Carolyn Hax: Navigating issues related to weight

Carolyn Hax
Columnist June 19, 2013

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My mom just turned 70 and has been overweight for a long time. She has a bad knee and refuses to discuss surgery. This has been going on for years, and her mobility is decreasing while she takes baby steps toward weight loss.

I’m really concerned that she will lose her independence within the next two years. Any tips on approaching this subject with her? My siblings and I have tried in the past and she gave us the silent treatment. We want to help and keep gently supporting her, but is there really anything else we can do in the meantime?

Stubborn Mom’s Child


The simplistic answer is that you can’t do anything for your mom that she doesn’t permit.

But since her mobility problems are on course to become your problem, I urge you to talk to an elder-care specialist about ways you can prepare.

You don’t mention money, but if your mom hasn’t socked away enough to pay for necessary accommodations, then that’s going to add another complication to a list that already includes your mother’s weight and bad knee, her emotional limitations (silent treatment?!), her relative youth should she lose her mobility in the near future, and the fact that you and your sibs might need to step in if she can’t take care of herself, yet aren’t being allowed any say in the path that takes you all there.

The U.S. Administration on Aging offers an online Elder Care Locator. Have a look, see who serves your/your mom’s area, and get started on a comprehensive plan.

Again — you can get involved only to the extent she allows. However, I see that as only adding to the urgency of getting fully informed.

Dear Carolyn:

My best friend and I are overweight. We were both thin in high school and slowly, through the years and pregnancies and divorces, have gained weight.

She wanted to have weight-loss surgery, but her doctor was against it and her insurance wouldn’t cover it. I just approached my doc the other day about the surgery and my insurance does cover it. I am looking seriously into it and told my friend.

She scoffed at me and told me how terrible the surgery is and that I should lose weight by diet and exercise (something she has never done). I quickly changed the subject.

I am pretty sure she is upset that I can have the surgery and she cannot, but I thought she’d be more supportive. If I do decide to have this done, I am seriously considering not telling her.

Breaking Up With a Friend?

“I am looking seriously into it” — second and third opinions, yes?

The friendly response to her poor handling of her (understandably) complicated feelings is not to run, hide and judge. Sure, she should be more supportive, but give her a chance to process everything first.

Start by saying out loud how lousy you think it is that the same procedure gets two different treatments by insurance. Get that out in the open so you can really start being each other’s friends. Even though her snark about diet and exercise was petty stuff indeed, she needs your support — arguably more than you need hers.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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