How to Care for an Obese Relative

If you are in the situation of caring for an obese family member, you may be concerned about their health. Here is how to encourage their health and self esteem, and keep your relationship positive.


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    Don't criticize their body or lifestyle. Shame is harmful to mental health, and may make them afraid of being judged. It will also harm your relationship and make them distrust you.
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    Avoid the assumption that "fat" and "unhealthy" are synonymous. This attitude is hurtful to heavy people who work very hard on maintaining good health, ignores the existence of unhealthy thin people, and can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy for obese people who are self-conscious. It may be best not to mention weight at all.
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    Find fun ways to get activity together. Some obese people are afraid of exercise, because they might be mocked or pushed too hard. Get outdoors together, let them set the pace, and make exercise a social activity rather than a self-loathing workout.
    • Go for walks together
    • Play backyard sports (football, volleyball, soccer, etc.)
    • Visit nature trails and hike
    • Play in a pool or lake
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    Buy healthy foods that everyone likes. Go to the grocery store with your obese loved one and ask them to pick out their favorite fruits and veggies. Talk to them about what they like to eat, and what their favorite health foods are. Mention what health foods you like, and what other family members like too.
    • Integrate health food into desserts: strawberries with whipped cream and chocolate syrup, raspberries and vanilla ice cream, bananas with nutella, etc.
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    Be fair. Your relative will notice if you always give them a tiny dish of nonfat ice cream while you let their thinner loved ones eat whatever they please. Make any health projects a family initiative, so that no one feels singled out.
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    Encourage their self esteem. Many obese people struggle with body image issues and poor self confidence. Compliment their resilience, their compassion, or their skill at the piano. Encourage them to see themselves as talented, worthwhile individuals.
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    Doll up a female relative a little. Society places an enormous value upon how beautiful a woman is, so if she is obese, she may feel ugly and unwanted. You can help her by pointing out cute clothes in her size, playing with her hair (if she's okay with it), and telling her she looks gorgeous.
    • Avoid the term "slimming" when giving fashion advice. Tell yourself that the goal isn't to make her look skinny, which is impossible, but to make her look fabulous, which is definitely possible.
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    Show them that you love them. You are their family, not their personal trainer. Your caring and affection is what they need most.


  • Some people have health conditions that limit their diet or exercise abilities. Never push your loved one to do something unhealthy or unsafe for their individual body.

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Categories: Family Life | Diet & Lifestyle