How to help someone who won't help himself
October 19, 2015 11:07 AM   Subscribe

My dad is 72, obese, has a whole host of health issues, and is addicted to food. I'm exhausted by caring about his health more than he does, and worried that we're running out of time.

His weight becomes more of an obstacle every year, and I just don't know what it would take to make him finally start being proactive about his own health. He has been given so much support over the years from me and the rest of the family, but never takes the reins himself. He's had years of help from health professionals (health coaches, dieticians, physical therapists, doctors), whose advice he's mostly ignored. I've made myself available for years to go with him on daily walks. It's never lasted more than a few weeks. My mom and I have both made efforts to help him with healthy meals, but that just results in frustration when he continues to eat massive portions and continues to go on convenience store runs to load up on pastries and fried foods. I worked with him using MyFitnessPal at the beginning of the year, but it petered out after a month when it became clear that he wasn't serious about cutting back on the junk he was eating. We try to help as much as we can, but it's tiring to feel like we're the ones doing the work to get things moving, while he doesn't want to get off the starting block.

There seems to be a health scare of some sort at least once or twice a year, often with a trip to the ER. Most recently, he's had two TIA (mini strokes) in the past month. There was a major heart issue lasting over six months about two years ago. In the moment, he talks sincerely about how he's sick of dealing with these health issues and needs to make some changes. I know he's being honest, of course. If he could snap his fingers and lose 70 pounds, he'd do it in a second, but there's just never any follow-through. One week ago I was sitting in the hospital with him, and I know that within a couple days he was right back to his horrible eating habits. I sometimes go with him to doctor's appointments, but often wonder why I even bother. "It's good to have another pair of ears," he says, but I often feel like I'm the only pair of ears listening to what's being said.

If I wasn't as close to my dad as I am, then I guess it would be easier to separate myself from the issue a bit, but that's not the case. We've always been buddies and spend a lot of time together going to concerts, museums and so on. Which is why this seems to defy all rational thought and is so confusing. I'm witnessing this clear, steady decline in his mobility. He's a brilliant, curious person who loves to go out and do stuff, but it's not hard to see that on the current trajectory, he'll be in a wheelchair within a couple years. Getting around short distances is already a big struggle, and he'll often get winded just walking from the parking lot into a building. He has a bad back, which doesn't help, and he's probably looking at his fourth back surgery sometime soon. All of this should be a huge motivation to get the weight under control and make some changes, but still, nothing. It also saps a lot of the fun out of spending a day with him when we do occasionally go somewhere. When we inevitably have to stop for lunch or whatever, he will, without fail, order one of the least healthiest things on the menu or eat way too much and it spoils the whole mood.

I just feel so drained by this. I wish I could step back and take a "live and let live" outlook, but I love him and can't help but think that the window of opportunity to turn things around is rapidly closing (multiple doctors have said as much). I feel angry and resentful ("Don't you care about us enough to want to stick around? Do you realize the toll this is taking on all of us?"), though I mostly keep it to myself. I mean, anything I could say has been said countless times before. I just don't know what to do anymore. To be clear, no one is trying to force him down a path he doesn't want to go down, and he usually isn't directly pushing the helping hands away. He regularly thanks me for trying to help. He keeps talking the talk, but never acts. Hence my exhaustion. I feel like I've been strung along for years by false hope that never materializes into anything.

Whether it's food/weight or other addictions, I'm just wondering how other people have handled similar situations. I'm all too aware that people usually don't change until they want it themselves, but I'm just struggling with how to emotionally cope with my end of the relationship. I feel like I'm watching him commit suicide in slow-motion.
posted by thornhill to Human Relations (31 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
He probably needs therapy but you can't make him do that anymore than you can make him not eat. Chances are good he doesn't "not care" about this, but it's really really hard to change. And from watching my parents, it gets even harder as you get older. Maybe eating is one of his only enjoyments in life. Maybe he's hiding pain of some kind. Who knows.

