Help! My Mother-In Law Hates My Fitness.

This email came in last week, and we got permission to share it with the community. If you have ever felt that members of your extended family have been hostile to your fitness efforts, you haven’t seen anything yet. Here is what BodyRocker S, (we are only using her first initial) wrote to us:

Dear Freddy and BodyRock team. 

I’ve been contemplating writing to you guys now for a while, and with Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching again, I knew that I would need some advice and support. 

Thanksgiving dinner

Every year that we go to my in-laws for Thanksgiving, Christmas (or really any major family get together) that involves food, I have severe anxiety. My mother in law always takes shots at me in front of the whole family for watching what I eat, and will also make comments about my fitness. This has been going on for the last 3 years, ever since I decided to change my life and started working out with you guys on The comments started the first time that I showed up at her table with a noticeable weight loss. From there it has just intensified. I’ve trained my ass off with you guys - I follow the meal plan, and I stream your workouts 5 days a week in my living room. My husband has even started joining me, and my eldest daughter has become my workout buddy. I’m in the process of getting in the best shape of my life, and I feel more confident than ever. All positive right? Well not so fast. My mother in law - I don’t even want to use her first initial, so let’s call her MIL (mother in law), has taken issue with these changes, and the fitter I get, the more hurtful her comments have become. 

Here are some of the things that she has said to me at the table in front of the entire extended family:

  • She won’t eat that (in reference to desert or anything anyone offers me).
  • She eats like a bird.
  • You barely have anything on your plate.
  • People need to eat.
  • In my day, looking after your family was all the exercise a woman needed.
  • My kids needed me, I didn’t have time to exercise. 

My MIL controls the food portioning at these big dinners. Everyone lines up with their plates and she dollops out the food. I swear to god that she puts 2-3x the amount of food on my plate than any of the other daughter in laws, especially anything starchy. MIL makes her mashed potatoes with an obscene amount of butter, and while they are delicious, I would always limit how much of them I ate. The same goes with all the other dishes, and by the time she's finished, I have a mountain of food on my plate. Once, she even ripped a spoon out of my hand (with a smile on her face) when I attempted to serve myself. When I attempt to object, she tells me that I can leave anything that I can’t finish - which just gives her something else to say when I don’t finish everything that is on my plate. It’s an extremely frustrating head game of barely veiled hostility and I hate it. 

Last year, I started doing strength training with you guys, and that's when my results started to show beyond just being thinner. I have developed actual lean muscle tone which has given me a more athletic look (I haven’t looked close to athletic since my mid-20’s). I’ve worked really hard for these results, I’ve put in the time and effort, and I deserve to feel really proud of myself for how far I’ve come with you guys. My MIL has had this to say about it:

  • Women shouldn't look like men. 
  • The weights that I lifted when I was your age were my kids or the grocery bags.

And maybe my personal favorite:

  • Women shouldn't have muscles. 

When I describe myself as looking athletic, I look athletic for me. I’m 43 years old, I’ve had 2 children. I don’t look like a bodybuilder, and I don’t aspire to look like an olympic gymnast. I have a tone in my body that says - this chick worksout, she puts in effort, she watches her diet. I love the way I look now. I feel ridiculous for trying to justify myself. 

husband defends wife from mother in law

My husband tries to support me, but I prefer when he just says nothing, because when he sticks up for me, it just seems to make everything worse. MIL starts acting hurt with him, and flashes me reproachful looks. It’s exhausting. I also hate that my daughters are seeing this and overhearing it. 

working out with my daughter

I started exercising at home with BodyRock specifically to be an example to my girls. My oldest discovered fitness by watching me show up for myself each day. I’m terrified that my MIL will start directing her garbage at my daughter next. 

I've begun fueling my determination to be fit with her negativity - everytime that I think of skipping a workout or fudging on my meal plan, I just have to think of something she's said, and it’s like rocket fuel propelling me past my doubts. 

This is what I’m facing with my MIL. Any advice?

