISCUSSIONS OF MY FOOD, WEIGHT, OR HEALTH. I INCLUDE IT BELOW FOR ANYONE THAT MIGHT FIND THE INFORMATION HELPFUL IN SETTING THEIR OWN BONDARIES


7/09 I spent two days with my parents at their home in the Berkshires the week before the ASDAH/HAES conventions. We had a great time. My stepmother pushed my boundaries a little with comments about my portions sizes. I also broke my own boundaries by trying to explain to them HAES and FA. This was a big mistake. I was feeling that initial excitement about how much finding this community seemed to be a complete game changer for me and my self concept. I quickly realized that finding a place where my parents and I can meet on the HAES concepts is not gonna happen.


On the 8/14 I got this email from stepmother:


so i was watching tv on the fitness channel which your father arranged to be the first thing that comes on when you turn on the tv.......and since i was busy with the computer, i didn't change the channel immediately...sometimes i like to imagine exercising from

my prone position in bed

anyway, to the point i heard this nutrition program where they gave you alot of excellent information

it concerned what to cook, how often to eat and talked about an exercise program... the name of the show was ultimate goals

and ps.. fyi...they talked about diet soda and it was a definite no no

because it contains aspartame which has the same effect as sugar on your system ....so the drink of choice was water


so i thought i would share with you

love, e


I responded with the email that follows reinserting my boundaries.


> Eileen,

>

> I think it is fortuitous that you sent out an email to me today as I just got home from a "check in" visit with Dr. Kim that she and I agreed would be a smart thing to do every 3 or 4 months.

>

> Guess who was one of the topic's of discussion? You're right, it was you.

>

> I really do appreciate your concern. I also think that we should stay away from this subject of discussion. When I visited you guys recently, I realized that I have too much emotionally vested in wanting your support and approval and when it comes to my food, weight, and exercise, it just can't happen cause we have different ideas about what is best for me.

>

> I like what we have going on and I think opening the door to discuss what and how I am handling my health decisions is just too dangerous a road for us.

>

> I'd love to tell you all of the great things I am doing for my health since I saw you last so that you can be proud of me and not worry about me. I also know that it can only turn into a debate about the difference in what your thoughts and my thoughts are about my health decisions which will lead to other unpleasant exchanges, and that would lead to me withdrawing and I like talking and hanging out with you.

>

> I will let you know that Dr. Kim and I are in total agreement with my course of actions and we plan to see each other for another "check in" in a few months.

>

> Let's find stuff to talk about like our Beloved President who is right now taking the podium for another "town hall" How can you not be happy to have such a wonderful President! am i right of what?



My stepmothers response to this was "about the president, we agree!!!!!"


Well at least my boundary was back up. She implied she disagreed with my boundaries but I felt I could count on her to respect them.


Then a few days later, I got this from her..


hi again

i reread your message and i am sure you are right about sticking to safe topics to save all of our feelings

i hope you are having a great day

love,e


Great, right? I'm feeling good. We are going to move forward with our awesome relationship.


Then the email that I started this post came this morning...


Prior to this I sent a great email last october that put up the boundary making discussion of my eight, food and health off limits. It worked really well for all of us until this past month.


here it is.


Dad/Eileen,


While I am not great, I am okay. Getting back to work is a good thing (getting out of the apartment each day, etc) More good things will come, in time.


The work situation is a disappointment, the team there is unmotivated, the branch location is out of the way without a lot of new business coming in, the leaders in the branch do not follow direction from the Market Leaders. So a lot of the things I loved about the Job before I left, aren't part of the Job in this slot.


I do enjoy the day to day interaction with the customers. I do also know that I am lucky to have a job. The ability to move around and get back and forth to and from work is amazing.


I still see Dr. Kim as needed.


There is nothing you can do for me to speed up any part of my recovery or health. Nothing you can do about my weight, my job situation, my moving from okay back to great. Only I can do that. Only I can find the motivation, the willingness to do more.


