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Shame: Is it Keeping You (And Your Kids) Overweight?

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Every week I see young kids and parents who are seriously overweight and my heart sinks. No 11-year-old girl wants stretch marks over her belly and no 8-year-old boy should feel embarrassment and grief because he can’t keep up with his basketball team during sprints. But here’s the toughest part – most parents don’t want to address weight issues in their children because they (usually mothers in my experience) feel so much shame about themselves.

They feel shame on two accounts. First, parents feel guilty because their children are overweight and second, they feel ashamed because they honestly believe that they can’t control their own weight. So, they figure: how can I help my child if I can’t even control my own eating habits? And the parent and child stay stuck, trapped in bodies that feel like prisons. But I know this – any parent can break out of this cycle.

Most parents don’t address weight issues in their kids because they feel shame about themselves.

When parents feel deep-seated shame, we punish ourselves. That’s what shame does. It moves in like a beast with a thousand tentacles and strangles our minds, feelings and ultimately behaviors. Let’s look at how this works.

If a woman experiences sexual assault as a child, for instance, she subconsciously blames herself and then feels self -contempt. You know that feeling – the one that says “You idiot! How could you?” Or if a man feels abandoned as a child, he too will internalize those awful feelings and turn on himself. As we mature, this self-contempt talks to us saying, “You are a loser and you can’t win. In fact, you’ll never win – at anything.”

Then that woman or man becomes a parent and the voice of shame grows louder. It screams, “You are an out of control loser who will never be able to get your eating, anger, addiction (fill in your own blank) under control.” Your child grows and you begin to see yourself in the face of your young child. You stare at her/him and you are back at that time – when a particular hurt originally set in. Now you feel double shame – the part that began when you were a child – and now as the adult who feels you can’t break free.

Let me say this – you are NOT stuck. No parent is stuck and should ever be a prisoner to shame.

Yes, it is a real feeling but it is one which must never become embedded in you. You can rid yourself of shame and if you can’t seem to shake it off on your own, let me suggest you try God. If Christ was who He claimed to be, then accept His help to peel it off your back. That’s what He came to earth to do. To get you unstuck.

Many parents can’t lose weight because deep down, they don’t believe they deserve to be thinner, healthier or physically fit.

Shame has whispered, “Who are you trying to kid – everyone can control their eating but you. Being thin, healthy and fit is not in the cards for you so give it up.” So you eat the entire pack of Oreos and let your kids do the same. Shame has convinced you to give up on yourself and this, in turn, causes you give up on your kids.

Most parents’ weight issues have nothing to do with food or even overeating – they have everything to do with a deep belief that you can’t, and don’t deserve, to succeed.

Let me suggest some things that I have experienced really work for those of us who struggle with weight:

Tackle the beast of shame.

Stop thinking about the right diet or wrong foods. Ask yourself tough questions. Do you believe you can lose weight and that you deserve to? If your answers are no, then you are sabotaging yourself. The issue isn’t food – it is your beliefs about yourself.

Do battle in your head.

Dieting happens in your mind, not on food choices. If you bully your negative thoughts and refuse to believe that you can’t lose weight, then the deep knowledge that you can succeed sets in. You can give yourself permission to succeed.

Give yourself permission to succeed and be thin.

Shame is so powerful, it blocks the truth.

Quit believing that nothing works when it comes to losing weight. The low hanging fruit for you to pick off is the feeling that you must give up because nothing works. So you’ve tried for 50 years – try again.

Stop fearing food – it has no power.

You do. Many overweight women fear food because they see it as the thing that brings them down. This isn’t true – food doesn’t control you, shame does. So, put the blame where it should be. Food is a gift and is meant to fuel and help you. It is your friend and self-contempt is your enemy.

Here’s what I know.

You are capable of turning your body into whatever you want it to be. But first, you must wage war on that nasty 5 letter “S” word.


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