Dear Savvy Auntie,

I am an aunt to one niece (7 years old going on 8) and one nephew (6 months.) My niece is my elder brother's kid and my nephew is my other older brother's child.

The issue is with my niece. Now this will sound like every other auntie, but yes, my niece is cute as a button. "Face of an angel," as I say, quickly followed by, a secret terror. There are lots of stories to mention about what I mean by that, however, I just want to focus on one thing. I am a plump lady, let's face it, a very plump lady, and have been ever since I was a baby. But my elder brother, my niece's father, has had a phobia about fatness since I was a kid. He has never been fat, his wife has never been fat, not even close! But they have filled the little girl's head with such nonsense! It's so bad I think her finicky eating has something to do with this.

My brother and I have not had a very good relationship since I was 8 when he broke my heart. So I don't feel I can waltz right up to him and confront him about it. What do I say to my niece? I fear it will become a problem in our relationship down the road. Provided of course my brother and his wife allow for one.


Dear PlumpAuntie,

I understand your concern and upset about how and what your older brother talks about your weight to your niece, his daughter. Keep in mind that our society is very focused on the issue of bullying, especially in schools. This means she will be getting lots of information about recognizing, avoiding, and helping to prevent bullying. This is exactly what your brother has been doing to you since you were a young girl, therefore you do not need to think about a conversation with him (which sounds useless at best and antagonizing at worst). All you need to do is to mention the word "bullying" in reference to a T.V. show/book/film that you and your niece participate in together. Then, if or when her dad says anything about your size, weight, or appearance, she will put two and two together - particularly because children who are overweight are the most common targets of bullying in her age range.

This is just a thought...your sister-in-law may have an eating disorder. I am suspicious when you mention that she was (would not be) not fat, and that your niece is a finicky eater. You could combat this, a little, by talking about your niece in a positive way that has nothing to do with appearance, Talk about muscles and strength, about physical power and prowess, in relation to healthy eating.
Given that you were traumatized at the age your niece is becoming, try not to project your painful experience in relation to her.Remind yourself that her life at eight is different than yours was.
I hope this is helpful,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

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