How to Help Family Member with "Growing" Obesity Problem

Updated on June 21, 2011
M.P. asks from Peoria, IL
17 answers

We have a family member that has been progressively gaining more and more weight over the last five years. He is borderline obese. We are concerned about his health and well-being. On a side-note he is in an unhappy marriage, works a lot of hours and is having money struggles at the moment. He really needs to make a change. The question is how can we help? We don't want to make him feel bad but we'd like for him to be around in years to come! I realize it is a vicious cycle (feel bad, eat more, feel more bad, eat more, etc) but we all feel so helpless! If you have been in his situation, what did other people do or say that helped you want to make a change or what can we do to help his self-esteem?
PS -- PLEASE do not try to sell me weight loss products.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the great feedback and support so far. Good ideas but unfortunately we live three hours away so offering to do stuff together won't work out.

Featured Answers



answers from Atlanta on

Do NOT say a word! He knows and is probably bothered and you'll make him feel awful. He'll wind up dreading the times he has to see you instead of looking forward to them. This is his business and only he can truly make a change.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

As much as it pains us, we can't make other people change.
Just be as loving and supportive as you can be.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Phoenix on

I put on a lot of weight after an accident I was in left me bedridden for months.

The kindest thing from my sister was to feel loved and accepted still. I intentionally stayed away from my dad as I knew he would say something derogatory about my weight gain. And I'm not talking morbidly obese...I went up to a size 16. But my family has huges issues with over weight people.

Are you close enough to invite him out for walks? Bike rides? Plan a potluck and offer healthy salads, roasted veggies along side everything.

I imagine any friendly overture to help him feel loved, included, and not alone will have an overrall positive impact.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

In my experience, the desire for any life-pattern change has to come from inside. I've gone through 'eating for comfort' stages in my life, and there was NOTHING people could tell me that wouldn't simply make me want to eat more. Even now, if my husband tells me he's happy for me or proud of me when I lose weight, I hate it. I'm pretty sure he's telling the truth and trying to encourage me, but somewhere deep inside, it just feels manipulative.

The best thing for me is to know my family loves me and hopes to have me among them for a long, long time. Anything beyond that is, for me, just more emotional baggage.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Your in a delicate situation, but because you care, you need to intervene so this family member will do something for himself and lose the weight to become healthy again. I was recently in the same situation, and realized I needed to take control of my life. Does he have children as well? If so, that would be a great motivator, to be around for your kids for many years to come. In my situation, I joined Weight Watchers Online. I don't work for them, and am in no way trying to 'sell' their products. I made a decision to become healthy, for myself & for my family, and this is how I did it. I was/am obese, but I can tell you I have lost 26 lbs. in 3 months :-) I have about 35 to go to be at my healthy weight. I exercise 4 x week as well, I run & it helps to clear my head. Weight Watchers is a lifestyle change, super easy online, and LOW cost. Help your relative by paying for it, ($17.00 a month), that would be quite supportive! Also, my hubby & I have started marriage counseling and I must say, it's helping what I thought was a hopeless situation. If your relative needs some words of encouragement, please PM me, I'd be more then happy to chat.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Maybe offer to go for a bike ride with him, ask if he likes to come for a hike in nature, ask if he wants to come walk through a museum, any activity he enjoys that does not involve sitting and eating. Or provide some healthy prepared meals so that he does not eat junk while at home. For some reason my mom likes to point out that I have gained weight as if I had not noticed, so don't do that, he is probably well aware that his clothes no longer fit.
It will have to be his decision, but perhaps offering interesting distractions is the most caring way.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

There is nothing you can do or say to help him want to make a change. You can only keep in contact with him and be as supportive as you would be with any family member.

I watched my ex gain more and more weight and I never complained or criticized or even directly mentioned his weight. I asked him to go along with me on walks multiple times/week (he would say "no" most of the time). I offered to arrange for him a personal trainer. I expressed my concern for his overall health. I expressed my desire that he remain healthy enough to enjoy our young daughter. Then I left him. He has gained even more weight and is definitely obese. With his accompanying high blood pressure, borderline diabetes, arthritis, etc. I wonder if he will be around for our daughter's high school graduation. But I can't MAKE him do anything. He is in charge of his life and his health.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Is this an adult? If so, he is well aware of his problem. There really is nothing you can do from 3 hours away! When he's ready for a change, he'll be ready for a change!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

This issue is "bigger" than just his weight.

Dr Drew said something very poignent the other night on his show. He said that people only change when the consequence of NOT changing is WORSE TO THEM than the consequence of changing. If you nag someone about something all you do is make them unhappy and they will not come to you for support. Then you have someone who is unhappy AND unhealthy AND in a bad marriage AND with financial stress. For you to focus solely on his weight will be counterproductive. As someone else said - he already knows he's gaining weight. And actually - the weight gain isn't any worse for him than the bad marriage or the financial stressors.

If you really want to help him you can simply build a healthy relationship with him. Call him and listen to him. Let him talk. Let HIM figure it out. Let him see what YOU are doing that is healthier, but not in a superior way - just as you build a relationship with him he will hear what you are cooking for dinner, or how often you work out or whatever. But don't shove it down his throat.

You can do NOTHING to make someone else want to change and you can do NOTHING to help his self-esteem... except don't make it worse by telling him everything he is doing wrong. HE has to get himself out of all of it.

Good Luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

It's not your place to say anything. You want him to be healthy but what you want makes no difference. Being healthy has to be what he wants.

