to feel angry about my mum's obesity?

(28 Posts)
sandwichyear Sun 16-Jun-13 03:51:21

I know I ABU, but need to be reminded of this and why it's U to feel this way.

My mum weighs around 20 stone, maybe more. She can barely walk half a block, or up one flight of stairs without being totally out of breath. Her knees are in terrible shape, she is in constant pain. Her weight severely impairs her ability to do basic things, and impacts on her relationship with her grandchildren (she can't get on the floor and play with them, carry them upstairs for a nap let alone run around in the park with them or babysit for any length of time whilst they are awake.) She always says she wants to help us with the kids, but realistically can't do anything to help at all- it is painful watching her trying to do basic tasks and when she is here we end up running around after her, fetching and carrying etc.

She has tried lots of diets in the past but gives up really easily and always very half hearted, and full of excuses. I have never ever shown my anger to her and am always fully supportive of every effort to lose weight, and always try to boost her confidence, but I can't help feeling angry that she won't make the effort to do something about this and is losing out on her relationship with us and our kids. I"m also so scared we are going to lose her to this and don't know what to do as we love her very much. Please help me understand why this is so hard for her and give me any advice about how i can help her. (this is definitely to do with overeating- not some other health problem.)

Over-eating rather than bad eating?

prissyenglisharriviste Sun 16-Jun-13 05:32:54

Well, I guess you need to know why she over-eats. Feelings of inadequacy? Self medicating mild but ever present depression? Feelings of failure? Self loathing? Mild agoraphobia or shyness resulting in inability To get out of the house and do something else?

How long for? Mild depression or dissatisfaction (that old problem with no name of Betty Freidan) can become habit forming after thirty years of living a restricted life. Did she marry young and feel like she has never had a life except in service to other people? Has she ever done anything truly for herself? Always leaved for her kids and husband? Completely redundant now that the fledglings have left the nest? Did she go to work? Back to work? Hobbies? Friends?

Is she happy?

Hey, I'm pissed off with my own mother's weight, (especially as she has rheumatoid arthritis which would doubtless be less hassle if she wasn't morbidly obese) but I can see how she got that way. Unfortunately, as they say, her get up and go has got up and gone, and so she sits on the sofa eating crap and watching the shopping channel.

Pisser of a life though, really.

Welcome to the world of being a female sixty something with a disability (even if it is to some extent self inflicted). (I use the term self inflicted I'll-advisedly. I'm not talking about the actual disability itself, but the management of symptoms, which would be easier at ten stone lighter. Ad yes, I do understand she doesn't feel able to lose the weight. But I'm cross she doesn't want to embrace life, and is seemingly sitting on the couch waiting for the point she will need a wheelchair. They have already renovated their house so that she can move into a downstairs bedroom when she needs to, and have been a timely planning for her to become more disabled as time rolls by. It's so self defeating).

My mother chain-eats weightwatchers biscuits. At least then she can claim to be trying to lose weight. And weightwatchers sweets.

Buzzardbird Sun 16-Jun-13 05:46:50

Do you talk to your mom about the way you feel?
I am pretty sure that given a choice your mom wouldn't be the way she is. It might be support she needs.
I understand you might be in USA, what healthcare support is there for obesity?
Yanbu to be angry, it is the same as watching a loved one drink, use drugs or smoke themselves to death. Addiction hurts everyone around the user.

TwasBrillig Sun 16-Jun-13 06:08:12

I'm attending an eating disorders clinic. Very little of it will be about the food or ability to stick to a diet. In the first couple of months food is rarely mentioned in our programme. Would you treat someone who was anorexic in the same way? The group I attend has anorexic sufferers, bullimic, obese and other types of disordered eating all on the same programme.

Being angry won't help, in fact I suspect she already feels enough shame and frustration at her condition.

Treating the underlying issues might though. I'm incredibly lucky to be on a good programme, but it includes a regular group, one to one support, counselling and nutrition advice at the right time.

There are so many reasons why a relationship with food can become disordered. Many in my group have had difficult childhoods or suffered abuse or have had an odd relationship with food from a young age.

JustinBsMum Sun 16-Jun-13 06:40:53

She might magically lose weight once your DCs are older and you no longer need her help!!!!

