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Can you tell someone they need to lose weight?

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Old 05-28-2013, 06:29 PM   #1
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Question Can you tell someone they need to lose weight?

Hi guys

Okay, so firstly: I'm overweight myself. I'm very weight conscious. I am no where near perfect! So when I say my sister is very overweight, I'm not exaggerating, and I say it with empathy!

She has always been overweight. We don't have great genes and she has always struggled with her weight. She tried to lose weight last summer after a break up but she got a new boyfriend and then over the last 10 months she seems to have put it back on and wayy more. (Mainly because her boyfriend is very slim and has the world's best metabolism). I live away from home for most of the year but come back every 3 months or so. Usually when I come back I normally have to calm my mother down because she's worried about the weight my sister is putting on. Every time I get the same "You've never seen her this big" and "I'm going to tell her she needs to lose weight", to which I normally reply "No you don't. She's not blind, she'll know she's put on weight, and she will lose weight when she wants to."

Howwwwwweeeevvvveerrrrrr....

Another 2 months on, I'm about to go home in a couple of weeks, and I hear that she's wearing tight size 18 clothes (UK size, so american size 16 (going on 18)). This is the biggest she's ever been by far, and there's no sign of her slowing down.

I love her and obviously I'm worried that she'll be feeling sad about her weight, but I'm probably more concerned about her health risks: we have a family history of diabetes as well as back and joint pain caused from obesity. Except usually my family tended to put on their weight at 30/40 years old, not early twenties, so I can't imagine what health problems she may suffer from as a result.

So now, after nearly a year of telling my mum to leave my sister alone, I'm starting to feel that maybe that advice wasn't best. I was trying to protect my sisters feelings, but I fear that more than her feelings will get hurt in the long run. Besides I'm not even sure she will listen: she has a bit of a temper on her and I know in the past she has told my mum to stuff it. So I know if my Mum approaches the topic with her it will result in backlash and stubbornness.

So I was thinking of trying to speak to her. This summer I'm going to live with them for about 3 months, in which time I hope to lose weight myself by going to the gym and dieting. I've tried to casually drop it into conversation before about her joining me in going swimming or whatever, and I've had a couple of good responses, but it usually ends up never happening because she gets snappy or moody with me when I try to encourage her when the time actually comes to go swimming. So I didn't know if I should do a bit of tough-love? How would you feel if your little sister tried to encourage you to lose weight? I really don't want to upset her, but I am becoming worried. Especially because she is putting on weight quickly and I cannot see how it's going to stop unless she makes a conscious effort to stop eating so much. But at the same time I am so weight conscious myself and it does get me down and I've always admired that she was so happy with herself. I would hate to make her feel self-conscious about herself when she's finally in this great relationship.

Thoughts?
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Old 05-28-2013, 06:44 PM   #2
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Personally, I would leave her alone. She knows she's overweight. Maybe the family should spend more time discussing things other than her weight and clothing size. JMO.
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Old 05-28-2013, 07:04 PM   #3
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Yea. I am just more concerned about her health. I have been on the policy of not saying anything for yeeeeears. And not talking to her about it has not made a difference. But, that's why I asked. Maybe talking to her and offering her support without her asking won't help either. :/

(And not to jump down your throat or anything, but to defend my mum, obviously the only way she could validate her worry to me through a telephone conversation from another country would be to quantify her weight gain by means of clothing size. And to clarify: I'm talking about a concerned family, not a gossiping family.)
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Old 05-28-2013, 07:21 PM   #4
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In fact, I think I have decided. I couldn't imagine myself ever approaching the subject with her. I'm her little sister, I don't think that's my place. If it's anyone's it's my parents. So I think I'll just try and get her to join me in dieting and working out. :/

Sorry for writing the world's longest post and then disregarding it! It's just been quite a worry for my mum and she does value my opinion, and I was just getting worried that I'd been giving her bad advice. :P
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Old 05-28-2013, 07:22 PM   #5
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My sister is also over weight. My mother, with the best intentions for my sisters health, has tried to discuss it with her. It has almost ruined their relationship. I am losing weight for me and only me. I would not have done it for someone else. Unless you are a doctor, it is a risky road to go down - and it's still risky for doctors. My sister has seen from my weight loss that it is possible. She is making an effort now, but not for me or my mom. Her own motivation is the ONLY way it will work. Maybe your sister will see how much more energy you have, how great you look in clothes, and how healthy you feel and want to try for herself. I would strongly caution you about bringing it up. If she comes to you about it, feel free to talk, but even then talk about how it has effected you not how she needs to change.

Good luck.
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Old 05-28-2013, 07:24 PM   #6
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I wouldn't say anything. She knows what her weight is. When she is ready she will do something about it, in the meantime she will just resent anyone who tells her she needs to lose weight.
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Old 05-28-2013, 07:28 PM   #7
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Ahh, I know how you feel. My parents are both obese and I really fear they're not going to be around as long as they should be. I've tried to my Dad in particular about the risks, said that I love him and I just want to see him healthier, but HE has to make the decision.

If you try and encourage her to exercise, then she probably knows what you're trying to do. What I would do would be wait for an opportunity to talk about if she's happy. If she ever at any point mentions she's unhappy with her weight then you can start suggesting that losing the weight might make her feel better. Say, would you think you'd feel happier if you lost weight? Always ask questions! Never try and put answers in her mouth, you know? She needs to feel confident to make that change and she needs to come to that conclusion by herself.

Ultimately you've gotta let people do what they do. Unless she feels that she wants to lose weight then you're not going to do much good pointing out she's overweight.

