Bothered by Parents' Lifestyle
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Bothered by Parents' Lifestyle
My Mother and her partner are both overweight for no other reason than they eat
too much, eat unhealthy foods and don't exercise. It really bothers me and I've
talked to them several times about getting healthy. They always have excuses as to
why they don't do anything about it but are both retired and live in a community
where they have a beautiful exercise facility to use for free. They obsess about
food- talking about the next meal before the current one is over. Their plates are
always cleaned and they eat dessert at least once a day. Quality is not important-
just quantity. I believe you should have more respect for your body and your health.
I know they're going to end up with health problems down the road and it makes me
angry. My sister is the same way and I feel upset with her about this issue as well.
It grosses me out to see people eat so much on a regular basis and not care about
their body. Advice?
dissapointed healthy one
I suspect you will get a lot of responses on this. I am a person of
average weight who sometimes gets a little heavy, and this is a
pervasive problem in my family. I understand eating habits as a lot
about emotion and also about control. The times that people have
scolded me about weight have been deeply unproductive: it just makes me
feel shamed and less willing to be around those people. I promise you
that weight issues aren't as easy as getting exercise and eating right;
so much more is involved. Your e-mail reflects, at the very least,
strong disapproval and, more likely, contempt and disgust for your
parents. So a gulf is widening between you. If you want to support
your parents' health, it might be more effective to try to get inside
the way their minds and emotions work. Instead of talking about their
weight, invite them to do something active and fun with you that might
be a bonding experience. My weight went down when I stopped criticizing
myself or internalizing others' disapproval and got involved with
pleasurable, healthful activities that helped me overcome my compulsive
eating habits Ignores scoldings
I can't tell why you are bothered about this. Is it because you are
concerned about the burden on you in caring for them down the road? Are
you geuinely worried about their health?
It sounds more like you are upset that they do not have the same values
Ultimately, we all make our own choices about the life we lead. It's
not your place to tell someone else how to live because you don't
''approve'' of their lifestyle. I think its fine to tell them you love
them and are concerned...but let it go at that. Otherwise you will feel
frustrated and they will
(rightly) feel judged
As a person who struggles with my weight, I can tell you that harassing
your parents about their weight will only make matters worse. Let them
know you care about their health but, after that, they have their lives
to live and you have yours.
Live and let live
I'm afraid that this is their issue. Until they decide to be concerned
about it, and do something, there is nothing you can do. Repeat:
Nothing. In fact, the more you nag them about it, the less likely they
are to do anything (and at this point, I'm guessing that even mentioning
it in passing comes across as nagging).
Your job is to accept them, as they are, and come to terms with the
disappointment you feel anonymous
Hard though it is, you need to let it go. You cannot force them to
change, and the more you pressure them, the less likely they are to
respond. I think your only option is to grind your teeth and say no
more to them!
You might want to let this go, rather than being angry and disappointed.
Your parents probably know you are angry and disappointed, grossed out
by them, etc, so there isn't a lot of point in telling them that again
and again. They may even feel angry and disappointed with themselves,
or maybe they feel like they enjoy eating or that they are not ready to
prioritize a healthy weight versus the necessary changes. In any case,
you're making yourself unhappy over their weight, which is their
responsibility, not yours. Congratulate yourself on not being
overweight despite perhaps being taught unhealthy eating habits
What makes you a better person than your parents, and sister?
Because you're ''healthier''? Ditch the ''holier-than-thou'' pitch and
replace it with educated compassion if you hope to get them to ''hear''
your valid, (but poorly couched - no pun intended) concerns. Why are
they in the shape they're in? Because they're ''weaker'' or ''less
disciplined'' than you? What might the genetic or physiological
differences be between you and them? Could it possibly be something
''hard-wired'', that, through the ''luck-of- the-draw'' you didn't get?
Educate yourself about the psychological & physiological reasons for
where they are today, and come back at it armed with a better attitude.
