I didn’t write this (wish I had). It was a comment written by a reader of my favorite advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, of the Washington Post.
My mother and brother do this [comment on my weight] obsessively, and I tried everything, over many years, to place appropriate boundaries. Smiles, brushoffs, polite requests — nothing worked. They knew about my decades of weight struggles, but never stopped going on about it. They also added in comments about my father and grandmother, who were both heavy.
Assertiveness is the skill of using adult, confident, polite, logical and clear communication. I finally said, “I am tired of your apparent assumption that you have the right to comment on my weight, or to grill me on what I eat, how much I exercise or anything else related to the topic. You cross a line into my space in doing do, and I want this to end. I cannot change your behavior, but if this happens again, I will leave immediately.”
It solved the problem partially.
They continue to comment on other people’s weight and exercise — rather like the way people with drinking problems notice everything people drink. I’m trying to work on an oblique approach too. I’ve tried: “I find myself counting the number of times you mention weight and exercise in a negative way in any conversation, when it has nothing to do with the topic. Why is this such an overwhelmingly important yardstick in so many situations?” Or: “Is this story about how fat everyone is and about their bad food choices, or is it a story about your seniors’ outing?”
Some people need boundaries. Sometimes you have to give them some.
These are wise, wise words.