Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week … do your diet-obsessed in-laws need a Come to Jesus talk? Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
My in-laws have always been majorly into fad diets for as long as I’ve known them. I never paid much attention to it until I had kids, and they began projecting their fatphobia onto them by monitoring snacks, pushing for exercise, etc. My partner and I have been pretty clear with them that we don’t want that shit for our kids, and it basically goes in one ear and out the other. We’ve recently begun seeing them again now that everyone is vaccinated, and because of the pandemic my in-laws have basically tripled down on their fatphobia—it’s the worst it’s ever been. Our kids went and stayed with them for a weekend while my partner and I had some much-needed post-pandemic alone time and when they returned they said Grandma thinks they need to do keto. No joke. And that she made them do laps around the neighborhood before they could have snacks. What the f*ck do I do here? I’m this close to staying away from them completely.
Oh, dear. I can imagine how troubling it was when you heard your kids describe their weekend at what sounds more like The Biggest Loser camp than a weekend at Grandma and Grandpa’s.
Turning food and exercise into some warped currency/reward/punishment trio of doom sure doesn’t sound like a fun time to me. Grandma’s house is supposed to be filled with endless snacks and meals and no bedtimes and lots of happiness and love. You need to tell your in-laws if they aren’t capable of keeping their fatphobic projections to themselves so their growing grandchildren can enjoy time with them without feeling self-conscious about their eating habits and their bodies, then they don’t get to have time with their grandkids. Full stop.
I have empathy for them in the sense that they, too, are victims of a pervasive and neverending diet culture even now, at a more advanced age. It just shows that no one is immune to succumbing to societal pressures to meet beauty standards. It’s sad. Very sad.
But keto? For a kid? Because grandma says so? Absolutely not. Food should never be earned; it should be freely provided. No one’s forcing Nan and Pap to buy KitKats and Twinkies; they can fill their fridge and cupboards with any number of things that kids love that won’t make them feel inclined to monitor their grandkids’ intake. Though kids only binge when they feel restricted and judged, and since you don’t mention that your kids struggle with bingeing, I’m going to assume they don’t and that this is just another way your in-laws have dropped the ball on functional grandparent/grandchild relationships.
Making your kids do laps around the neighborhood before feeding them is awful. It’s absolutely, utterly awful and it needs to be addressed. I hope for everyone’s sake that Nan and Pap aren’t too defensive, are able to be reasonable out of love for their grandkids, and would even be willing to talk to a non-diet dietician or therapist (or both!!!) about their fatphobia and disordered eating habits.
I wish you well. If the best thing, in the end, is distance between your in-laws and your kids, I’m genuinely sorry. I hope it doesn’t come to that. But if it must, it must.