I wish that every time we see each other didn't trigger in you concern and worry, but I know that this is not possible. I wish there were things for you to be happy about, excited about. Hopefully soon.


I hope we can find a way to hang out and see each other and enjoy each other's company.


I know you are concerned, worried and want to see me doing something more than I am doing. I will do more in time. Right now, giving myself credit for getting back to work and showing up there everyday has got to be enough. I cannot get down on myself right now. Only bad things can come from me delving into regret and disappointment in myself. I will not go there.


Discussions and communications between us about why I am not doing more, or suggestions of what I can do next can only lead to frustration and heartache, and, ultimately to me avoiding you guys. I don't want that.


Let's just hang out or get together when we all feel we can focus on things other than what I am going to do for myself, or how you can help me feel or do better. We all know that this road leads to nowhere good.


I like the email chess exchange, it is a nice way to stay in touch and enjoy something together.


I am hanging in there, showing up or work, expecting good things to come my way.


I love you and am very grateful for your Love and help and concern.


Ivan








16 comments:

  1. Hi - new to your blog. Here via the SP sidebar.

    I try not to underestimate how complex family dynamics are, especially those that have built up over time.

    In those circumstances (frequently involving manipulative and dysfunctional dynamics, yay!), I'm also not afraid to work from a script, or to get suggestions from a pro.

    Do you have a therapist you trust that you can take a copy of this post to and get suggestions from, and then just use them verbatim/adapt as needed?

    'Cause that sounds like a whole box of family complicated to me.

    (Wow. Sorry for the book on a first comment.)

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  2. Hi I too just found you from the fatosphere link. I'm a bit confused about your stepmother's comment on how she is "enabling" you when you eat out together. Is she buying your food and drink? Or encouraging you to eat/drink it? If not I'm not sure how just sitting next to someone is enabling them. If she is uncomfortable with your behavior and does not like to be around it, then, in my opinion, it is *her* responsibility to take care of herself in that situation. If that means that she gets up and leaves or doesn't invite you out that is her choice. But, again, in my opinion, it is not your job to make her feel comfortable by changing you eating habits. You have set a boundary on what you would not like to talk about together and it is up to you to enforce that boundary. In the same way, if she wants to set her own boundaries with you that is her own business and it is her business to enforce them. I wouldn't get too far ahead of things worrying about holidays just yet. I'd just take it one thing at a time. But, that is only my opinion! Good luck!

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  3. This post really resonated with me. I'm a fat chick who has recently gotten into FA, and I'm amazed at the adverse reactions I've gotten from family and friends.

    I don't have much concrete advice, but I do want to congratulate you on setting such clear, well-defined boundaries with your family; I know that isn't easy.

    I can't tell you how to navigate this family situation, but I will say two things.

    First, whatever you solution, you should not have to "edit" your eating habits, just to please your family. What you eat is none of their business.

    On a similar note, don't feel like you need to exclude yourself from family functions, because others might have a problem with your eating habits. There's nothing wrong with avoiding a situation that might make you crazy, but don't think you don't have the right to celebrate with your family!

    All the best, and Shannah Tovah!
    Simone

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  4. One thing I truly believe Ivan... people do not have any right to comment on what or how you eat.

    If your stepmother has a problem with how you're behaving when you are out with her, that is one thing. But for her to comment on your eating habits is not acceptable.

    I do agree with littlem that having someone professional help you with skills or scripting to tackle this issue. It has certainly helped me.

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  5. Hi, Ivan. Another Shapeling here. I'm inclined to agree with Jackie all the way on your stepmother's “enabling” accusation. What, in my view, she is saying is, "In refusing to discuss your weight and health with us, you are robbing me of my right to control you and that pisses me off”. I’m Jewish too – and If that’s not a textbook example of classic Jewish familial guilt-tripping I don’t know what is.