So instead of trying to figure out how to help him, I suggest that you get therapy that is focused on how to enjoy whatever time you have left with him. Just print your question and hand it to a therapist. Figure out how to do things you enjoy with him despite his ailments. Enjoy those times and those memories. He could die tomorrow; so could you. Focusing on trying to help is wasting time. Whatever it is he orders at lunch should not ruin your mood.

And I say this as someone with an 82 year old mother with a variety of health issues she won't address. I used to feel the same way you do, especially because I am the baby of the family and feel like I am being deprived of time with her. Except that (through therapy) I realized how feeling that way was, actually, depriving me of the time. If that makes sense.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:25 AM on October 19, 2015 [28 favorites]

If other avenues have been exhausted, have you considered proposing to him a low-carb or no-carb diet where he can eat bad stuff, but only carb-free fatty and protien-rich bad stuff? That helped me lose a good thirty pounds or so without any exercising, and I only stopped because once I started exercising I got tired of not being able to eat carbs. (Which I found much easier than only eating salads and vegetables, but still pretty tough.) I didn't see any rise in my blood lipid levels or other side effects from a higher-fat diet but I'm half of your father's age.
posted by XMLicious at 11:26 AM on October 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

im definitely no doctor, and he might obviously be required to show some pre-surgery commitment to a non-medical weight loss routine, but is there a reason you dont mention the possibility of pursuing some sort of weight loss surgery? I gather that a not trivial portion of folks who get them eventually end up back at a larger size than they'd like, but it seems like initial results could prolong and improve your dad's life.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:26 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

You can't change him.
You can't change him.
Let me say it again. You can't change him.

I'm sorry you're going through this, but your Dad is an adult who fully well knows the consequences of his actions, and will not change unless he wants to. You have done all you can, and while it will be heartbreaking should he decide to continue not taking care of his health, it is entirely his decision to do so, or not (as the case may be).

You need to protect yourself, because that's what you can control. If your Dad is determined to keep neglecting his health, all you can do is love him, remind him that you are here to help him with whatever he needs, and be okay with the fact that he's making his own decisions. It's terrible, but with this sort of thing, you cannot change someone else.
posted by xingcat at 11:27 AM on October 19, 2015 [57 favorites]

You can't help him. You can only make the best of the time remaining. Anger and resentment and struggling to change him will only ruin the little time you have left with him. You're right: he is accelerating the end of his life. This is a betrayal. Letting go of false hope is also a loss.

Al-Anon might help by giving you tools for letting go and space for coping with your emotions as you grieve the impending end of a relationship you cherish. Despite the name, Al-Anon is about addressing one's own behavior in situations like this, not about any specific dysfunction.
posted by wonton endangerment at 11:29 AM on October 19, 2015 [11 favorites]

I feel like I'm watching him commit suicide in slow-motion.

You are. You're not crazy for thinking that. I think you need to get yourself some therapy because this is a horrible thing to deal with, and you shouldn't have to do it alone.

Beyond that... have you told him very clearly what he is doing to you? You said you want to do it from an angry spot sometimes, but you were right not to do that. When you're at your most calm, get him alone and tell him why you love him and what his choices are doing to the people who care most about him. If he can't or won't change after that, there is nothing more you can do. This is no different than any other form of self-destructive behavior and I'm more and more convinced that modern food is equivalent to drugs for a lot of people.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:33 AM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

He's an adult. He's 72 years old. He's already got chronic problems that lead to pain and lack of mobility. He's not going to live forever, and he's, in the end, the one who gets to make the choices about his life between now and then. There is literally nothing you can do that is going to mean that he's never going to die. He's at the very difficult time where you have to start getting used to the fact that the overriding priority isn't putting off your grief process. He's going to die. It might be sooner. It might be later. You don't get to decide when it's going to be. You can be support in whatever it is that he wants for his life and the way that it ends, but that's the beginning and end of your control over this process. Start getting used to that. You are going to be witnessing his decline, no matter what he does at this point. It is going to be astronomically hard for you, no matter what he does at this point. This period is the time of learning how to start grieving instead of just resisting that aging happens and that we can't keep the people we love forever.

