What happens to the family when Mom goes on a diet

I have been monitoring and managing my weight for about 30 years. I started shortly after my third daughter was born. I had two older daughters, ages 3 and 5, at the time. Eventually I had one more girl, so it’s safe to say that my girls have grown up with me watching my weight.

That could have been a bad thing, but it was positive instead because the way I watched my weight made me a good role model for my girls. It didn’t have to be that way. If I hadn’t lost weight with a sensible, scientific program that was flexible and versatile enough to fit our lifestyle things could be much different.

I interviewed a family with a mother who is a notorious on and off dieter. I spoke with Dad, the 13-year-old daughter and the 9-year-old son. They all shared their version of what it’s like to live with Mom on a diet.

Me: I understand that your mother goes on a lot of diets. Tell me what that’s like for you.

13-year-old: Yeah, she does (spoken with the dramatic voice inflection and eye roll that adolescent girls do so well). I know when Mom is getting ready to diet again. She spends a lot of time looking in the mirror and it takes her forever to get ready to go anywhere. She tries on a bunch of clothes and says everything makes her look fat.

Dad: Yeah, she’s right, (nodding towards his daughter) when Mom can’t find a thing to wear we know that the diet announcement is coming. I try to stay out of the way when she’s getting dressed because I don’t want to be around for her to ask me if I think she’s fat. There is no way to answer that without getting in trouble.

Me: So you have some clues that she’s about to go on a diet?

13-year-old daughter: Yeah, we’ve seen it all before…

Dad: And we know what’s coming.

Me: Do you do anything to try to encourage her or maybe to make her change her mind?

Dad: Good Lord, no. You’ll get your head bitten off either way. She’ll accuse you of thinking she’s fat or being unsupportive. We just stay quiet.

9-year-old son: I don’t like it when she goes on a diet. She makes us eat gross food.

Me: Tell me about the gross food.

Son: Well, first she throws away the stuff we like, like cookies and chips and stuff like that. Then she starts saying from now on we’re all going to eat healthy food.

Me: What’s healthy food?

Son: You know, gross stuff like broccoli and I don’t know – just gross stuff she says is good for us.

Dad: It depends on what the current diet fad is. One time is was this awful detox diet where she insisted we all drink this special brew she made with kale and I don’t know what all. She gets a lot of her crazy diet plans from watching the Dr. Oz show.

Daughter: I hate it. She won’t let us have pizza or go to McDonalds. We can only drink water or skim milk. It’s so disgusting.

Me: Besides not liking the food what else happens when Mom goes on a diet?

Dad: She gets …

Daughter interrupts… crazy. She goes completely crazy.

Dad: She gets unpredictable. We all walk on eggshells. It seems like nothing we say or do is right.

Me: Can you give me an example?

Dad: Sure, she will, for instance, announce she’s lost five pounds. I’ll congratulate her and tell her she looks good. She might thank me, or she might yell at me and say, “so you’re telling me I was fat and disgusting?”

Daughter: Sometimes she’ll ask us to help her…

Son interrupts ….yeah, like that time she said not to let her order dessert. Then she ordered dessert and I told her she couldn’t have dessert. Then she yelled at me for embarrassing her in front of the waiter.

Me: Do things like that happen a lot?

All three together: Yes.

Daughter with more eye rolls: All the time. It’s so obnoxious.

Dad: It never lasts too long. Usually it’s over in a month or two. Then things go back to normal for a while.

Me: Your experience is relatable. I could have put my family through that same thing. Many moms do. What would you like to see happen?

Dad: I’ll admit I could lose a few pounds myself. The kids’ weight is okay, but I think we could all stand to eat a little better, get a little more exercise and maybe spend less time sitting in front of the TV or with a laptop.

Me: Sounds reasonable. Think you might be able to get her to agree?

Dad: We can give it a try.

Daughter: Oh, Dad. (pulling another face that shows disapproval of his plan) Let’s not do that.

Son: Can we still eat cookies?


Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.