    I’m sure she’s justifying her perceived right with the belief she has your best interests at heart but nonetheless she’s throwing a strop, (as we Brits are wont to say), because she doesn’t like being told your business isn’t her remit. Frankly, unless you’ve ordered every damn thing on the menu at the costliest joint in town plus two dozen bottles of vintage Champagne and she is footing the bill, it is inappropriate for her to comment on or discuss your choices. Furthermore, you’ve told her you liaise regularly with your doctor and that he is supportive of your outlook and choices. In short it’s your boundary-setting not your eating habits that’s really bugging her. Ultimately it’s up to her to recognise and deal with the fact that the only thing she’s truly “enabling” by refraining from comment is your autonomy – something, as adults, we all have a genuine right to.

    Your brother is right. There’s no getting around the fact that, from time to time, uncomfortable conversations will have to be had in order to achieve a measure of harmony. If I were you I would gently but firmly put the ball back into her court by making it up to her whether she chooses to eat with you or not. If she subsequently chooses not to include you in a family celebration simply because she can’t resist the urge police your food intake that’s probably not going to make her feel good either. My guess is that she’ll probably come around in time. That would be my wish for you but, if she doesn’t, would you really want to spend a holiday being the object of her exasperation and despair?

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  6. Hi Ivan,
    I'm impressed with how new you are to these FA and HAES concepts yet trying to embrace them wholeheartedly.
    I'm Jewish, too, and celebrations are so intertwined with food. I also think that many Jewish people (but certainly not only Jewish people) have this idea that our bodies are communicating so much about us to the world and we need to "reign them in" so as not to attract negative attention to ourselves.
    I think of health as multi-faceted, and it sounds like you are aware of the need for social opportunities that are outside of your family and in other settings -- I definitely recommend seeking these out. I have found that spirituality is an essential part of my acceptance path (such as gratitude, which I read in your post about Crohn's disease) and I have looked beyond solely Judaism to be informed by other spiritual practices in order to continue. I'm still solidly grounded in Judaism, though.
    I think as you find other places to interact, experience friendship and caring, your family's opinions may not matter quite as much. You are already on this path.
    It sounds like you love dance, and I wanted to let you know about a dance community that you might feel comfortable in, it's called 5 Rhythms, and people of all sizes and abilities are welcome. If you go to this link, and then click on schedules on the left, look for NYC, you might find a time and place that work for you.
    http://www.gabrielroth.com
    I recommend checking out a few different classes, or calling to let the instructors know your situation. I know that in the class I am in, if someone were dancing with a walker, that would be entirely okay (as long as it was compatible with the dance floor's surface).
    I have found it incredibly healing to relate to other people through dance -- this form of dance in particular -- as people first and foremost are relating to my body, not my mind. It isn't sexual, although it can be sensual.
    While food is such a central aspect of Jewish celebrations, I think it's also fine to get together and spend time together without the expectation of always eating together. I know I get stressed out around my family and food. I set a boundary a long time ago around what my parents can comment on about my weight and food, and they mostly respect it.
    Your body, it sounds like, is amazing, and has helped you survive some hellish circumstances. I hope that as time goes on, people who don't come from families that support and accept them as much as would be ideal can find other communities that will. I know that OA operates as a community for many but is not about "acceptance" and can pathologize people and behaviors in alienating ways.
    My Rosh Hashana wish for you would be that you seek out opportunities to be loved and accepted as you are in the moment (and we are all always evolving and changing) and that you find more peace and more opportunities to shake your groove thing.