I had to do this with multiple family members in the past couple years, including my dad who died almost exactly a year ago at not-yet-70, so I'm not saying it's easy. It's just necessary. Letting go is a thing that takes practice. Learning to take pleasure in this particular moment, not in the math game of whether them doing X would give you Y more years or months or days. See a therapist or counselor for yourself, if you can, because this is not going to be an easy process, but you can't make it not happen, and that doesn't change depending on what he eats.

Once you're actively dealing with that part for yourself, you'll have an easier time seeing if there's anything where he genuinely wants resources he doesn't currently have, versus just things where you're personally upset by what you see and what that means about the future. There's nothing wrong with you that you find all of this an upsetting thing to be dealing with... you just need to make that transition as early as you can to actually dealing.
posted by Sequence at 11:36 AM on October 19, 2015 [25 favorites]

Yes, get help for yourself to let go of this struggle. To better accept what you can't change and enjoy what time you have. You have done your absolute best and there is a lot of satisfaction to be had in that when all is said and done.
posted by TenaciousB at 11:38 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Can you sort of level with him? Talk about what you observe in an honest, neutral way and ask how he would like you to behave around this stuff. Ultimately he's an adult and if he chooses not to be super-invested in changing his behaviors, that's his choice. Maybe it would be easier for you to accept that if you have a clear, calm conversation with him to very directly clarify for yourself what he wants (and what you're realistically able to offer.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:42 AM on October 19, 2015

Story time: My mother was an alcoholic (in denial) who ended up going to the hospital because her belly itched. She was diagnosed with end-stage cirrhosis. Her doctors told her she could get on the donor list for a new liver if she agreed to go to AA and follow certain criteria.

She refused, because she didn't think she had a problem and AA was a cult and everyone drinks and blah blah blah.

She died 2 years after that from hepatic encephalopathy. (Ugly ugly way to die!) I spent those two years trying my best to get her to live better so she could live longer.

I sought counseling from doctors, family, friends, and therapists. They all gave me the same advice: You can't change her behavior, you can only change you.

So even though I was so MAD she chose to die this way, I realized I couldn't stop it.

Your dad is an adult. He gets to make his choices about how to live and ultimately how to die.
posted by heathrowga at 11:58 AM on October 19, 2015 [18 favorites]

I'm just wondering how other people have handled similar situations

My dad died last year...about 11 months ago. He was 72. He had heart disease, COPD, arthritis, diabetes, kidney failure, was overweight, the whole bit.

I think I handled things with him pretty well, because when he was 70, a revelation hit me: I could stop griping at him about his food. After decades of being the nagging schoolmarm explaining what he should and shouldn't eat, after decades of worry and hospital trips and surgeries, I could just stop talking and enjoy being around him. He'd made it to 70! Nobody had expected that. So I told myself to shut up with the advice and just let him ride it out.

And ride it out he did. He made small adjustments here and there, and I'd roll my eyes and cattily mention his blood sugar when he'd confess what he'd had for dessert, but I never again wanted to act like I was the boss of my father's health. It wasn't good for either of us. It hurt me to be so critical, so watchful, and to see so little result from my nagging, and my nagging certainly hurt him too, because who wants to be in a conversation where you're always in the wrong, when someone's always looking over your shoulder at you?

What did I think I was doing, all those years where I'd explain how he was eating wrong? Did I think I was passing on new information? His family all dropped from heart disease and diabetes, it wasn't like he didn't know. But so what? Why was his health getting so confused in my mind with some kind of morality, like he was hurting us all by eating fried chicken and doughnuts or whatever? Would I miss him any less if he died skinny?

The relationship really changed when I was able to just let him be. We could talk. know, have conversations. When it wasn't like I was trying to keep him alive forever, which couldn't happen anyway.

