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Wedding Woes

It's OK to not go home.

Dear Prudence,

I live on the opposite coast from my family, and over the past three years, I’ve gotten more active and lost a significant (but not drastic) amount of weight. Going home feels like time travel—my mother tries to force-feed me, and everyone else whispers that I secretly had surgery to get thin! I was bingeing and purging before the age of 10 because of my family’s attitudes. Visiting them made me throw up in the bathroom after eating “enough.” I don’t want this to happen again. How do I tell my parents that? All their texts are, “We need to see you again,” and “When are you visiting again?” Why does my family care what I eat?


Re: It's OK to not go home.

  • LW should call (not text) and tell their family exactly why they don't visit more often. If family is receptive and/or apologetic, give them another chance, but don't be afraid to call them out if they start force feeding or making rude comments again. If they don't shape up, leave, tell them why, and don't go back.
  • The LW definitely needs to have a talk ahead of time with the biggest offenders.  Sounds like her mom is one of them.  She should also stay at a nearby hotel instead of someone's house.  That would give her a place to "retreat", if it becomes too much.

    She should also memorize a few phrases, so she can say them confidently and sternly.  Like, "Thank you Mom, but no.  I could not possibly eat another bite."  If it persists, pull mom aside and "remind" her.  Tell her to stop it or she'll leave.

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  • This makes me sad. I’m assuming LW is a woman and it just drives me crazy over the obsession with women’s bodies and how people feel entitled to comment on them. LW needs to look out for her health above all else. If they can’t keep their comments to themselves they don’t get to complain about why she never comes home. 
  • you should call and really tell them how much your health means to you now. tell them everything you had been doing to loose your pounds to stop all the negative assumptions that are bad for your mental state. if they still continue to do this, i don't think it's safe to go home for the time being.
  • LW needs to go through the counseling end of post-disordered eating/food addictions...  She did the amazing thing of stopping the physical action, now it's time to deal with the triggers for a lifetime.  If visiting her family is causing her to relapse into bulimia, the real issue needs to be dealt with to create better coping strategies and how to get out of the situation gracefully before visiting in the future.  And yes, OA has some good resources because before going in she needs a strategy.  Saying "No" to the ultimate authority(ies) in her formative years is going to take some coaching and rehearsal.  Getting up from the table and putting her plate in the sink as well.  If people load up her plate, kindly get up and using a clean utensil put outside of the portion she chooses back.  "Push the plate away!  Step away from the fork!"..  Disordered eating and eating disorders are some of the hardest things to overcome because each meal forces the individual to confront their problem unlike other areas where you can have a house with no tobacco, alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc., you can't not eat.  Being out of the triggering environment is great (everyone sobers up in rehab), "then what happens when they're dropped back into the environment that caused the problem in the first place?" the LW needs to take the next step to know this story is not unique for keeping her change...  
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  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    An important skill the OP needs to employ (or learn first) is maintaining boundaries as an adult -- even (especially) with parents and other family members who refuse to respect them.

    It's hard to do and I'll be the first to admit that despite my fervent advocacy of enforcing boundaries, I have a weak track record with my own parents and others in my life who don't respect my boundaries. It happened recently, in fact, with my mother. That's a story for another thread.

    That said, getting back to the LW's case, she should set the boundary before returning home at all that the subjects of her weight, appearance and food consumption are permanently off-limits and she should be prepared to leave if her relatives do not respect that (which I suspect she'll have to do).
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