Ask Amy: Reader Has Concerns About Sister's Obesity
But is it her place to express them?
Dear Amy: I believe you give radiant advice that I try to emulate!
My youngest sister has gradually become clinically obese.
This seems to have accelerated after her hysterectomy several years ago.
Additionally, it is clear that her sugar fixation is a super-contributor.
She used to be weight-appropriate, and we have no family history of overweight individuals let alone morbid obesity.
Recently, I saw her for our father’s 90th drive-by birthday celebration.
I am genuinely concerned for her health. I admit I am mortified by her appearance.
We have a family dynamic that avoids acknowledgment of the obvious, yet this obese sister is quick to point out her two sisters’ faults.
She lives several states away from me, yet stays involved with her family, and is kind, generous, and smart.
How do I go about addressing my concern with her?
Should I reach out to her “slim” husband first? I’m the eldest. I’m the “fixer” in the family. Frankly, I’m a “Type A” big sister.
I want to help her!
Dear Concerned: I’m not sure how “radiant” you will find my reaction to your question, because, as things currently stand, I don’t think you are capable of positively influencing or helping your sister to stop mortifying you with her obesity.
People who self-identify as “type A” are usually “type A plus,” and someone exuding your extreme and judgmental “fix-it” energy will likely send a loved-one hurtling straight into her pathology. (Reading your question made me want to dive into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.)
No, do NOT contact your sister’s “slim” husband in order to discuss your sister’s weight with him. That is extremely disrespectful.
Obese people know that they’re obese.
And although you have diagnosed your sister’s sugar fixation as being the problem – beyond food choices, obesity often also has an emotional component that will not respond to dieting advice, especially from someone who has never struggled with eating and weight issues.
You live a long distance away from your sister. The very best way for you to behave toward her is to be loving, nonjudgmental, and emotionally supportive – without telling her what to do.
All of your energy should lean toward patience and compassion (this is going to be a very heavy lift for you).
You can ask her about her health. You can ask her about her stress. But then you must listen to what she says without leaping in with solutions. If she brings up her weight you can ask, “Has your doctor suggested seeing a nutritionist?” And that’s it.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
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