In the hospital, in his last days, they would bring him the special cardiac/diabetic diet tray. He wouldn't touch anything. He wasn't hungry, he was busy dying and needed to be left to do that work. But it hits me now, how much it would suck to have your last meal be based on someone's judgment of you, of your health, of your body. Here, they seemed to be saying, this bland and tasteless slop is all you deserve after your lifetime of sinful eating. Why? Would overboiled and underseasoned vegetables add even ten minutes to his life? What promise of quality of life did the pale processed slice of turkey make?

I'm not saying you have to give up on your dad. I'm not saying you have to stop advising and trying to help. But if you can, take a step back, and try to feel whether or not you're hurting yourself with these attempts. Whether you're hurting him. What ends up happening to him will be based on his own choices, on physics, on fate. Maybe trying to fix him less, will help more. Maybe if you have guilt or anger or fear all built up, reinforced by these attempts to help, maybe some of that can drain away if you take a break from it.

Whatever you end up deciding and doing, though, you definitely have my sympathy. It's a hard, hard place to be.
posted by mittens at 12:14 PM on October 19, 2015 [110 favorites]

statistically speaking, even if he was a young, fit obese person who really wanted to lose weight, his chances of succeeding would be pretty low . Factor in his age an ill health and you're asking for a statistical miracle. Even if he was able to lose some weight, its likely to be too little, far too late.

FWIW, my grandmother was a healthy weight and had a stroke at a similar age to your dad. She ate healthily, was fit and active and she started to have health problems, including stroke and cancer in her 70s. She didn't make it to 80.

He could have lived a life of total virtue and still not lived as long as he has. To lose 70lbs is going to take years of constant effort and might not help anything but the mobility. Do you want to spend the last years of his life fighting with him, being exhausted and disappointed every time he fall off the wagon?

The best thing you can do for him is help keep him active - not going to be easy if he's going to have back surgery. Inactivity is far worse for your health than obesity. The risks of almost all "obesity related diseases" can be massively reduced or eliminated through exercise. Obviously, that doesn't include the strain on joints etc of physically carrying the excess weight.

For yourself, accept that no-one lives forever. Stop obsessing over his weight or what he eats. Enjoy the time you have left with him. So what if he orders the most unhealthy thing on the menu at lunch? (unless he eats so much that your afternoon activities have to be cancelled)
posted by missmagenta at 12:15 PM on October 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

You can't force him to change. He understands what he should do, but he can't do it. It's very sad, but you have to stop letting it ruin your time with him. When you wrote "When we inevitably have to stop for lunch or whatever, he will, without fail, order one of the least healthiest things on the menu or eat way too much and it spoils the whole mood." it made me very sad. Let him be. Stop monitoring everything he eats. You've done what you can, but now it's on you to accept him for who he is, flaws and all. It's frustrating and hard, and I'm sorry. But try to be with him and spend time with him and stop seeing him as what he ate that day. Good luck!
posted by clone boulevard at 12:21 PM on October 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

I feel your pain. My father is one of my best friends and I would be heartbroken in your shoes.

But you do need to detach yourself a little from this. If you can't help monitoring and feeling sad about what he eats, stop eating with him. If there's no point in going to his doctor's visits with him, then don't go. If he doesn't want to go for a walk, okay, try again another time--or don't, if you just can't handle the repeated refusals.

Think not about what's best for your dad right now, but what's best for your relationship. You can't change him or his destructive behavior, but you can change how you respond, internally and externally.
posted by chaiminda at 12:32 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can't help him. He is an adult making his own choices. He will likely die prematurely but that's his choice. You have to meet him where he is and enjoy the time you have with him.

My dad drank himself to death over a period of 40 years. He ended up in an assisted living facility with low-grade alcohol-induced dementia, mobility issues and diabetes complications. He died at 70. Once I accepted these were his choices and that any amount of wishing, nagging, hoping and crying on my part was not going to make him more able to conquer his addiction or escape its consequences, it got a lot easier.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:35 PM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Which is why this seems to defy all rational thought and is so confusing.

