Sibling buckles under family's weight issues
DEAR ANNIE:Four of my five siblings and their partners are tremendously overweight. Two of my sisters claim to have the "family fat genes." I don't believe such nonsense.
I love my siblings dearly, but sadly, their children are now "blossoming" into overweight adults and a few have children of their own who are getting pudgy. I live in another state, and when I visit them, I find it especially difficult to eat well and get enough exercise. My weight has been a struggle, and I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. I see the effort to maintain my weight as essential to my health. But the few times I have raised the subject, my siblings either refuse to talk about it or laugh it off, saying, "I enjoy eating and don't want to outlive my retirement."
I know I am blessed to have the support of my spouse in my weight loss journey. My siblings are not so fortunate. When I visit, I sometimes suggest healthier meal options and a walk after dinner, but those things have little effect when coupled with a family barbecue complete with high-fat, high-calorie foods and multiple sugary desserts, not to mention hours of sitting in front of the TV.
I know that obesity is a complex issue. I know they have to want to change. But I am terribly worried about their health. Is there anything I can say or do to encourage them? — Concerned Sibling and Auntie
DEAR AUNTIE:Research indicates there truly are "fat genes" — genetic markers that show an increased likelihood of obesity. However, those are the very people who must work harder to exercise regularly and watch their diet in order to stay healthy. You have done this, but your siblings have found it too overwhelming. All you can do is model healthier alternatives and periodically talk to each one individually, letting them know how much you love them, and that you will be supportive and helpful whenever they are ready.
DEAR ANNIE:I think you give great advice and hope you can help me. "Frank and Laura" are two people I am not friends with anymore. I have told this to them on previous occasions, yet they somehow refuse to accept it.
Lately, they have been visiting my home without calling and expect to come in and be entertained. They always seem to show up during dinner, and I know they expect us to serve them whatever we are having.
I don't know if they are being stubborn, but I want to make it clear in a delicate but firm way that the visits must stop. — Confused
DEAR CONFUSED:Is it possible that Frank and Laura are having financial troubles and appreciate a free meal? If so, it would be a kindness to continue. Otherwise, you need to be more forceful. When they ring the bell, tell them it's not a good time to visit, and don't let them past the front door. You might have to say it more than once, and there may come a point where you have to shut the door on them, but it's the only way to get your point across in a way they will understand.
DEAR ANNIE:I am writing in response to "Concerned Mom in Pennsylvania," who has a blind 18-year-old son. I, too, am legally blind. Using resources like the California State Department of Rehabilitation, I was able to go to college and get the accommodations I needed to be successful. I am now a practicing psychotherapist. My county has a program that provides cab rides for disabled persons and seniors for only 15 percent of the normal fare.
One of the most important life-changing resources is my dog. I acquired her at no cost through Guide Dogs for the Blind of San Rafael, Calif. She has transformed my sense of isolation to one of empowerment and connection. — Finding Light in California
DEAR FINDING:Thank you for the excellent suggestions.