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  7. Hello nycivan! Welcome to the fatosphere! We need more men posting about these topics. I admire you for trying to set those boundaries. About the Jewish familial guilt-tripping - it's a shame that's what's been kept and the OTHER tradition, the one about feeding people till they damn near explode, has been lost. I may be exaggerating a tad, but if you ever find the old book, How to be a Jewish Mother, you'll find at least a chapter on how to accomplish this.
    Your stepmother sounds like she has something in common with my mother, namely that once she gets fixated in a topic, she can't let go until the topic is resolved to her satisfaction. If I was with my mother, she'd yell, close her eyes and talk on top of me. If not, she'd clip articles (this was the pre-Internet era) and send them to me.
    Well, enough reminiscing. Sometimes you have to show that you mean business. Go to the family dinner on the agreement that she'll respect your boundaries, and if she doesn't then WALK OUT. I know that sounds extreme, but there are just some people who won't listen unless you figuratively smack them upside the head.
    If you're sure it's going to be a lost cause, then check out some local synagogues and see if you can get yourself into a nice dinner with more congenial people.

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  8. Hi, Ivan.

    I'm not in contact with my mother right now, but when I was, I did manage to get her to stop talking about my body etc. The bottom line is, she was embarrassed of my body, and always has been. It caused me a lot of body shame growing up. So I called her out for it once when we were shopping together and she got upset that I *dared* to try a particular top on.

    What's going on here is that your stepmother has a discomfort about you, and she wants YOU to fix it. But it's HER problem. If you identify it to her as hers and hers alone, she can no longer force you to try to take responsibility for it. This can take time, and a few unpleasant encounters.

    Here's a possible conversation.

    SM: Nag nag nag.
    You: It seems like you're embarrassed about my body and what I eat.
    SM: No, I'm just worried about you.
    You: I've got things under control with my doctor and you know that. This isn't about that. It's about the fact that you're uncomfortable with my body. You're embarrassed of me. Well, I'm not embarrassed, and I'm happy to be who I am. It seems like the package I'm in is more important to you than who I am inside, because you continue to try to discuss my body and my health when I've clearly stated that I would prefer not to do that.
    SM: *sputters* (embarrassed and/or angry) But you're fat!
    You: Yes, but I'm not YOU. My fatness is mine to deal with as I choose, the same way that you have get to choose how to treat your body.
    SM: But, but but...
    You: I've let you know how I feel and I'm not going to have this conversation with you again. If you continue to treat me as you have been then you are letting me know that I'm not as important to you as the prospect of my having a thin body. Do you really feel that way? If not, please be respectful of me. And if so, you're going to have to think really hard about what that means.

    Good luck if you decide to go this route. You could put it in an email, but it will be way more effective face-to-face. Try to do it on neutral territory (definitely not at your parents' house). If your SM is completely unreasonable, she may go on as if you've never had this conversation. At that point, I would say something like, "I see you're still really embarrassed about me and are having trouble coping with that. I can't help you but I hope you find a way to resolve it." See where that takes you...

    Maybe I'm an asshole and this is too hard a stance. There is the potential for the relationship to fall apart. That is always in the back of my mind, but it's a chance I'm always willing to take because if you don't, then the relationship will not grow and change and improve. I've had to cut a lot of people out of my life, including family, for being really horrible to me. In fact, my relationship with my mother fell apart because I asserted myself to her and she stopped talking to me. (No, I wasn't rude or horrible to her, I just told her (calmly) that I don't need to hear for the millionth time that I'm always the problem in every situation when a) it's patently untrue, and b) it doesn't help me to solve any problems because it's not constructive or helpful (especially because it's not true). *That* caused my mother to stop talking to me, so I'm used to dealing with unreasonable people. You are not alone.

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  9. I am very grateful for the comments from everyone. I have been banging this around with my peeps at ASDAH and FAT STUDIES yahoo groups and have just logged into my blog to see the comments...

    I am going to post the interactions from the yahoo groups separately but I wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who chose to post.

    littlem - i do have a great therapist that has helped me a lot with issues around my parents and I did use her advice here. Please feel free to comment on my blog in any length you feel appropriate. Apologies are never necessary

    Jackie - I too wondered about her use of the word enabling. My brother helped me to see that my stepmother thinks that honoring my no talk boundary is enabling. He thinks it has nothing to do with who pays the check. I agree with him. I also think you are spot on about separating taking care of myself and my stepmother's responsibility to take care of herself.

