To write a 'wake up' letter to my obese sister

(167 Posts)
SisterSister123 Mon 10-Oct-16 07:58:48

Name changed for extra privacy as this is a delicate subject.

Basically my older sister (early twenties) is morbidly obese. I think the cause was a cycle of being a chubby kid, teasing at school, comfort eating, being a chubbier kid etc... My mum often found evidence a serious secret binges. Tried to support various ways but ultimately she was the only person who could stop.

She is currently living with our parents. Whilst they were away for the weekend they asked me to go in and walk the dog/feed the cat as sister works at weekends.

I'm not sure if she knew I was due to be coming around as the kitchen was full to bursting with junk food. I'm talking pizza boxes, Chinese wrappers, chocolates, ready meals, cake, muffins, cheesecake, crisps, cream, ice cream, muffins...my mum doesn't buy things like this as she is conscious to support my sister (currently dieting). My parents were away for 3days and so she was obviously planning to eat all of this before their return.

I was devestated to see all that. I am terrified that she will get ill (diabetes cancer and heart disease are all in our family). Basically she is eating herself to death and I feel that nothing we can do will help. Any conversations over the years have been met with defensiveness and basically ignored.

It's not just her health, her confidence and therefore social life has also massively suffered. She is often miserable and nasty (I'm sure as a defence) Which is so sad to see.

I wanted to write her a letter, something she could read and digest in private. Tell her how scared I am and that she needs to change for her health. I wrote it out but in the end was too scared to leave it as I didn't want to upset her. Now I feel like a coward.

As a family we have tried various things before. Asked her to come along with me to slimming world when I was trying to loose my baby weight etc. She came but didn't change any habits so her weight stayed the same.

I'm very much aware that she is an adult and it's her choice to eat what she likes. But likewise she is my sister and I love her and I want her to be healthy and happy. Should I have sent the wake up letter? Or am I getting involved in something that doesn't concern me?

LordEmsworth Mon 10-Oct-16 08:01:25

She knows she is fat, she doesn't need you to tell her... If she doesn't want to change there is nothing you can do, I am afraid.

I am not saying it doesn't concern you, but that it is very unlikely to have any effect...

FrankensteinsSister Mon 10-Oct-16 08:02:36

If she has a binge eating disorder, surely mental health support would be more appropriate?

weaselwords Mon 10-Oct-16 08:02:55

Don't send the letter. Your sister doesn't need your disapproval she needs you to cheer her on. Be kind to her when she can't be kind to herself. This is about her, not you.

Sirzy Mon 10-Oct-16 08:03:15

Don't send her a letter, if you want to do anything sit down and talk to her about how you are worried. That said her weight/struggles aren't going to be news to her so even talking is going to have limited impact. Most people know what to do, but putting that into practise is easier said than done.

You say she struggles socially, perhaps that is somewhere you could help her. Do you go out together? I would focus on trying to help her that way tbh.

VimFuego101 Mon 10-Oct-16 08:03:22

I don't think a letter is going to change anything, sadly. She knows she's obese, she needs to want to change.

RomanticWalksToTheFridge Mon 10-Oct-16 08:03:34

I think you ought not to write any sort of letter,even if your motivations come from a good place. Secret eating as you describe is an emotional, psychological and sometimes a mental health issue. She is likely to only get defensive, upset and if she is a binge eater it would tip her into a spiral.

The best thing you can do is be there for her, be loving, include her in things, not make out that you are surreptitiously monitoring her in any way.

rosesandcashmere Mon 10-Oct-16 08:04:02

I think a letter is a bad idea, it seems overly harsh and I can't quite put my finger on why. Could you sit her down, on her own and discuss your concerns? Perhaps make a GP appointment together and go with her as a first step? It sounds like she could do with getting to the root of the eating issues, as well as being on a structured plan.

FlyingElbows Mon 10-Oct-16 08:05:06

It's not about "waking up", it's not like she doesn't know! Your intention is from a good place but if she's eating to salve emotional pain she needs proper help not a note of criticism. I think this is like any addiction and you cannot help her until she is ready to be helped.

Dizzybintess Mon 10-Oct-16 08:05:25

My first reaction when I read your title was to say nooooooo in a really horrified way.
However as you mention the stash of food planned to be eaten over 3 days. That is worrying behaviour.
I am overweight and I am on slimming world at the moment but I am my own worst enemy, constantly sabotaging my own efforts.

She has to want to change or its all for nowt! But rather than a letter (which I would personally re read over and over again and get really upset about) maybe sit her down and tell her that you found the stash and you are deeply worried about her health and you don't want to lose her. Hopefully she will see that it comes from a kind place x

Arfarfanarf Mon 10-Oct-16 08:05:38

She already knows.

Honestly she does.

You don't get to be morbidly obese without knowing what it's doing to you.

All your letter will do will make her feel bad.

And how will she deal with it?...

You arent unreasonable for worrying and wishing she could break this and get healthy. You love her. It's natural to be worried.

But you're looking for magic words and they dont exist.

Send her the letter if you want to but i seriously doubt it will have the effect you hope for.

RomanticWalksToTheFridge Mon 10-Oct-16 08:05:39

Also - I am obese, I know it. What makes me furious is when I catch my mother or father looking at me sideways, ...... my mother taking a peak at the labels in my clothes to check my clothing size....... suggestions that 'perhaps we should skip the planned sunday lunch and just have a sandwich' etc.

It makes me think that my value to them is in how I look rather than who I am.

