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Worried about my obese, smoker, drinker, unhealthy Mum(13 Posts)
My Mum is 56 and is obese, a smoker and drinks a few evenings a week.
She struggles to walk very far without getting out of breath, she complains about aches and pains in her legs and hips, she has a definite wheeze in her chest, breathes extremely heavily and is pretty sedentary in her job too.
I've recently been seeing more of her since restrictions started easing and she's much worse than a few months ago. She seems so tired and struggles to stand up after sitting down for a while. My mum used to be very athletic, a runner, a swimmer, fantastic netball player in her younger years. I'm gutted that she's come to this. Her eating habits are pretty bad, she loves bread, cheese and other heavy carbs. She buys countless apps and books to help her lose weight, but barely moves her body so it seems pointless. She always used to be so mobile, I'm shocked at how sedentary she's become.
I'm trying to be kind and supportive but I'm so frustrated that she's not adopting the very basic strategies to change her lifestyle. I also don't want to upset her. She buys one book, reads it and moves on to the next without adopting the strategies and thinks she will magically find some sort of quick fix. She just needs to focus on the basics but she won't listen. I feel lucky to have a youngish mum in my mid-thirties and I don't want to lose her prematurely.
She recently bought a vape, but now vapes and smokes and hasn't replaced smoking with vaping! Her friends smoke and they're all partial to a beer so I don't think her social circle helps.
I'm not sure how to help her? I just want her to be healthy and able to enjoy her grandchildren. My friends mums are all older than mine and seem to be much fitter.
My mum is exactly the same. Sadly I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that she’s aware of the damage done and the damage she’s doing and it is her choice. It breaks my heart that her addictions are stronger than her responsibility as a mother and now grandmother but again it’s her choice.
While I understand your concerns you really need to back off. Oh and weight loss is like 80% food. Your post screams I want my free childcare provider to remain available.
Is there anything you could do with her, would she go for a walk with you etc? You could go once or twice a week and gradually build up distance/speed or when classes start again next month would she go to a gentle class with a friend or with you?
Does she want to stop smoking? If so contacting local smoking cessation services might help but won't if she doesn't want to engage. I've wanted my dad to stop smoking since I was a child, I hate the way he coughs stuff up all the time and wheezes but I know he's never going to stop, I have to not dwell on it as I find it really upsetting that he would rather smoke and struggle to breathe.
And over the last year or two we have given up on the idea of my MIL health improving, she seems to have just accepted that she can no longer do much and seems OK to have everyone else do her shopping, cleaning etc.
This sounds like it’s more about you and what you want
Which I understand, but you need to take a step back
It’s been a global pandemic, more people are depressed and anxious, more people are more sedentary, people have been finding comfort in alcohol and food
Give her a break
Just do fun active things and invite her along, a nice walk and (healthy) picnic for example.
Once you take the pressure off you can slowly start to ask things like if she wants help giving up smoking.
It’s frustrating to watch but your poor mum has been making attempts to help herself and it is much harder for older people. She obviously finds it hard to move and do exercise, she will have a much harder recovery time from any exercise sessions. It seems a simple thing to you but it’s not that way to her.
She’s addicted to smoking and it’s about the actions of lighting a cigarette as much as it is the chemical addiction. I have the same thing about making a cup of normal tea to calm down when I am stressed. If someone hands me a green tea in that situation I am not going to get the same soothing feeling.
Every time I see someone going on about carbs I want to roll my eyes. It’s just another foodstuff. The guy who started off all the “carbs are bad” stuff in the 90s died of a heart attack. If you try to make your mum cut out food groups she will likely resist because at her age she has seen these food fads go in and out of fashion all her life.
I am not saying give up on her, but I would suggest encouraging by including.
What about getting her to regularly come to the swimming pool with the kids once the restrictions are lifted? Plan to do C25K with her?
If you include her in something active but achievable then it’s more likely to stick.
Many people have struggled to stay active due to the lockdown and it’s well known that some people are social exercisers and don’t do well at individual sports.
It’s also quite demoralizing for people who previously were athletic to be faced with their loss of performance - it’s a stark reminder of their mortality and age. You are finding it tough to see your mum this way so imagine how she feels and that could be why she avoids doing activities that remind her of what she did before.
So if she doesn’t like the suggestions relating to activities she did before then maybe suggest an entirely new activity, like ballroom dancing (!) or something and go with her at first so it’s not a double whammy of social anxiety as well as fear of starting something new.
She may already have COPD from your description. I’d encourage her to ask her GP if she should have the test.
I was woefully ignorant about it but it is very common and a leading cause of disability and death.
My mum was much older when she was diagnosed but I realised then that she had probably shown symptoms for a decade or more.
Oh, and I would suggest that you put it to her as a request for help rather than a suggestion for her to do:
“Mum, I have to get the kids swimming again but I can’t face getting in the pool myself do you think you could do it this time?
“I really want to try flamenco dancing but I can’t face going by myself, could you come with me?”
Yes, agree with PP, get her to GP for a checkup before starting an exercise program
Your post is hilarious @bumberlee 🤣
There is 70 miles between mum and I so "free childcare" as you put it isn't an option, particularly as she also works FT. But, yes my post is "screaming" with it 🙄.
Some people actually are concerned and worried about people they love; it's a beautiful thing.
She's agreed to see a GP, so that's positive atleast. Due to the miles between us and us both working, it's difficult to find mutual times to get together and exercise. Classes are out of the question.
She has social anxiety and says she won't go for walks on her own and doesn't want to ask anyone to go with her as she's embarrassed about getting out of breath.
GP sounds like a good starting point. I think when people are making poor health choices they are either in denial, and so a GP telling them or seeing actual physical consequences, or they are aware of it and just not able to face it (yet). Either way there is a lot of shame in eating badly, smoking, drinking too much. She may disguise it with humour, or find peers who share the same behaviour so she feels less alone, but the shame is there. And shame causes a negative cycle which reinforces addiction and bad habits.
The best thing you can do is accept somebody as they are, to say I love you whether you are eating nothing but bread and smoking 2 packs a day, or eating kale and running half marathons. I love you whether you get help for your addictions and health problems or not. I love you but I am worried about you, are you ok? I know life can be hard and we all have our issues. Is there anything I can do to help? Would it help just to talk for a while? Do you need a hug? Do you need a day out having fun?
It would be so simple if all people needed was nicotine patches or slimming world classes or a gym pass. But these problems aren't really about smoking or eating or exercise or alcohol, or whatever. Those are all symptoms. The problem is that the person is trying to fix the pain inside themselves in whatever way they can. Shaming somebody makes that pain worse, accepting them and loving them helps them to start to heal some of that pain. Is a hug and a conversation going to stop her smoking? No. But maybe it might make her feel a little bit less alone, and find a little self love and self acceptance too. Sometimes it can be as simple as thinking, I must be a worthwhile person because my child values me just as I am. They don't make that love dependent on me changing myself. Which can then turn into... well nobody is forcing me to change but maybe I want to because I am so loved and valued and feel good about myself
Be brave, show her your post, it shows how much you love her and want her in your life for as long as possible