I know it can be terribly frustrating, but others are right - it's out of your control and you have to let it go. Life inherently defies rationality. At 72, your dad has already outlived my dad, who died a couple days after his 71st birthday. He was a bio-chemist, ate very healthily, exercised almost every day, was independent, active, and in great shape, didn't smoke, didn't drink, with no know health or heart issues. He died from a sudden massive heart attack while he was grocery shopping at Whole Foods, of all places.

I have struggled with weight myself, losing almost 1/3 of my body weight. The weight came off very easily (and with a lot of exercise), but *only* after dealing with other contributing underlying issues and experiences. It's different for every person, and it's something only an individual can figure out for themselves (but sometimes never).

Your dad is who he is, and the best thing you can do is enjoy the time spent with him while you can. Go to more concerts, go to more museums, ask him to tell you stories. Love him and relish today because there are no guarantees, even for the healthiest among us.
posted by raztaj at 12:55 PM on October 19, 2015 [9 favorites]

I've been down this road with my dad, who on top of the weight is also a non-compliant type-2 diabetic who refuses to check his blood sugar and is constantly skipping doctor's appointments and blood tests. It is not easy, but I try to remind myself:

-- I can spend the time we have together (which NO MATTER WHAT will be limited -- no matter what your health choices, no one lives forever) nagging him and being upset about his choices and arguing and shouting, or I can spend it just being with him and enjoying him as a person. As a person, he IS MORE than his weight and his diabetes and his other health issues. He's so much more than that! So I can choose to focus on those things that bring us both joy.
--He's not doing this AT me. It's hard for me to really understand everything that's going on in my dad's head all the time, and a lot of the time his choices do not make logical sense to me. But what I do know FOR SURE (and am pretty sure is the case in your dad's situation too!) is that he's not doing it to hurt me or because he doesn't love me or because he doesn't want to be around to meet his grandkids.

Both of these things do bring me comfort, although I totally sympathize and agree with you that it is not an easy position to be in.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:41 PM on October 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

Looks like everyone has covered this pretty well but seriously this is not your battle to fight or your problem to solve. Think about what you were like as a child or even a teen or younger adult. Were you perfect? Did you always do what your parents told you to do, or even the objectively right thing? If you're anything like me, the answer is a big NOPE. It's your turn to just love your dad for who be is and let him be. Live the way you want but his diet and exercise choices aren't about you. Enjoy the time you have together so that when he does die your memories are fond, not fraught.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 2:36 PM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Please realize that, even if your father did everything "right" from this moment on, he will still die. Even if he had started doing everything "right" a decade ago, he would still die. We all do.

I had a colleague who was a fitness nut -- ran 10 miles a day, watched his diet carefully, avoided all known risks -- and still, a brain tumor took him 30 days after his diagnose, at only 45 yo. The human interest pages are full of centagenarians who attribute their long life to their daily smokes or alcohol.

While you may be persuaded of a direct link between your father's choices and his current health, this game of blaming mortality on lifestyle -- "if only he hadn't ..." -- is a relatively recent thing. Don't play. Love your dad and cherish the time you have together.
posted by peakcomm at 3:27 PM on October 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm more than ten years younger than your dad but also fat and out of shape and sometimes reluctant to do things that call for a lot of walking. One thing that has helped me is having an exercise bike (yes, in front of my TV). I started with a cheap one from a garage sale and could only pedal a little before ankle or knee pain stopped me. But I kept with it, even if I was only pedaling for five minutes a day and eventually my thighs were much stronger and I don't have knee and ankle pain and I feel stronger and more stable when I walk. When my cheap bike broke down, we did buy an expensive recumbent one. The US is full of dusty, unused exercise equipment. This is only going to work if he feels motivated to do it.
posted by puddledork at 3:41 PM on October 19, 2015

I'm at the age where I'm watching a lot of friends go through this, and as sympathetic as I am to their anger and frustration and helplessness, it's about them and not the parent*. It's about not wanting to lose a parent, which of course most people desperately don't.

But he is going to die, no matter what you do (or what he does, at this point, but especially no matter what you do), and he has made his choices about how to live. Your choice is to respect it or end the relationship.