After bringing up her own DCs maybe she is not enthused about helping with yours and should be concentrating on what she wants out of life for herself, not how she can help, support, advise etc someone else.

Does she have older relatives who 'need' her too.

I found this, before eldest DS left home the oldies needed support, then before they are gone you have GCs to help with - it can make you go AAAAAaaagh!

JustinBsMum Sun 16-Jun-13 06:42:14

Should have been youngest DS

BabyRuSh Sun 16-Jun-13 06:51:47

My mums the same. It used to be I could encourage her to try to lose weight (got her to start ww once) but now any mention of a diet and she immediately shuts me up. It's the constant eating and munching that annoys me. And I know it's about underlying issues but they are so complex there's no way we could even start to tackle those unless she becomes motivated to. I feel helpless too and a bit angry and a bit ashamed. (Ashamed to admit that!)

Losing weight isn't as easy as a lot of people think it is.
I feel sorry for your poor mum, as I am a few stone lighter than her and still worry that people have the same reaction to my repeated failure to lose weight that you are having to your mother.

To you, her weight loss attempts might seem half-hearted and full of excuses. But she is probably trying the best that she is able to. Why are you angry that she is failing? Maybe instead of encouraging her to "lose weight", why not help her focus on improving her health? Getting regular exercise may not change the weight on her scales, but it would be a massive boost in her ability to spend time with your children.

"Fat" does not always mean "unhealthy", though in this case both things are present. If you're genuinely concerned about your mother, put aside the fat prejudice everyone has in their mind, and focus on helping her get healthy. Putting your focus purely on the fact that she is 20 stone will not help anyone, least of all your mum. She will feel bad enough about her weight as it is, and it will most likely be fuelling her overeating (I know from experience, it's a never-ending cycle ...) so don't even mention it.
You could start by not running around after her, fetching things for her. By doing so, you're both enabling and infantilising her, neither of which will help. It might be painful to watch, but let her do it.

Jinty64 Sun 16-Jun-13 07:18:51

My Mum was disabled latterly (not due to her weight). It didn't affect her relationship with her grandchildren. She couldn't get down on the floor and play with them or babysit at all or take them outside or carry them upstairs but that was ok because she was their granny not their childminder. She could sit at the table doing jigsaws, playing board games or colouring in with them. She could sit on the sofa reading to them or watching a television programme with them. Now she's gone we miss her very much but our memories are not of what she couldn't do but what she did.

Speak to your Mum. Does she want to find a way to lose weight. Could you or a friend go to a group with her? Could she go swimming? Would she see her GP? What does she eat? Little changes could make a difference.

Whilst you can't help how you feel YABU to be upset at how little help your Mum is able to give you. She has given the best years of her life bringing you up. You need to help and support her where you can but accept her for who she is and enable her to have a good relationship with your family without pressure to do the things you want her to do.

CaptainSweatPants Sun 16-Jun-13 07:23:09

If you feel angry maybe it's time to detach yoursf emotionally
Spend less time with her so it doesn't upset you
If she asks why you can always say it's because you're busy at weekends bike riding with the kids, going places that presumably she can't go
Might be a light bulb moment for you

Where's your dad or any other family in all this? How do they feel?

Wuldric Sun 16-Jun-13 07:33:24

I have this particular t-shirt

Your Mum sounds to be in the place mine was 6/7 years ago. Since that point my Mum's obesity got worse, she developed diabetes, can barely shuffle two paces, moved into a bungalow so there were no stairs, has a wet-room rather than a bathroom. sleeps in a chair. Her legs are genuinely the size of tree-trunks through water retention. It's a constant merry-go-round of district nurses, visits to the hospital (each one being a Herculean effort of organisation) visits to the doctors. We do just about everything for her.

Every well-intentioned thing that we did in the early days to encourage her to get fitter and lighter backfired. She did mention that she wanted a dog - ten years or so ago, when she was able to walk. 'Great' we thought, it'll force her to get out and walk it. She never walked that dog in her life, and now of course can't.

