Sometimes A Parent's Words Can Bear The Weight Of The World

Illustration for article titled Sometimes A Parents Words Can Bear The Weight Of The World

When you're a child, your parent can seem like the earth, moon and sun. That's why an off-hand remark can inadvertently affect a child for life. In this month's O: Oprah Magazine, writer Lisa Dierbeck talks to comedian Margaret Cho, pro basketball player Tiffany Jackson, opera singer and controversial gastric bypass recipient Deborah Voigt, and actress Cindy Cheung about how their parents' actions and words impacted their body image. For Cho, her father told her after a dance recital she participated in at the age of 9 , "You're the fattest ballerina." Our girl Margaret continues, "It so destroyed me that I never wanted to dance again. He wanted to prepare me for a world that was not going to accept me because I think he experienced so much racism. He'd say, 'You're not pretty. And you're not going to be pretty.' I absolutely believed him." And parental action can be just as damaging as parental words.

Voigt, who was above a size 28 before her gastric bypass, said, "My mom had always fought with her weight, been on one diet or another. She had self-esteem issues around her weight. We were constantly going on diets. She'd say, 'You need to take some weight off.' I felt very self-conscious." My mom was always good about not commenting on my weight, but I do remember her maligning her own looks as nothing special on several occasions. The rub? My my mom and I look almost identical. Can you pinpoint any "fat ballerina" moments from your traumatic childhoods?

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You're The Fattest Ballerina [CNN via O: Oprah Magazine]

Earlier: Opera Singer Is Rehired After She Loses Over 100 Pounds Through Gastric Bypass

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Both of my parents have a thin fixation. My mom was better about it and we're very close so we've been able to have some very good talks about it...especially when I sat her down and explained by body dysmorphia, disordered eating, and being anorexic for most of high school and college was a compounded problem I can't just "get over".

My father and brother probably made the most hurtful comments...my father has said all of the following:

"Your mom was always really thin when she was younger. I think she weighed less than you."

"I'm always worried you'll become diabetic like your grandmother because you're small like her" (note, by grandmother was less than 5 ft tall and drank herself into diabetes).

"You used to be a lot heavier."

"Don't eat that, you'll get fatter."

And my brother always asks me if I've lost weight whenever I see him. I am not, by the way, overweight...but I feel overweight and hideous most of the time. I always felt compared to my mother who is very pretty and never quite measured up. My father told me a year or two ago that I had grown up to be a very pretty woman...I don't think he realized it was the first compliment he had ever paid me.