Chrissy Metz Shares What It's Like When a Parent's Obsession With Your Weight Is Abusive

In an interview with People magazine — which included an excerpt from her new memoir, “This Is Me,”  — “This Is Us” star Chrissy Metz detailed the fat-shaming and physical abuse she experienced growing up at the hands of her stepfather, who she calls “Trigger.”

And while his behavior — which included forced weigh-ins, humiliating comments and physical abuse — may seem shocking, it’s not as uncommon as you might think.

In fact, women with obesity report that family members were more likely to shame them for being overweight. According to a report about weight stigma and children, 37 percent of adolescents who attended weight-loss camps reported they had been teased or bullied about their weight by a parent.

“One of the reasons fat-shaming is such a destructive behavior is because it’s culturally sanctioned,” Harriet Brown, science journalist and author of “Body of Truth,” told The Mighty. “There’s this whole idea of ‘I’m looking out for your best interests.'”

As Metz shares in the excerpt from her book, her stepfather’s fat-shaming behaviors were abusive and extreme.

My body seemed to offend him, but he couldn’t help but stare, especially when I was eating. He joked about putting a lock on the refrigerator… When I was fourteen, Trigger began weighing me. He’d get the scale from the bathroom and clang it hard on the kitchen floor. ‘Well, get on the damn thing!’ Trigger would yell. ‘This is what you need to know.’ He sat in a chair next to the scale as I got on. ‘Good God almighty!’ he yelled every single time.

But even fat-shaming behaviors that are less “in your face” or abusive can have long-term consequences for a child. While some parents may falsely believe shame will motivate their child to lose weight, the opposite is true. Studies have found that fat-shaming actually contributes to behaviors such as binge eating, social isolation, decreased physical activity and increased weight gain.

“Wherever it’s coming from, whether it’s coming from a place of overt abuse or not, the research is super clear that the biggest risk factor of the kind of health problems associated with obesity are dieting and restricting food,” Brown said. Shame doesn’t make you want to spend the time to make a nice meal or go for a walk. Shame makes you want to curl up under a blanket and eat more.” 

Metz said as someone who had lived through times of food insecurity, food was a source of happiness. After the fat-shaming began, she started eating in secret.

I’d get up in the middle of the night and eat. I’d sneak food to eat in the bathroom. Cookies, chips. Things I could eat as fast as possible to avoid detection. Things that would give me the brief bliss of numbness.

Metz said she now has a “positive” relationship with her stepfather, and that she used comedy to cope with hardships. “We all go through stuff,” she told People. “But I truly believe that everything that happened to me, happened for me. [I’ve learned] some beautiful lessons.”

In a world that so often rejects and ridicules fat bodies — a study of adolescents seeking weight loss treatment found that 71 percent reported being bullied about their weight — Brown says parents who are worried about their child’s body or relationship with food should remember that shaming them is not only damaging, it’s ineffective. It teaches them that their body is not OK.

“Think about how you felt if this was done to you when you were a kid,” Brown said, “If it was done to your sister of brother, how did that make them feel? Think about that fact that if you do have a kid who has a larger body, they are going to face shame and stigma from the rest of the world. What they really need is a haven from that, where they are loved and accepted just as they are.”

Lead photo via Chrissy Metz’s Facebook page.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

selective focus of woman's reflection in mirror against green wall

13 Benefits of Self-Awareness in Mental Health Recovery

Several years ago, a college counselor told me I would qualify for disability due to my mental illnesses and encouraged me to apply. Surprised, I refused. “I can do everything fine; I don’t need help.” She studied me intently, then nodded her head, explaining, “You manage everything so well because you’re a genius.” I wasn’t [...]
Katherine Langford from "13 Reasons Why"

Netflix Adds New Content Warning to '13 Reasons Why’ -- It's Just a Year Too Late

The Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” premiered March 31, 2017. On Wednesday, 10 days shy of the first season’s anniversary, Netflix finally decided to add a content warning video to the beginning of the first episode. The one-minute clip features four of the main characters telling viewers they might not want to watch the show [...]
A young woman and her father sitting on the couch

The One Thing Every Parent Should Tell Their Child Struggling With Mental Illness

My dad is my best friend. He is the first person I call when something big and exciting happens in my life, the person I pester when I can’t figure out how to do things like fill out paperwork or when my phone breaks, and the person I run to when the day smacks me [...]
The author with her hands over her eyes, kneeling outside next to rocks

Why You Don’t Have to Be a Mental Health Advocate

In the current world of mental health, sometimes it can feel like you need to be an advocate for your illness. This isn’t because anyone is pressuring you to be one, but when you listen to advocates who live with the same things you do, it’s easy to think, they’re using their illness to help, [...]