So I do feel your pain.

gemdrop84 Sun 16-Jun-13 08:02:35

I understand how you feel too op, my DM is morbidly obese, she was hospitalised last month due to a pulmonary embolism although at time it was thought she was having a heart attack and was very scary. It's been hard to say the least, she has been like this her whole life. It is due to overeating in her case, she was abused as a child and has admitted she started to overeat to make herself fat and therefore, unattractive sad it has carried on into adult life. Can only think she would benefit from some form of counselling/therapy but I understand that's up to her to do that on her own. I have had to distance myself emotionally because I am so angry at her and scared we will lose her. She's only 48 but has a poor quality of life, she should be in her prime. It's very difficult, especially since I've become a mother myself, to see her that way. I think as some posters have mentioned maybe when you speak with her to concentrate on the health aspect and getting fit.

500internalerror Sun 16-Jun-13 08:17:33

I'm scared that this will be me in the future, & my kids posting your op.

havingamadmoment Sun 16-Jun-13 09:14:55

YANBU to be angry but as someone who has been there I can tell you that nothing you do will help.

My mum was the same when I was a teenager - she died when she was 43 of heart failure. It upsets me to think that she will never meet her grandchildren or even know her own children as adults but if I got angry with her? it would be neverending.

I am overweight myself now (I was a seriously overweight child -well into obese) and although I have lost weight I struggle everyday with my weight and am desperate not to pass this onto another generation.

AnotherLovelyCupOfTea Sun 16-Jun-13 09:18:49

nyanbu because it's your mum. it is your business. I get annoyed with my mum when she won't take her calcium tablets! it's because I feel she's not helping herself. So NO I don't think you're being unreasonable. This is your Mum.

cory Sun 16-Jun-13 09:40:22

Two separate issues here, I reckon:

a) your concern about your mother and the way she is damaging their health

This is very understandable: of course you care and of course it is totally frustrating to see somebody close to you deliberately putting themselves at risk. YANBU to be angry about this.

b) your feelings that she can't have a "proper" relationship with her grandchildren unless she is able to interact with them in the same way you can

This will only be true if your attitudes make it true.

Plenty of children have old grandparents or disabled grandparents who would never be able to do those things: they still have a great relationship. My MIL had her cancer operation just before my first dc was born and it spread to her spine: she still has a great relationship with dd 16 years later.

At least two children I know have parents with back problems who have never been able to lift them or roll around with them- would you say they haven't got a real parent-child relationship?

Come to think of it, one of my children spent much of her childhood in a wheelchair: did that mean she couldn't develop a close relationship to her little brother? Or that she couldn't be friends with other children? Of course not. It doesn't hurt children to learn that not everybody can do what they can.

So I think you need to keep these two issues separate. Your anger and frustration is *about your mother*: she is damaging herself and because you love her it hurts you to see that.

But you must not let that impact on her relationship with your children- and there is no reason it should. To you this feels different because your mother (it seems to you) is deliberately putting herself in this situation, whereas somebody with cancer or a bad back might not be able to help themselves. But you don't have to lay that on your children. Unlike alcoholism or smoking, a grandparent's obesity can't do them any harm, and they can still get a lot of joy out of the relationship.

Nanny0gg Sun 16-Jun-13 09:41:48

OP - with all due respect, your post about your mother's weight is all about how it impacts you. She can't play with the DC, babysit, take them to the park, take them upstairs and put them to bed etc. And then when she visits, you have to run around after her. (She is a guest, right?)
You did say I'm also so scared we are going to lose her to this and don't know what to do as we love her very much. towards the end, but I think you might need to reassess your approach towards her.

What does she actually think about her life, her weight, her health?

allagory Sun 16-Jun-13 10:09:07

NannyOgg - that's a bit harsh. I am sure the OP is a nice person who filters which of her feelings she shows to the Mum and the outside world. But it doesn't mean she has to do it here - why shouldn't she think about herself and what it means to her?

OP - I do feel for you because you are affected by the problem but you can't really do much about it. My only thought was you mentioned the constant pain. I wonder if the doctor could get the pain under control than your Mum would be in a better place to take action. Pain means poor sleep and poor sleep means poor appetite control. I really would recommend Weightwatchers. It is the only thing that has ever worked in my lifelong battle against the flab. I am sure you'd have tried that already but maybe try with pain under control.

thecakeisalie Sun 16-Jun-13 10:40:33

You can try and influence her to lose weight all you want but it has to come from here. I have been over 21 stone in my life (I'm 25) and have lost some of my weight but still not near a healthy weight. What I will say is the times I've been successful in losing weight it has come from my own desire to lose weight not from pressure of loved ones. The pressure of my DM to lose since I was a teenager (I was only borderline overweight at that point) has backfired and as soon as I left home I found myself without control over my food I ate myself into morbid obesity.