    Simone - I love my family and I too do not want to sacrifice celebrating with them. If I am invited to a function, I expect my parents to honor my boundaries. They usually are tame when the entire family gathers. I agree with you that I do not have to edit my eating or drinking for anyone.

    Sleepy - I think the only behavior my stepmother is concerned about is the volume of food I eat when we dine out. I do not think she wants to comment on anything else. I like that she honors the boundary and asks me questions about it instead of violating the boundary in public.

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  10. I am very grateful for the comments from everyone. I have been banging this around with my peeps at ASDAH and FAT STUDIES yahoo groups and have just logged into my blog to see the comments...

    I am going to post the interactions from the yahoo groups separately but I wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who chose to post.

    buffpuff (great name) My dear stepmom truly does feel it is her duty to keep trying to help me save me from myself. Hence he boundaries. My parents are very clear that I will remove myself from their presence if they violate my boundaries so they don't. They too see the wisdom in staying off the subject when agreement on what is best or me isn't possible. Another thing that we do at the family holiday functions is sit on opposite ends of the table. With all my siblings, in-laws, nephews and niece creating a human buffer zone between us so I think the family functions will be okay. I do have to be honest and I am bracing myself to be uninvited to the function just in case.

    wellroundedtype2 - (background music to this part of my post is "shake your groove thing") I am so happy to have found the FA community and I am developing my network of support. I personally find the OA rooms toxic to my FA/HAES goals so I stay away from them. I do have a very rich spiritual life ( although I call it LAW of Attraction now). Thanks so much for the lead on the dancing. I am going to the link right after I finish this post.

    mapeltree - we do have the same mother. my step mother sees it as familial duty to save me from my eating. there is not room in her worldview for the aspects of HAES/FA that look to me like a passport to a sense of worthiness and self esteem that has been absent in my life up to n now. I am willing o completely divorce myself from relationship with them if they do not honor my boundaries. That being said, while they do not agree with my choices, they do see the wisdom in not discussing them. hence to response to my step mom below. I am a non practicing jew so the only think about the holiday that is important to me is spending time with my family. I do not think I will have to miss that. My parents have come a long way in respecting my boundaries even before I found FA/HAES, and in fact, I was the one who broke my own boundaries when I tried to explain to them how excited I was to find this community of folks. Big Mistake

    Simone - I am grateful for your generosity with the time you took to respond. I never thought about my stepmother being embarrassed of me. I wonder. She is a fat hater and enjoys her thin privilege without realizing it. I truly think that her concern for me is about her belief that I am going to die from the evil fat and then frustration that she cannot get me to see that she is right and I am wrong. I actually will not engage anymore in conversation that violates my boundaries and since I set up the boundaries last October, I have only had to threaten to leave their presence twice when they wanted to talk about my health and both times they backed down. They don;t like it, but they do honor the boundaries.

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  11. a note from another list from L.....


    Ivan - I want to say that I really appreciate your struggle with your family, as
    it is very similar to mine with my mother, who will go to her grave "knowing"
    that she was right about my weight and, even though none of her dire-est
    predictions haven't come true, IT'S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME.

    The other thing she will never know is how much of my life I have spent playing
    what I call "catch up ball" - getting to the place in identity and self-esteem
    and confidence and (hopefully appropriate) pride in my gifts and talents -
    getting to that place where probably most people are by about their 18th
    birthday.

    She will probably never even begin to realize how much I have forgiven her. And
    don't get me wrong, I took my sweet time - decades - doing that. And even though
    she knows we had some "rough" years, she will also never know how incredibly
    angry I was with her. Sadly, she will never "know" I would say 90% of the
    relationship we really had. And she mostly the enjoys the 10% she thinks is our
    real relationship.

