Why Did My Parents Do This to Me?

Many sectors of Reddit.com serve the same purpose for grownups that Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website serves for the young — a place to connect with like-minded overweight and obese people. It is useful to compare experiences, blow off steam, and empathize with others who face the same struggles and ask the same questions. Adults have the extra advantage of retrospect. We look back with dismay or horror on our upbringings and wonder, “What the heck was that all about?”

Consider a post from a 22-year old woman going by the alias “spooky_tricks,” who at the time of writing weighed close to 238 pounds. At 16, she had been over 300 pounds or, in her words, “incredibly obese.” As a child, she was unable to run or jump, and predictably developed terrible eating habits. As a teen, she was very depressed, and ready to meet death at least halfway. Her entire young live was “absolutely destroyed”:

I thought I was the most hideous, disgusting, disfigured person on earth and it was all because my grandmother “loved me so much she had to feed me”, and because my parents accepted this and didn’t try to change it…

I’m doing well losing weight but it is a big struggle sometimes. I can lose all this weight but the stretchmarks and loose skin my caretakers forced me to develop will stay on my body forever.

Thinking back to her school days, spooky_tricks recalls overhearing one classmate say to another, “How did her parents let her get that big?” Later on, she asked herself similar questions:

Why did my parents let me eat so much? Why did my grandmother feed me so much? They must’ve been able to see that it’s not normal, they’re not blind or dumb. They must’ve seen how miserable being morbidly obese as a child made me.

Parents of overweight and obese children will immediately spot the fallacy inherent in these questions, however anguished. Sometimes the kids are just intractable. Short of locking up all the food there’s nothing you can do at home, and short of locking them in the house you can’t prevent them from slurping up sugar-sweetened beverages and a hundred other horrible things outside.

But for concerned parents who really want to help, another set of rules and warnings comes into play, as exemplified by Jacquelin Burt Cote’s title, “Telling Your Daughter She’s Fat is Not Your Job.”

This writer also carries a grudge, and for the opposite reason:

I was 8 years old when my well-meaning mother told me I was getting a little “chubby” and maybe it would be “fun” if we went on a diet together. Yes, fun! If by “fun” she meant that I’d be saddled with an at times severe case of anorexia for the next couple of decades, then sure!

I know that my mother thought she was doing me a favor by putting me on a diet, but all she did was make me feel unworthy of anyone’s love, particularly hers.

In other words, to a parent, it often seems like you can’t win for losing. Cote quotes Dr. Rick Kausman, who states that talking to a child about her or his weight is inevitably harmful, saying, “Nothing good can come from it.” The author regrets the years she spent obsessing over the number on the scale, and the self-debilitating practices that starved her into unproductive delirium.

Basically, one of the worst things a parent can do is buy into the societal myth that being fat is a fate worse than death or leprosy.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “There are no excuses,” Reddit.com, 2018
Source: “Telling Your Daughter She’s ‘Fat’ Is Not Your Job,” CafeMom.com, 02/10/15
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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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