-been there, on both sides
I appreciate your concern about your parents' health but by the way you
stated the problem here, I don't think I would listen to you either. You
say you are ''bothered''
and ''angry''....it's not about you! So I think you want advice on how
to be less annoyed AND how to make them listen. Hopefully the same
things will work for each project. First, remember that they are
grown-ups. You can't do anything for anyone else. Then, don't overstate
the problem. You may be making it sound so dire that they feel there is
nothing they can do, or that the solution is going to be terrible and
depriving. They are retired, they are enjoying themselves and they don't
want to stop. Finally, you or better yet, their doctor, should suggest
some positive steps instead of things they need to stop doing. Probably
some kind of physical activity first, rather than trying to change their
diet first. If they start going for nice walks or something, they will
have less time to just plan their next meal anon
You paint a picture of your Mother and her partner as being lazy and
having no respect for themselves simply because they are overweight. I
was saddened by the attitueds you are perpetuating. My advice is that
you spend some time examining your own attitudes and issues about weight
and body issues, because it sounds like you have a lot of charge around
Saying that you are ''really bothered'', ''angry'' and ''grossed out''
by your mom's eating habits strikes me as a little intense.
Your mom and her partner are adults and have to make their own decisions
about their lives. You have to do the same. If you choose to eat healthy
and exercise that's great! Perhaps you could go for walks with your mom,
or cook her some really delicious healthy meals. If your goal is to
change her habits, you might have more luck by modeling than by nagging.
At the end of the day, your job as her child is to love her
unconditionally. That means loving her and respecting her whether she is
fat, thin, sedentary or active.
Hi, I was very curious about your post about being bothered by your
overweight parents. I, too, have parents who have struggled with weight.
However, I have had the opposite
reaction: instead of being angry with them about their weight...I find
myself noticing discrimination against them and other large people, and
feeling empathy for them. After all, I love someone large. Perhaps my
attitude relates to the years I spent in Al Anon letting go of my dad's
drinking problems (he's been clean and sober now for 25 years). I have
put my parents and their health issues into God's hands, and just try to
enjoy them for as long as they're still here.
--the skinny one in a BIG family
I'm trying hard not to have a knee-jerk reaction to your post, because I
can relate to it too well - from the perspective of your parents. The
judgment you have for them and for their behavior is very, very clear.
That is a hard place to communicate from, and with. I have a sister who
tried hard to make me change my behaviors for a long time - and my
was: I am fully aware that I have unhealthy behaviors. I would dearly
love to change them, but I have not found a way to do it. I would do it
for myself long before I'd do it for you, so you're wasting your efforts
and only making me feel worse about myself (which is part of the
problem). The key there being that if I could change, I would, for
myself. I know people who don't have these behavior challenges don't
get that, but it's true. I have behaviors I hate, behaviors that
consume me with negative feelings, but that I have not found a way to
change. Your judgment isn't going to be the magic bullet - in fact, it
may even present an additional psychological barrier.
We all want to be loved by our families. We want our strengths to be
seen and acknowledged at least as much as our weaknesses are. I once
said this to my sister: I feel as if I could win the Nobel peace prize,
but the most important thing to you would still be my weight. Somehow
she heard that, and backed off.
Now she can be an ally when I try another avenue to addressing my weight
- if she were still actively judging me I'd NEVER ask for her help or
support with it.
Try to accept your parents as they are, and then without bringing up
your judgments try to introduce them to foods and preparation techniques
and even active pursuits they may like.
Not to change them, but to offer them something they may value.
Staying in the position you're in is unlikely to work, but is likely to
create hard feelings and pain.
You can't force people to lose weight and take care of themselves. It is
as simple as that. Until they think it is a problem or their doctor
tells them they must do something about it, they won't do anything. You
should stop giving them advice. But before you do, tell them simply and
plainly that you love them and you want them in your life for as long as
possible, and that is why is upsets you that they don't take care of
themselves. Then let it go. Don't tell them you're grossed out. That
sounds judgemental and it will make them much less likely to confide in
you about their health or ask you for help in the future.
I sympathize with you but I think there is nothing you can do about/for
your parents unless they think that there is a problem and want to be
educated and it sounds like they don't.
Yes, they may have health problems in the future and maybe then (if and
when) they will want to make changes. Meanwhile when you are with them
or your sister you can be an example of someone who maintains a healthy
diet and feels good. If they ask you how you do it then you can say.
I grew with a ''health nut'' mom so I've been aware of the importance of
a healthy diet since I was 7 or 8...not that I cared back then, but I'm
very grateful now.
I've also battled on and off with my weight over the years even knowing
all the right things to eat.
It's a tough situation cause food has us so plugged in emotionally and
socially as well. I think you may need to let this go. Hope this is
helpful healthy and fit
You may be right that your mother and her partner have a pending health
problem. But YOU have a current problem yourself that is eating you.