    This is not to say I didn't try.....but her denial system, bordering on
    delusional - is so fixed and so important to her whole existence (not just
    concerning me and my weight or politics or whatever) that I did finally have to
    realize - and grieve - that it was impossible for her to ever change.
    AND....give myself permission to stop trying and honor myself for what I had
    tried. There was a day, I'm not sure what day, I don't remember it - but there
    was a day when I said to myself, L......, you have done ENOUGH. And that is
    good.

    I don't know if your stepmother is ever going to get any farther than my mother
    did. You do have more enjoyment from your family at large than I ever did, so
    maybe, maybe.... But please don't hurt yourself waiting for that, and certainly
    not trying to make it happen.

    But if there ever is a day when your stepmother opens herself a little to the
    real conversation (and the real relationship), you might want to share with her
    the chapter in Clarisse Goodman's wonderful book The Invisible Woman that
    compares anti-fatism to anti-Semitism. Maybe there would be some talking points
    there.

    Meanwhile, I do hope you continue to enjoy yourself. In every sense of that.

    Warmly,
    L

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  12. My response to L;

    L,

    Thanks for your post. Playing "catch up ball" became a lot more fun having
    found the FA team to play with. I think I am finding myself at that "ENOUGH"
    point with my parents. Who knows what the future may bring, however, I can't
    envision a time where my stepmother would ever see any merit in our position on
    Fat Acceptance.

    So it boils down to me navigating a place where I can enjoy my family and honor
    myself and my decision to accept my fat. That's where my boundaries that I not
    only defend against them trying to show me the error of my ways, but that I
    honor against my desire to get them to see merit in my fat acceptance create a
    safe place for us to have that "10%".

    I don't think there will ever be a day where my Stepmother can open herself up
    to a "real relationship" as she is a stubborn woman and stands by her
    convictions, which, interestingly enough is a quality of hers that I admire even
    though it is this very quality that takes from us the ability for each of us to
    know each other on a more authentic basis.

    the following was a post to FAT STUDIES I made that fits here also...

    Something that is coming to light for me is how important the reconciliation of
    the emotional effects our fat hating parents had on us. I think for newbies like
    me to FA this is something that most of us go through. I'd imagine many of the
    therapist brains in this community could phrase this in a much smarter way.

    I realize that my parents will never understand FA/HAES and that there will
    always be a part of me that will want them to understand, want them to approve.
    I have to honor my boundaries as well as insist that they are honored. (I broke
    the boundaries when I went to their house and tried to share with them how
    excited I was to find the FA/HAES community.)

    As far as my stepmom goes, I sent her the following yesterday morning;

    "I think that there is no reason you should feel anxiety when dining out. So
    let's find other reasons to get together instead of eating. I want to enjoy my
    time with you. Your respecting my boundaries about no discussion, comments,
    advice, etc. about my food, weight, movement or health is very important to me.
    Your feelings are important to me. Thank you for letting me know about them so
    we can figure out these things together. So yes, I think we should not go out to
    eat together if the boundaries I have trigger uncomfortable feelings for you. I
    look forward to having lots of fun with you going forward. Cheers, Ivan"

    I do not think I will have to, nor do I want to, however, I am prepared to
    completely divorce myself from my parents if they refuse to honor my boundaries.
    I don't need them to understand why the comments are abusive, I just need them
    to understand that I will not be in their presence if they make them.

    It is a sad realization to think that my parents view my life choices as
    harmful, misguided, and dangerous. It is sadder still when I realize that I
    bought into those views for the first 42 years of my life. It is sad that they
    cannot see in me what the folks in this community can.

    It is also amazing and wonderful that the folks in this community can see me,
    period.

