Back off about my weight, Dad!

I’ve worked hard to become comfortable with my body, but my dad is still on my case.

You sound intelligent and self-confident, says our elder. Let your dad know you are proud of your body and give him the chance to change.

Dear EWC

I’m a 15-year-old girl and I can always remember being a little ‘bigger’ than my friends. I’m not obese by any means but, let’s just say that I have some extra padding in my thighs. Over the years, I’ve become much more comfortable in my body, but there are still times when I wish that I could have the time to lose weight. My shape was one of the factors that led to a moderate case of anxiety during middle school when everything was reshaping itself but my mind couldn’t keep up with it. Anyways, as I said before, I’ve begun to love myself, with or without a little extra.

That can’t be said about my dad. For my entire life, he has been pushing me to go swimming (which he thinks is the cure for all ailments) and, until my mom told him that it wasn’t alright to do that, he would constantly compare me to other girls we saw while we were out. I know that my weight isn’t abnormal for my age and that I’m fairly healthy, but my dad has resorted to bribery in order to get me to exercise, which I already do three times a week. I know that, in his eyes, I’m overweight and lazy when it really isn’t my fault that I don’t have time to swim after school every day. I’ve told him that I am trying to exercise more but it doesn’t mean anything to him. Honestly, the attention from guys that I’ve gotten after joining social media or the catcalls I get while walking the dog has done more for my self-confidence than my dad ever has. And I know that that’s not how it’s supposed to be. My dad doesn’t take me seriously because I don’t have a completely flat stomach, my butt isn’t perky and small, and my thighs brush when I walk. But if I want to be treated the same way that my brother is, I need him to understand that my weight doesn’t make me less human. I’ve approached this issue with him before, but he’s always brushed it off so I guess I’m just wondering how to let him know that I’m serious about standing up for myself.

Lincoln-Parker replies

It is refreshing to hear someone of your age speak with so much self-confidence and intelligence. You have a problem, and you are dealing with it very well. It is too bad that your father cannot accept you for the wonderful person that you are, but I have to cut him some slack. Sometimes as fathers, we love our children so much; we show it in the wrong way. We push them to be athletic stars or musical prodigies, and we don’t just let them be kids. We think we are helping them to be more successful and happier in life. In the case of your father, he thinks additional short-term outer beauty is going to make you happier; he doesn’t realize that at 15 you are already beautiful and evolving and will continue to grow over the next few years. The fact that you have a lot of friends that you exercise and take care of your health is a wonderful testament to your being that well-adjusted girl who is going to be very successful in life.
I have a daughter who, at your age, almost fit your description perfectly. (Yes, her thighs brushed when she walked.) The 15-year-old boys were finally catching up to her height, so she stood taller or wore higher shoes on occasion because she was not ashamed of her size; somehow she knew she was just maturing, and it was all going to work out over the next few years. Like you, she loved herself for the way she was. Her confidence and caring nature made her a leader throughout high school and college. Today she is a beautiful young mother with a great law career who continues to grow and make me proud. I sometimes regret that I used to be a little tough when she did not always meet my early expectations, because I was wrong. Like you, she had her own goals and expectations, and they worked very well for her.

By your description, your father does not come off as a mean-spirited person; it sounds as if he is just a bit misdirected. Perhaps he does not know that he is hurting your feelings or doesn’t realize the seriousness of subtle criticism. Dads can be very insensitive at times. You seem very strong, and I would suggest that use that strength to approach him directly to discuss the ramifications of his actions. Let him know that while you love him and suspect he thinks he is acting in your best interest, he is only hurting your feelings—you know that you are on the right track and you would like his support.

You indicate that your mother is aware of how you feel; I would bet that she would be happy to support you in any discussions. Mothers are great intermediaries when it comes to dealing with hard-headed dads.
If such a discussion does not change him, you have at least let him know how you feel and that you don’t plan to change your day-to-day routine to make be something that you are not. Go on living your healthy life, being a strong young person who loves life and her family. If he does understand where you are coming from; give him the opportunity to change, recognizing that he may at times slip back into daddy-knows-best mode. That mode works most of the time, but not always when dads are dealing with young daughters. When he slips, just let him know that this is your body, you are proud of it, and you are taking good care of it. Tell him to go swim a couple of laps to clear his head.

Good luck. I hope for his sake, that you and your dad and work this out. A daughter’s lifelong love is too important a thing. I wouldn’t want him to miss out on any portion of what a wonderfully strong person like you could bring to him.

Letter #: 422461
Category: Family

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