Be supportive and love him unconditionally. If he just wants to talk, let him talk. If he asks for weight loss, nutrition advice, give it. But you have to let him bring it up. No one wants to be told they are fat and need to go on a diet. Even if you say it "nicely" - there is no nice way to say it - so don't even bring it up.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We are dealing with ourselves as well with my sister who is way overweight. My dad even made a bet with her. That if she was too lose 100 lbs in a year he would give her $1,000 but that's not working. The thing is she has done it before. She had to lose a bunch of weight prior to being accepted into the navy and she did. She was skinny for the first time since being a kid. So we all know she can do it. She unfortunately gained all the weight and more back since then. Now she's older and according to her she has all these "ailments" that hinder her. I say it like b/c she is a hypochrondiac. So this is a deeper issue than just weight for her. What I'm trying to say is there isn't anything that you all can do for him to change. He will have to come to that conclusion on his own. Express to him your concerns and support him in every way possible. Love him and be there for him. That's all that you can do for him. Ask if he wants to go on a weightless journey. If he does offer to help him in every way possible. Good luck!



answers from Atlanta on

This is a touchy subject. I come from a family that one side is typically obese yet I took after my dad's side of the family and my own mother is in the medical field and would constantly hound my sister about her weight and all the other issues it can cause. Then it seemed to get even worse when she developed the diabetes. My cousin struggles with her weight and comments were made by my grandmother as well as others in the family and I could always tell the pain even though they wouldn't show it. Christmas my cousins dad hugged her and said you know I love you but you really need to lose some of that weight. It broke her heart into peices. She finally decided she didn't care how she was going to do it but she was determined to get the weight off any way she could. Therefore she researched Gastric Bypass and decided it was the route for her to take because of her diabetes that she had as well. When she informed her dad he called and yelled at her saying that she needed to hire a personal trainer and eat right to lose the weight. By her having the surgery she was taking the lazy way out....of course my uncle is another can of worms but she explained to him that she just didn't decide to do this one day without trying any other recourse. She had tried diet after diet which failed. She would lose "some" of the weight but then she just kind of stuck there where she was. When she found out about her diabetes she seriously tried to loose the weight but just couldn't. With Bypass surgery and for it to get approved you have to be able to say you have tried and failed with other diets. She had that proof and her doctor thought she was a great candidate for it. She had the surgery towards the end of April this year and she has lost 45 lbs!!!! It's only June but she has stuck to her diet to a "T". I'm so happy for her because I know it always broke her heart when someone would always mention her weight-look she knew she was fat and no one had to remind her of that. I would be offended too and have been because I had twins and I now have like this permanent pooch I just cannot get rid of and I have been asked when the baby is due. It's not fun to have to tell people you are just "fat". On the other side I understand from the family side that they want to help him and that they want to do an intervention of some sort but honestly honey if he isn't ready for it-it will never work out. He has to be the one to "want" to lose the weight. You can all sit down and tell him how you feel such as we are just concerned for you we want you to be around and at the rate you are going it isn't looking good. This is such a sensitive issue so be careful in how you approach it....perhaps ask a dietician or pschlogist how you should approach him????



answers from Chicago on

Unfortunately what I've learned is there isn't much we can do. My brother now weighs over 450 lbs. I tried for years to help. I taught him how to cook healthy meals, bought him good shoes so we could walk together, would try to get together with him and his son to do fun physical activities. The bottom line is unless he wants to change, there isn't much you can do. The sad thing is nephew suffers from this lifestyle. He is only 10 years old and weighs almost 200 lbs.



answers from Honolulu on

He needs to find something to relieve stress that isn't eating. A support group or something.



answers from Albuquerque on

Maybe offer to have family meals every so often and try to make healthy options that he may not take the time to do for himself. I would also suggest doing things with him. Tell him you think you would like to start going to the gym and need someone to come with you. Whatever you do, dont bring up his weight. He is aware of how big he is and telling him he needs to lose weight will have the opposite effect... I am overweight ( by a lot) and have been for a long time. When I was younger my mom thought that if she shamed me I would be motivated to lose weight..nope I made myself feel better by eating more junk and gaining more, and now its hard to change a lifetime of bad habits. Quitting junk food and laziness is just as hard as quitting drugs/booze. I do think it is very thoughtful that you want to help him instead of shunning him



answers from Honolulu on

He, can go to counseling.
Counseling for helping his emotions.
He obviously, needs a way to vent and get help, with the origin of his emotional problems.
ie: the unhappy marriage and the stress from working.

A person, cannot be happy or lose weight or find alternate ways of handling their emotions, unless they are helped. Professionally.
Your family member, has a lot of psychological problems.
Or which, he needs help with that.

Get Professional help.
If he is willing.
Or a community support group.
Then he will meet others who have been there and done that, and can relate to him.



answers from Spartanburg on

Instead of "growing" (physically) he should be helped to "grow out of it" (it being the emotional state he's in right now), so he needs to look at things from a different point of view. Perspective is everything in these cases. So, yes, yes and yes to a positive outlook on life through getting out of his comfort zone and experimenting new things, out of character for him. I would encourage him to experience physically (and mentally) challenging things, that he's never, ever, done before. They don't have to cost money (since he's having problems now) , for example he can volunteer (he'll feel good about himself and get exercise, not to mention meet new people). Maybe you and the rest of the family can sign him up to classes he's never taken before (irish dance? cuban salsa? handyman?) or find him a life coach...He needs to reboot his life and be positive again, he's just missing the energy to start, good thing you're there for him...that's nice!

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