    Cheers,

    Ivan

    ReplyDelete
  13. a note from l

    HI Ivan,
  I just read your whole post on the fat studies list.
  Just wanted to let you know I appreciate you for setting good boundaries and re-asserting them with your stepmother Eileen.
  Her recent e-mail was incredibly manipulative.  Ugh.
 I’m sure she’s a good person and has a lot of well-meaning intentions, but, as we say in the anti-racism  and diversities training fields; good intentions is not an excuse, you also must be responsible for the effect of your actions and inactions, regardless of intent.
  I wish she could see how toxic commenting on portion size, food choices and/or exercise options is to those she directs it at.
  She has the definition of “enabling” all twisted around. 
Sounded like she wants to blame you for HER OWN interpretation that she is enabling you to be “bad.”
 HUH?!!!
  Anyway, hang in there, love yourself, take care of yourself and your beautiful body, mind and spirit,

    L.....

    my respone

     
L.......,

I thought about her meaning of enabling as I processed the letter. One of my
first thoughts was that I could offer to pay my own way when my folks take me
out to dinner. My brother's take on it was that it wasn't about her paying for
the meal, but her not being able to comment on what I order that made her feel
like an enabler. My brother's interpretation felt more on the money.

And yes, her worldview doesn't allow her to see the merit of anything I am doing
in FA/HAES. She can only see it as an excuse or self justification so I don't
have to lose weight. She really does see what I am doing as a risk to my life. 
So do most americans. It is a function of our economy, our culture.

Getting her to even consider an alternative view of fat is not possible. Hence,
the boundaries enable us to have a relationship. I don't spend my free social
time with anyone who judges my choices on how I live my life as misguided,
wrong, selfish, etc. Then there is the Family is Family sentiment. I choose to
forgive her judgements of me as long as when we are together she doesn't voice
them, even if she can only see those judgements as loving concern.

Those truths aside, she writes that I have maneuvered her into a position where
her choice to honor my boundary translates into her enabling me. I responded to
her email with a comment that we should not dine together if she is
uncomfortable honoring the boundary. So I preserve a place where we can have a
relationship, which is important to me even if it means not being invited to
certain family functions. If I am invited, I will attend with my boundaries in
force. ( and I'll eat whatever the f*ck I want! :)

Cheers,

Ivan

    ReplyDelete
  14. note from m...

    Hi all,



    I'm very new here and should probably lurk for a month or two before adding my
own thoughts to anyone's thread but for reasons that are obvious to me and maybe
a few other group members, I'm going to forgo that waiting period.

Ivan, from what I'm reading, your stepmother gives you a lot of grief about your
food choices and health when you visit her and your father. I had this problem
myself.

My father was a very fat-hating individual and he was ashamed by my size. He was
of average size. My mother was fat, as were all of my grandparents. Both sets of
grandparents were from Eastern Europe and emigrated to the US in about 1915 and
my parents were married during WWII.

After my mother died in 1976, my father married a thin woman. Now he finally was
able to be with a woman whose body he could enjoy and be proud of! Not her mind,
but her body.

I'd visit them in California before my father died 16 years ago. Over and over
we'd have the same discussions about weight and health and food choices, which
chair I chose to sit in and clothing, etc.

We were watching the Academy Awards one night when Audrey Hepburn was hosting.
Ms. Hepburn was very beautiful but very thin. At the time of the awards, it had
become public knowledge that she was dying of cancer, so she was looking
positively skeletal. Both my father and step-mother were saying how good she
looked, how *thin*. I asked them how thin a person could be, short of being
dead, before they would no longer be called good looking. I got silence, of
course.

Usually we'd eat at their house but one time we went out to dine.
I can't remember what kind of restaurant it was, but when I looked around I
didn't see any armless chairs. I didn't have the gumption to ask for a chair
without arms at the time. I must have said something to my father about this
problem because he said,

"If you can't fit into the chairs at a restaurant you don't deserve to sit down.
You can stand there and eat your dinner while we sit and eat ours."

I left the restaurant and waited outside for them, crying.

It wasn't too long after that then they came to Portland to visit with my sister
and me. I had just discovered Radiance Magazine and with its help, learned
enough self-confidence to confront my father and his wife. I won't go into what
I said now or how they reacted to it now, but it was a *very good thing* that I
spoke up when I did.