BodyRocker S.

This is part of the coaching that I wrote S back:

Family dynamics are often the most difficult to navigate. Your MIL clearly has been triggered by the changes that you have made around your overall wellness, and your fitness and diet in particular. It’s not uncommon for those closest to us to have decidedly negative reactions to these types of positive changes, which can be extremely frustrating and confusing. More often than not, these family members or close friends are feeling that your positive changes are an indictment or judgement on how they are choosing to live their lives, especially if they are caring a significant amount of insecurity about themselves just under the surface.

Filtering this negativity through your workouts as a motivational power source is a great way to deal with it. You don’t have to hide who you are, and you don’t have to participate in her games. Leave what you don’t want to eat. Stay in your power. You don’t need to defend yourself or justify anything. You do you. Hold the line. As for your daughters, you are already a living, breathing, loving example to them every time you stand in the livingroom and workout with us. Your eldest daughter is your workout buddy, and I have no doubt your youngest daughter will be joining you when she gets a bit older. Actions are always more powerful than words, and your actions have already brought the spark of fitness to your family. Hold that, believe in the incredible example that you are setting. 

I asked S for permission to share this with our community because like I mentioned to her in my response, this type of negative reaction is unfortunately incredibly common. In the worst cases, it can be enough to dissuade people from continuing their fitness journey, because the pain of the guilt, disapproval and other manipulations are just too great to ignore and they stop. If this post can save one person from giving up on themselves because of someone's else's insecurity, then sharing it accomplished something profound.




If you want to start training with us in your home, you can get a free 7 day trial of here - mother in laws welcome too!

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I agree with what Freddy has said! You should stand up for what you believe & represent. You should also talk to your MIL & ask her why she is so negative towards you & may be let her know how you feel. Let her know that you are doing what you are doing because you want to set a good example to your children because you love them! I wish your hubby would say more though. Keep doing what you do!

Mary Ann November 18, 2021

Did you have a good relationship with your MIL before you started your metamorphosis? This may be another excuse for her to find fault with you. By the way, hats off to you for your success. When you walk into the door smother your MIL with compliments, how the house looks, her hair etc. It is apparent to me that she is very insecure about her own appearance, or some other aspect of her life. You are in a good place and she is not. Best wishes for your holidays.

Mary November 18, 2021

I am fortunate that all the people around me have been supportive of my journey to lose weight and get fit. I have yet to encounter anyone who feels insecure or threatened by me of all people. If there is such a person, I’m sorry, but that person needs to reflect on herself/himself and figure out why they are bothered. I’m not trying to compete with that person. I’m just trying to get to where I can feel good about myself, fit into my clothes well, and maybe live a few years beyond the life expectancy.

Montira Warran November 18, 2021

Well wow!! First of all her MIL is a BIL! No manners which leads me to my next point but that is wrong because I was going to say she is very old fashioned. In ‘her’ day she may have done things differently like only take care of the kids and cook and clean which sure, if you are doing some major house cleaning every single day that might be enough exercise for some. But with todays convenieces that make life easier we now have to exercise, maybe exercise harder too for some (me😉I♥️pumpkin 🥧 pie). Let me say that I understand what she is going through as a close relative has made comments to me, like most recently at Thanksgiving supper no less, “why don’t you stop right there and put the fork down”!! 😲🤯I stood up for myself right away and told him to stop, and that should be the last time he ever says something so rude and inappropriate to me. I forgive him but I won’t forget, and I wonder if her BIL understands that. Marriages actually end because of issues like this, and would it be worth ending the marriage, and causing so much upset in the lives of their kids and everyone around them because of some insensitive comments? SHE has to stand up to her MIL and tell her to stop, in those exact words, or just one word, as soon as the insulting and snickery remarks start, this woman needs to buck up and say “STOP” and she should only have to say it once. Her husband needs to back her up as well, no questions asked. Simple as that! She should be praised to be taking her health seriously, and getting her family active.

Teepee November 18, 2021

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