Last edited by Riestrella : 05-28-2013 at 07:29 PM.
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Old 05-28-2013, 07:30 PM   #8
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Thanks guys, some really great advice! I think I will leave it for now. And yea, hopefully if she sees me doing it she'll ask to join in.

Funny you should say that gatorgirl, I am training to be a doctor. Ha ha. But I still think I'd rather talk to a stranger about their weight than my sister :P

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Old 05-28-2013, 08:23 PM   #9
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The problem with telling someone that they need to lose weight, is that most already know, and many are trying (failing, but nonetheless trying - or at least wanting if they're not sure how to try, or so burnt out from trying and failing that they've given up), so your telling does nothing but hurt. It's like telling someone who is unemployed that they need to get a job (especially if you don't know for sure that the person isn't looking).

I spent several years refusing to diet because "not trying" to lose weight was the only way I had found to not gain, and I wished I'd discovered that at a much smaller size. It took me more than 30 years to find a way to lose and keep it off. I've been fighting obesity since kindergarten, and there wasn't a single moment in the last 42 years in which I wasn't painfully aware of my exact degree of fatness.

My mother-in-law chose to write my husband and I a letter about her concern for our weight and health - we call it the "you're fat" letter. Mostly, she wrote about how miserable we were making her with our weight. She also said that we were getting fatter and fatter every time she saw us, despite the fact we'd each lost about 100 lbs, but the weight loss had slowed or stalled (maybe, she thought she was helping us by trying to motivate us to lose more - if so, she was wrong).

So no, I don't think telling someone that they're overweight does anything positive.

Even offering to help can come off as condescending if you're not also asking for help in return.

My husband and I learned the hard way that we can't do much to help each other with weight loss - we end up getting annoyed and irritated with one another. I end up criticizing his food choices and he ends up criticizing my exercise. However, "let's do something fun today," or "I want to.... go for a walk .... go to the gym... do you want to go too?" those are ways we can help each other without tellong the other what they need to be doing.


A few years ago my sister asked me if I wanted to participate in an online weight loss team challenge she'd heard about at work (much like those that can be found or created here, and on other weight loss websites). She had also asked our mother and our "thin" sister who had just given birth and wanted to lose 15 lbs (she was barely overweight enough for Weight Watchers to accept her, and she reached goal within 6 weeks).

That weight loss challenge was fun and motivating even though we didn't really talk about it together except on the website. Maybe that's why it was fun, because we couldn't detect or infer judgement from tone of voice.


If you want to ask your sister if she'd like to work together on exercise, weight loss, or healthy eating, I think that would be great - and if she 's not interested or if it turns out you can't work well or easily together, that's all ok too. Often this is a journey in which long stretches of the path have to be taken alone.

I would point out that most people respond best to projects that are presented as fun or at least positive and low pressure. Whenever I visited my family, I would try to get them interested in trying fruits and vegetables I love, but that are foreign or exotic to them. I was making it stressful rather than fun, because I was lecturing about health benefits without realizing it. Now I approach it differently. I bring "tasty gifts" or ask my sisters to go shopping with me to the healthfood and gourmet shops (for stuff I want to take home with me) and I'll offer to make a meal or a sidedish for a meal while I'm there. I don't give calorie or nutrition information unless I'm asked.

Sometimes the best way to help someone is to ask for their help or to share what you're doing to help yourself without trying to make it about giving help to anyone else. I find that I learn best from people who are just living their life and sharing what they've learned because they're enthusiastic about it, not because they're trying to teach or fix me, so I try to spread my aha experiences the same way.
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Old 05-28-2013, 08:29 PM   #10
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It seems that you've already made your choice, but if you want more on this, there is a current thread talking about this (from dad to daughter):

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Old 05-28-2013, 10:42 PM   #11
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It sounds like you've decided to leave it alone, but I really do empathize with your situation. But, my mother constantly talked to me about weight, and it had the exact opposite of the desired effect - it made me really anxious and in the end I ate even more.

There is nothing wrong about being concerned though, and if/when your sister decides to lose weight be there for her and support her. She has to make that decision on her own. If she's complaing about her weight and not doing anything about it, that doesn't mean you should have to hear about it either.
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Old 05-30-2013, 01:35 PM   #12
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Wanted to make a suggestion regarding exercise: wording it in a way that she's helping you out might make it more appealing to her.
"Sis, I like walking so much more when I have a friend to gab with. I want to hear all about your new boyfriend and tell you about my travels/life/etc. Want to come walk with me?"
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Old 05-30-2013, 01:59 PM   #13
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I was super morbidly obese most of my 20's. I was told numerous times by numerous people that I needed to lose the weight. All it did was hurt me.

Someone has to be emotionally ready, and quite honestly, jealousy is a huge motivator. The best thing you can do is set a good example for her and lose the weight yourself.
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Old 05-30-2013, 02:25 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quiet Ballerina View Post
Wanted to make a suggestion regarding exercise: wording it in a way that she's helping you out might make it more appealing to her.
"Sis, I like walking so much more when I have a friend to gab with. I want to hear all about your new boyfriend and tell you about my travels/life/etc. Want to come walk with me?"
I'm inclined to agree with this. I wouldn't offer your sister unsolicited advice on her weight, but I don't think asking her to join you on a walk or at the gym, preparing a healthy meal, etc., would be off-putting, especially if framed as helping you, with no judgement of her.
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Old 05-30-2013, 02:46 PM   #15
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Agree with all to say nothing and leave her alone, she knows more than anyone how much she weighs and probably how much it makes her miserable and no amount of cajoling (gently and well meaning or otherwise) will change or motivate her, it's a deeply personal decision coming from inside that moves a person to change.

Maybe just invite her on walks or to go exercising w/o any conditions or motivations and just accept and enjoy her for who she is.
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