My heart goes out to you and I wish you strength and conviction in dealing with
your family and I hope they can hear your point of view.

Now I'll shut my mouth for a while again. I'm not sure how to show my signature
file on this list, but my name is



    M....

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is my response to Mara's note in the previous entry which includes my response to my stepmom.



    M....,

Thanks for your post. Sadly, I too have memories that are as painful as the
ones you related.

Something that is coming to light for me is how important the reconciliation of
the emotional effects our fat hating parents had on us. I think for newbies
like me to FA this is something that most of us go through. I'd imagine many of
the therapist brains in this community could phrase this in a much smarter way.

I realize that my parents will never understand FA/HAES and that there will
always be a part of me that will want them to understand, want them to approve. 
I have to honor my boundaries as well as insist that they are honored. (I broke
the boundaries when I went to their house and tried to share with them how
excited I was to find the FA/HAES community.)

As far as my stepmom goes, I sent her the following this morning;

"I think that there is no reason you should feel anxiety when dining out.  So
let's find other reasons to get together instead of eating. I want to enjoy my
time with you.  Your respecting my boundaries about no discussion, comments,
advice, etc. about my food, weight, movement or health is very important to me.
 Your feelings are important to me.  Thank you for letting me know about them so
we can figure out these things together. So yes, I think we should not go out to
eat together if the boundaries I have trigger uncomfortable feelings for you. I
look forward to having lots of fun with you going forward. Cheers, Ivan"

I do not think I will have to, nor do I want to, however, I am prepared to
completely divorce myself from my parents if they refuse to honor my boundaries.
I don't need them to understand why the comments are abusive, I just need them
to understand that I will not be in their presence if they make them.

It is a sad realization to think that my parents view my life choices as
harmful, misguided, and dangerous. It is sadder still when I realize that I
bought into those views for the first 42 years of my life. It is sad that they
cannot see in me what the folks in this community can.

It is also amazing and wonderful that the folks in this community can see me,
period.


    Cheers,

Ivan

    ReplyDelete
  16. A note from K..... on another list as well as my response to her.




    Wow!  Ivan, it sounds like you have been really clear with her that you don't want to talk about these issues.  Sometimes, you just need to keep reinforcing those boundaries.
 
I wonder if you can reframe not wanting to talk about food/weight issues not as something that would cause anxiety or conflict, but as something that you believe very strongly in.  Provide her with a copy of Linda's book.  Tell her that this is probably not an area that you will agree on, but that you feel this is a positive direction for you in approaching your health.
 
I would put the restaurant thing back on her.  Ask her what she suggests, since clearly you don't want to talk about this issue (and certainly don't want to have a family gathering with food suddenly focused on your "food issues"). You can reinforce that you are already fully aware that she thinks you have a problem and that continued discussion is not going to convince you to change.
 
It sounds like it's going to be a hard road.
 
Peace,
K......



    Thank you K......,

thanks for the suggestions. one of the things I want most is my parents to see
me. most of the time all they can see is my fat and their perceived risks to my
health from the evil fat. I have sen hem several links over the last months to
HAES friendly news articles and blog posts none of which they read.

My stepmother is quite a stubborn woman and has made her decision that HAES and
FA is fine for folks that are not as fat as I am and this community are a bunch
of fat people who want to find excuses for staying fat. She is blinded by her
belief and concern that I am going to die from being fat. This is why I
determined that the only way for us to have a relationship is to not discuss my
weight, food, or health. Which sort of leads me to an answer to my question of
what to do. I am thinking right now that I should respond to her question about
if we can no longer go out to eat together by letting her know that whatever she
needs to do to take care of herself I support, unless it involves breaking the
boundary I have set about discussing my weight, food, health.

I don't like ill feelings between me and the folks. If defending my boundaries
results in ill feelings or uneasy ones, so be it. although I would not want to
miss getting together with all my siblings, nephews and niece for the Jewish
Holiday in September.

Cheers

Ivan

    ReplyDelete