Cheby Mon 10-Oct-16 08:05:53

She knows. She doesn't need a wake up letter, I'm sorry but how fucking patronising.

I get you are worried about her but why not sit with her and ask her how you can support her? Would she like you to come with her to see her doctor, for example? Does she just need someone to listen? Is there an issue underlying her eating?

She clearly has seriously disordered eating, from your own description. A letter isn't going to snap her out of it, anymore than a letter would cure anorexia.

Perfectlypurple Mon 10-Oct-16 08:06:26

Don't do it. I think you mean well but it will likely make her feel worse. She will do something about it if she wants to and when she is ready.

AnotherEmma Mon 10-Oct-16 08:06:34

The point of the letter isn't to tell her she is "fat" hmm The point is for the OP to tell her sister she loves her and is worried about her.

I agree that it probably won't make a difference - she won't change unless/until she is ready to - but I still think it might be worth sending it, OP, for the sake of being open about your concerns and offering your support.

FWIW I don't think slimming world or another diet is going to work given her current state of mind. It sounds like she might need counselling to help her address the causes of her overeating, and maybe hypnotherapy to help her give it up. She certainly needs something more drastic and supportive than a weekly meeting to see if she's lost a few pounds!

louise987 Mon 10-Oct-16 08:07:11

Personally I think a letter would be a good way to share your thoughts with her, as it's not as intense as a face to face discussion and you can both think through your emotions and responses.

It's right thou, she will know it's a problem so be delicate and careful not to 'blame' her for her weight, but rather show that you care and would like to support her. She may not want or be ready to make any changes, so be ready and happy to move on if that is the case. If she ignores the letter then you need to be happy to leave it there, in my experience the best thing to offer is support, rather than solutions.

You sound very sensible and caring so I'm sure you would be delicate in how you approach it. It's a tough one biscuit

Piscivorus Mon 10-Oct-16 08:08:32

If she has a binge-eating disorder you could do more harm than good as the situation could be far more complex psychologically than you realise.

If she is just an overweight woman, sick of dieting, who decided to have a pig-out while her parents are away, you will just make her feel worse about herself which will not help

She knows she is fat and probably feels bad enough already, offering support when she has not asked for it will just come across as critical.

Bobochic Mon 10-Oct-16 08:10:25

No way is what the OP described "just a pig out".

LiviaDrusillaAugusta Mon 10-Oct-16 08:11:55

She is presumably aware she's overweight?

Writing her a letter isn't going to magically change that and if she has a history of comfort eating, it could well make things worse.

She will know what she's doing to her health too - you can't change her but (perhaps unwittingly) it can come across that she's worth less because she's overweight.

It's her body and her health. As frustrating as it is, you all have to accept that.

Squeegle Mon 10-Oct-16 08:11:55

I am surprised about some of the comments here. Like PP said the point of the letter is to show how much OP cares and present it in a non lecturing way, which can sometimes happen when you talk. Eating like this is an addiction, and very often with confronting addictions a letter or similar is said to be a good thing, if it comes from a place of love as it allows the reader to digest it alone and at their own pace.
I know that with my own addict a letter was quite useful, it wasn't taken amiss. It is very hard, but I definitely think that either a chat or a note of some sort saying how much you care would not be a bad thing.

kenicka Mon 10-Oct-16 08:13:19

Romantic, for your parents it may not be about how you look but about your health. My close is obese and I worry about her getting diabetes or having a heart attack. I don't give a monkeys about how she looks.

DamsonInDistress Mon 10-Oct-16 08:13:20

If she really is morbidly obese ie. with Bmi of over 40 and around 6 stones or more overweight, then she knows already, believe me she knows. She probably looks in the mirror everyday and feels despair, self loathing, pain, guilt, shame, resentment, powerlessness, etc etc etc.

It's not about walking up, and certainly not about a letter. You could try and talk to her but you can't talk her better, I'm sorry. That you love her very much is clear, as is your worry, but you can't cure her with a magic wand.

I don't know what you can do as an individual to actually help, she has to get to the point of wanting to help herself.

Gazelda Mon 10-Oct-16 08:13:30

I'm obese. My sister is the only person in the world I wouldn't thump if they sent me this sort of letter.

However rather than tell her how worried you are and suggest she loses weight, maybe offer her support and time to help her find a solution. Slimming world or 'cutting down' probably won't be the answer. More psychological help might be needed. Make sure she knows that she's loved whatever her weight is, and that won't change if she doesn't diet.

snakesalive Mon 10-Oct-16 08:17:08

Could be worse...she could have bulimia,I was just like yr sister.helpful relatives rubbing it in.made me feel guilty.so I ate ,but threw up.25 yrs of bulimia...I'm old now..my advice.say nothing.love her for being her..she needs unconditional love before she can tackle it...and she needs to raise her self esteem,so she feels worthy of a healthy body.she does this because she hates herself.its a form of self abuse

RomanticWalksToTheFridge Mon 10-Oct-16 08:17:41

kenicka thanks, I know you should be right about that, but in this case I think it is mostly looks- both are quite into appearances. My DM was morbidly obese for alot of my life and my dad used to ridicule her and say he was ashamed to be out with her. Why she did not dump his sorry arse, I don't know. Now she is very slim, and works hard to keep it that way, and has become hypercritical of women 'letting themselves go'.

Thankfully my Darling Darling Husband seems to adore me even though I am 4 stone heavier than when we met! (I am bulimic among other things).

But I agree, that the OP (and most loving family members) will be coming from a place of concern.

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