Ask Amy: Father bullies son about weight gain

January 25, 2013

DEAR AMY: I am a 24-year-old man, and my weight has fluctuated greatly over the years. In the last year, I have gained a lot of weight due to bad habits. I understand my bad habits; overeating, bad foods and lack of exercise are all contributing factors.

My father feels the need to offer advice and lecture me every time I visit home. I expect and brace myself for these hourlong repetitive tirades whenever I visit. He knows that I know about my weight and I am struggling to deal with it.

Over Christmas I got four lectures over a five-day period. I told him to back off and stop harassing me about this subject. He let it drop, but then right after New Year’s he sent out an e-mail to our family bringing it up again, in a public setting this time. My dad is relentless; he just won’t stop.

I have tried explaining all this to him a number of times, and he understands but chooses to ignore what I say. Recently I got more direct and told him off very strongly, but that hasn’t worked either.

The only option it seems is to cut him out of my life entirely, but that seems extreme. I know he cares for me, but it has gotten to the point that it is causing me to relapse into depression. How should I deal with a loving family member who keeps harassing me about a sensitive issue? -- Michael

DEAR MICHAEL: You’ve given your father many opportunities to change his tactics, and he has responded by turning up the heat.

Emotions, such as anxiety and anger, have a lot to do with body image and overeating. The healthiest and most logical way to respond to your challenge is to avoid the triggers that cause you to feel worse and to orient yourself toward positive examples and reinforcement.

You needn’t cut your father out of your life. You do need to avoid him — and his regrettable behavior — until your health is more stable. The armchair psychologist in me suspects there is a lively connection between your father’s attitude toward you and your attitude toward yourself. I hope you can turn some of this anger into action.

Overeaters Anonymous uses a 12-step model and group meetings to address chronic eating addiction. Check oa.org to find a local meeting.

DEAR AMY: I would do anything to have a relationship with the children of my troubled son. I am not proud of his actions regarding his ex-wife and children, and I make no excuses for him. But my husband and I are loving, caring people who have much to offer his family.

We have reached out only to have our letters and cards returned. We would be glad to comply with any restrictions his ex-wife felt necessary to impose.

We have no personal agenda other than to be there for our grandchildren. I implore all mothers in this situation to think long and hard about what their children are missing. -- Sad Grandma

DEAR SAD: I hope your loving and reasonable plea will be received by other families facing this sad challenge. If all adults could concentrate on putting the needs and rights of children first, then even broken families could be mended. I hope you will keep trying to change the dynamic with your grandchildren; don’t overwhelm or pressure your former daughter-in-law, but please don’t give up.

DEAR AMY: I loved the letter from “Across the Street,” the snooty neighbors who didn’t like their new neighbors’ lawn ornaments.

My husband and I had neighbors next door with tacky lawn ornaments that we used to make fun of between ourselves. Then we actually got to know our neighbors, who turned out to be a wonderful older couple, and we really enjoyed their company.

Funny thing — after that, their lawn ornaments didn’t bother us anymore. Both of those wonderful people have passed on now, and we would give anything to have them and their tacky lawn ornaments back. -- Missing Them

DEAR MISSING: Beauty is in the eye — and the attitude — of the beholder.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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