Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Aunt Won't Stop Commenting About Reader's Body

DEAR HARRIETTE: I struggled with my weight throughout my teenage and young adult years, but I am now content with how I look and feel. An aunt I don’t see often has been on a fitness journey and has been losing weight. I’m happy for her, but she always mentions my appearance and gives advice on what I should do. It makes me feel like the way I look isn’t OK or is unhealthy. I don’t like being around her or talking with her because it never fails -- she mentions how I look. It's frustrating me because I have grown to be confident in the way I look. How do I stay strong and respectful to my aunt’s body image advice? -- Staying Confident, El Paso, Texas

DEAR STAYING CONFIDENT: Start with yourself. For your own good, get a physical to find out if you are at a healthy weight and if there is anything you should be doing to support a healthy life. That’s for you to do and know for yourself, and you do not need to share this with anyone.

As far as your aunt is concerned, you need to speak up and ask her to back off. Tell her you are paying attention to your health, that you like the way you look and that you do not appreciate her constant badgering of you about your appearance. Yes, this is strong talk, but it seems like she doesn’t realize how her words are affecting you. Be clear that you love her, but add that it is hard for you to talk to her because you feel she is always criticizing you.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother has always been attentive and caring to all her children, but now it’s getting too much for me. I have always kept to myself, and I am content with no physical touch and having plenty of alone time. I am a recent college grad who lives at home, and I'm actively looking for a job. My mother is constantly asking if something is wrong. It gets to the point where it’s annoying, and I have an attitude and isolate myself to avoid the questions and lashing out. She comes from a good place when she asks me, but it’s frustrating because I tell her I'm fine but it seems she still wants to find something wrong. It’s pushing me away from her, and I don’t want that for our relationship. How do I reassure her that I am fine? -- Badgering Mom, Detroit

DEAR BADGERING MOM: Your mother is naturally concerned that you are a young adult still living at home, not currently employed, trying to figure out your next steps. Honestly, you probably do have some issues that make you less than “fine” under the circumstances.

One way to get your mother off your back is to share with her your ideas and plans. What type of work are you looking for? Are you setting up job interviews? What strategy are you putting into place to get you to the next level?

Share some of these thoughts with your mother. It will give her some relief in knowing that you are actively working to map out your future. It will also make it easier for you to remind her that you need alone time and that this doesn’t automatically mean that something is wrong.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)