The other problem is people don't wake up one day and decide to become overweight. Overeating, binge eating and is usually the symptom of emotional issues. The reason I struggle so much with my weight is because I have some mental health issues having stuggled with anxiety and feelings of worthlessness. No amount of anger from loved ones would encourage me to lose weight it wound just and to the sense of worthlessness.

I personally would say yabu to be angry at her, its not likely to have been a choice she made to become obese and losing weight is alot more difficult than people make out. Maybe you should focus your anger into helping understand why she became overweight and if there's anything to be done to resolve some of the emotional issues surrounding food she has.

I think if you haven't experienced being overweight or obese you can't truly understand how hard it is. It is disorder/addiction for a lot of obese people and it should be treated with respect and support not anger or disgust.

thecakeisalie Sun 16-Jun-13 10:40:54

*come from her

sandwichyear Sun 16-Jun-13 15:28:51

thanks so much everyone- really helpful responses giving me a different perspective. I especially liked all the comments about how if she had a disability I wouldn't see her inability to interact in a certain way with her grandchildren as negatively impacting her relationship with them, which is almost certainly true.

I'm sure there are a lot of underlying emotional issues there which I don't really want to go into here for fear of being identifiable- and thanks to everyone for reminding me of that. She did go to therapy once, but it didn't really make a difference-

I was wondering if anyone who had been overweight or suffered any other kind of eating disorder/ addiction themselves might have any advice on anything that anyone has ever/ said done that DID help? Anything that was considered motivational rather than judgey? (I never let any of my feelings of anger etc show to her- I"m always supportive but if there was any specific advice/ turning points that helped you I would love to hear them.

Thanks so much everyone for replying.

prissyenglisharriviste Sun 16-Jun-13 16:03:17

Most of my friends who have had addiction issues of all kinds are adamant that no outside influences impact their decisions at all. Their action point has come from an internal, personally experienced event or issue. Nothing that anyone else says or does to influence them has had any effect at all, and has usually made the addiction worse in response.

Chandon Sun 16-Jun-13 16:13:45

It is hard, I always think you cannot really do anything, as you can't help someone unless the help themselves.

She probably feels helpless too.

They say people who do not feel they have much control over theirlives ( or how to change it) are prone to overeating. Could you help her improve her life ( find a hobby, make friends, find work) maybe?

TwasBrillig Sun 16-Jun-13 16:19:55

Not sure is the answer. In my case any attempt by parents to 'help' is usually unhelpful (in my case they're part of the problem anyway). There's lots people around me could do to be helpful but it would have to be in an alongside me way rather than a patronising way. Its different to me that its your mum with the eating disorder as that's a different relationship anyway.

I would guess she would pick up on you feeling angry and frustrated with her. (I'm often over sensitive to those around me, especially when I'm not performing as I'd like). Many many grandparents either aren't able or don't want to have the relationship with their grandkids you're describing. Its taken me a while to get used to that. My dad will perhaps chat to a child for bit or read a book but that's it, certainly not particularly involved in the sense some are (I'd certainly like to be very involved if my daughters will let me!) that might be a different issue to resolve in your head.

As to helping I'd guess at this stage to be welcoming of her and not placing unreasonable expectations on her. If it was a friend I'd say make yourself available to chat when she's struggling but as its your mum I'm not sure that's your role if that makes sense.

Practically I.d love support around making meals at the moment but that's personal to me and where I'm at at the moment. I'm gettingp support through an eating disorders unit but its tough. I imagine all you can do is work on your dissapointment and separately encourage your mum in the things she does do well and the things you enjoy doing with her. I'm not sure as her daughter there is anything you can do for her unless she asks for help or makes it clear she'd welcome it. It would certainly have to be offered in the 'right' way from someonmd who understands eating disorders for me to accept.

We're told to avoid ww and slimming world etc. Mainly as they're focusing on the food and 'its not about the food', partly the cycle of failure they can produce too and the need for healthy eating habits.

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