Ask Eliza: My Sister-In-Law Criticized My Son’s Weight, To His Face

Q: My sister-in-law said some really mean things to my boy about how he needs to lose weight before he goes to college or he’ll never get a serious girlfriend. I’m beyond furious at her but I know she’s kind of right, too. He’s very self-conscious and doesn’t want to put himself out there. Any ideas for what I can or should do?

A: First, I’m sorry she said those things  —  and you’re right, that feels mean spirited. His weight, and his worthiness for a partner have nothing to do with one another. 

However, you bring up a different point that does play a role here, and that is how he feels about himself. You mentioned he is very self-conscious and doesn’t want to put himself out there. This is holding him back from being the best version of himself, and therefore is very worthy of addressing. 

Whether it’s the weight that is making him self conscious, or if he is unknowingly holding on to the weight as a way to hide because he feels uncomfortable, it doesn’t really matter. 

The result is that he doesn’t put himself out there, therefore he doesn’t allow others the opportunity to really get to know him, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that he is not attracting friends or a partner.

The good news is that there are several ways for him to overcome this — and beginning this work at camp, with a group who is all going through the same thing, is a really powerful experience. 

Our camp curriculum:

  1. Will help him begin to separate body size from personal value.
  2. Engage him in activities and behaviors that make him feel empowered, which will ultimately help him step out of his comfort zone and open up to other people. 
  3. Helps him understand what makes him unique. Knowing what lights him up and what he’s authentically into will help him start to differentiate himself and draw him to a group of people who have similar interests. This type of work can be challenging for anyone to do, but especially for someone who is feeling self-conscious, which is why we embark on the journey together at camp. 

One last piece… perhaps you can tell your sister-in-law that you don’t like sending the message that his value as a partner is tied to his weight in any way, and could she please refrain from messages like that. 

If she wants to be helpful, she could:

  • Talk to him about ways to make him feel empowered.
  • Remark on unique qualities that she enjoys about him.
  • Or offer an idea to help him out of his comfort zone.