(The clue that this is more YOUR problem comes at the end of your note
when you say their eating makes you angry. Had you said worried or
concerned, I might have reacted differently.) You need to let this go --
for your own health AND for theirs.
They are mature adults who clearly are enjoying life. You've given them
advice. They've heard you. Now it is time for you to demonstrate your
love and respect for them by backing off. You should continue to model
healthy behavior for them. You can prepare healthy meals for them when
they visit or you go to their place. But nagging has not helped -- and
it won't. I know. I made incredibly poor food choices for years. Now my
husband and I eat delicious, healthy foods. But we had to come to that
decision on our own. Please, for your sake and theirs, consider this
something that is out of your control. Relax and enjoy your time
together while you can Healthy & happy
It sounds as though this is your problem and not your parents' or your
sister's. Maybe you should get some therapy for yourself to try to
understand why you are so judgmental Just a thought
Um, the only thing that I can think of is for you to think about
boundaries. Would you like someone hounding you -- with the best
intentions -- about something you do ''wrong''?
Unless you're concerned that the burden of their future care is going to
fall on you, you really have no part in their eating and exercise
decisions. And if that is your concern, rather than just being
''bothered'' by their weight and eating patterns, all that you can
legitimately say is what you will and won't do for them in the future.
It appears that by giving excuses, they've already told you that they
hear you and aren't going to do anything about it. I can't say that what
you describe doing would motivate me to change!
We can't live other people's lives
You have already expressed your concerns to your parents, and apparently
your sister, more than once and now you just need to drop it. You may
not approve of how they are treating their bodies, but they are adults
and this is not your body we are talking about. You get to decide what
to do with YOU, not other people, even if they are family.
Gain some perspective, make peace with this being out of your hands, and
move on anon
Take a breath. The only person's weight you have any control over is
your own. (Even for our children, we put healthy food on the table, but
they decide how much they eat. And when they get a little older, a lot
of their eating is at school and at activities.) If being with your
family at times they will be eating bothers you, I would suggest
planning outings with them -- parks, museums, easy walks. I am sure your
family members are aware of their weight issues, and have made their own
decisions about their lifestyles.
I understand that it is frustrating to see people you love hurting
themselves. I also feel the same way about friends and family who are
out of shape, excessive spenders, heavy drinkers, etc.
The problem is, this isn't your problem. Yes, your parents and sister
are overweight and will certainly develop health problems in time. For
now, though, they are food obsessed and just don't care -- at least,
enough to make changes. So drop it.
A tip for you --- they know they are overweight. They can see and feel
it every day. They know it is not healthy. Every possible message in the
media states and restates it. If they get checkups, their doctors have
certainly mentioned it.
You say you have talked to them several times --- as though they are
hard of hearing and you think that just repeating yourself and speaking
louder they eventually will hear you and say, ''Oh! Whoops! Sorry about
that! We'll get right on it. Did you say there was a beautiful exercise
If they won't do it for themselves, they aren't going to do it just for
your sake, especially as your contempt is coming through loud and clear.
If telling a smoker that cigarettes are bad for them (hmmm, has that
message ever been circulated to the general population?) nobody would
Your helpful hints, nagging, concern, and worry at a certain point have
just become about your discomfort and your disgust.
Maybe you think -- ''Gee, I'm going to be stuck caring for the whole
family down the road.'' Well, they could just as easily get sick from
something entirely unrelated to weight. Would you care for them then?
Maybe you would for them getting hit by a car, but not for something
You say the whole disgusting family really bothers you. Well, you have
two choices: continue to think you can change them and drive yourself
crazy that they don't want to be like your superior, healthy self, or
LET IT GO. It is not your fault, it is not your problem, it is not
contagious Chill out
It sounds like you really want to control something that is not in your
control. It also sounds like you are really grossed out at the core of
the issue. Do you know any ''fat'' peple who don't gross you out?(I'm
not being mean-spirited, I'm really asking) There are men and women who
are very fit and eat well who none the less are fat, chubby, etc.
meanwhile there are lots of thin people who are in the unhealthy and
unfit category. And there are lots of VERY attractive and appealing
people who are round full-bodied types who eat with gusto. And again
lots of unattractive thin people.
I don't believe you can change a person who is unwilling. A person needs
their own drive to make life-altering decisions. In the end, all you can
do is be there being a good example and a supportive person NOT a judge.
Interventions have even recently been shown to be COUNTERproductive in
getting people to deal with their addictions or other problems if the
context is NOT loving .
You don't get to say what is right for someone else (well you can say
all you want but if you are going for a particular outcome, that's not
necessarily going to be effective or conducive to a caring relationship
with your family).
I'm asking you to re-think your attitude and I know that's not an easy
thing to do when you may have already made up your mind, but in the
spirit of family-caretaking that I assume your posting came from, try a
compassionate tact. I bet that'll get better results. And if it doesn't,
try being satisfied knowing you are available for your mom and her
partner if they come to their OWN conclusions about it and need some
help from you.
Eating healthy foods and treating your body with care come from
self-love and self-love often grows from the love of your family Dealt
With Family Eating Issues Before
You signed your posting ''healthy one'' but frankly, your attitude
doesn't sound all that healthy. It sounds troubled and cruel.
Concern about a parent's health is one thing, but you didn't mention any
actual health problems that they have. Overweight does not automatically
mean unfit and unhealthy, nor does trim mean health.
From what I read, your issue with their weight seems to be that it
''grosses'' you out (embarrasses you, perhaps?); therefore, I think the
matter you might concern yourself with is your prejudice. Read up on
body image issues and fat prejudice/acceptance (some places to start:
Big Fat Blog, NAAFA, Fat!So?, poundy.com, books by Kim Chernin and Susan
Bordo). Do some self examination about why you have such strong feelings
about other people's weight.
You won't inspire any one to adopt healthy eating habits by trying to
shame them or showing disgust. You will only hurt them and create
distance between you and them. Accept what you can change, let go of
what you can't Karen
I've had a similar problem with a family member who had very unhealthy
eating habits, but at the opposite end of the spectrum. She was
extremely thin, and had a lot of anorexic like behavior. Everything
revolved around when was going to eat her next meal, what it would be,
and so on. When she visited me, the first thing she asked me every
morning is what would be eating all day so that she could plan her
consumption of the requisite 700 calories, or whatever, and when she
could fit in her daily 8 mile run. She looked awful and all she ate was
lettuce and candy. I think that's a lot worse than your parents. I
would leave them alone.
I honestly fail to understand why it is any of your business.
They are grown ups and if they like food and don't mind being
overweight, why should you? I think it's more for you than being
worried about thier health, you sound like you have issues about weight
in general and the need to control others. I am currently ''average''
wieght but have previously been overwieght for many years and I have to
say, it truly is the last discrimination that is okay to go off about.
So they like food, I really think it is thier decision to enjoy food and
exercise less and you need to accept that. It does not mean they will
die earlier and you don't have any real certainty that it will effect
thier health and even if it does, it is thier decision to take that risk
enjoy thier cheesecake. Aren't thier other things to worry about? This
country, especially California, treats fat people horribly. When I was
fat, people took it personal that I should offend them with my wieght.
They didn't look me in the eye and often ignored my presence and for the
life of me, I still can not comprehend why it was my business to make
them comfortable. You need to let it go and find out why what are the
underlying issues of why this seems to bother you so much. Live and let
I already answered this post, but I was startled to see an article in
the New York Times today on the question of how we respond to obese
people, and what behaviors those responses elicit. Interesting reading.
Here's a snippet from the article ''For a World of Woes, We Blame Cookie
Monsters,'' by Gina
''One problem with blaming people for being fat, obesity researchers
say, is that getting thin is not like quitting smoking. People struggle
to stop smoking, but many, in the end, succeed. Obesity is different.
It's not that the obese don't care. Instead, as science has shown over
and over, they have limited personal control over their weight. Genes
play a significant role, the science says.
That is not a popular message, Dr. Brownell says. And the notion that
anyone can be thin with a little effort has consequences. "Once weight
is due to a personal failing, a lot of things follow," he said. There's
the attitude that if you are fat, you deserve to be stigmatized. Maybe
it will motivate you to lose weight. The opposite happens.
In a paper published Oct. 10 in Obesity, Dr. Brownell and his colleagues
studied more than 3,000 fat people, asking them about their experiences
of stigmatization and discrimination and how they responded.
Almost everyone said they ate more.''
Get the book How To Change Anybody: Proven Techniques To Reshape
Anyone's Attitude, Behavior, Feelings, Or Beliefs by David Lieberman,
It even has a section on how to get people to diet and exercise anon
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