There's no MyImmortalityPal app you can force on him. You have to let this go. You're going to regret treating him like an idiot eventually - because he does know where weight comes from already - when that's your sum total of memories of your final years with him.

*But yes, it is extra frustrating as fuck when they're taking the other parent down with them. Both my parents smoke like chimneys and that's on them - even though I quit, even though I know it can be done, I get that it's hard especially when you refuse to take medicine for anxiety, which is still their decision to make - but my father's preference to not pursue any treatment for his crippling back issues rather than take any sort of risk on a treatment means my mother works her ass off dawn to dusk taking care of him. But still, these are the choices they are making, and they are still fairly mentally competent, so...I'm not going to tear myself up about it.

I watched all four of my parents' parents go slowly and painfully and horrifically, so much so that my mother has already told me they'll make a strategic exit when the options run out. I've been hearing that for so long, and was there as an adult for her parents' miserable deaths, that I'm fairly at peace with it. You should try to find a way to at least accept, even if you hate it, that what they are doing is at least close enough to what they want that it's not bad enough to do anything else instead.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:42 PM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Another point, now that I'm juuuust barely old enough to understand what "decline" might mean, when you say "Don't you care about us enough to want to stick around? Do you realize the toll this is taking on all of us?" you aren't understanding that being in a 72-year-old body, even one in really great condition, is not the same as being in a 25- or 35- or even 45-year-old body plus lots more life experience.

The new car smell is long gone, nothing works the way it did when it was new, none of the labels are legible anymore. Things hurt, basic bodily functions are an ordeal, you're sharp enough to know you're not nearly as sharp as you used to be. You can't really be interested in things like you used to be, socially have have very little value, and you have tons of free time you can't do much with. And you worry about the money running out, or not being the first to go and having to take care of things alone, or being a burden. Or you're just tired. You've been watching your friends die at a steady pace for 20 years.

It's hard to enjoy that time, for a lot of people. Men especially, I think, often hope to work until they drop dead so they don't have to face losing the thing that gave them purpose and identity, and the way they were taught to express that care you're complaining about now that he's had to stop.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:22 PM on October 19, 2015 [10 favorites]

I'm just struggling with how to emotionally cope with my end of the relationship.

Cope by letting go of your imagined responsibility and ability to influence what your dad eats.

I'm not saying that to be harsh. I'm saying that to be realistic, and kinder to both of you. Criticizing an old man's food choices and trying to make him feel guilty for enjoying the remaining physical pleasure of eating... it's not something you should be doing. It won't do any good and it will poison the time you have left with him. And again: it isn't effective. It does no good. He has all the information you have. If his appetite overrides his desire to eat healthy, your disapproval isn't going to change that. It will only make you both less happy.

Let go of this burden. It helps nobody. When you see him eating ice cream, try thinking "I'm glad he gets to enjoy that ice cream" rather than "he's hurting me by eating it and I better tell him so."
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:47 PM on October 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

My mother just died at 70 of badly managed type 2 diabetes. I am sad and frustrated at her choices, and that they kept me from having more time with her.

The best gift I gave her, and the time I had with her, was that I rented her one of those mobility scooters while she visited. For that week, she was fully mobile and young and spry. She would harass pedestrians and race against my 2 year old and and in general, drive like a maniac. We had access to places and outings. She was excited and happy.

I hope you find some things that allow you awesome connections to your dad in whatever encounters with him you have in the future.
posted by gregglind at 7:19 PM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

and, one more thing -- when that urge comes to correct his eating, while you're squelching it, be gentle with yourself, too. That urge comes from love and wishful thinking. You're wishing you could help him, wishing you could protect him from the ravages of age, of food cravings, of obesity and its indignities. You can't protect him, but it is loving of you to wish that you could. So don't be angry, at him or at yourself. Just try to feel the love, at the same time that you squelch the urge to criticize.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:48 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was talking to my mother a few months back and she was griping about her dad - he's in his 70s, has Parkinsons, and is generally in ill health. She was griping that he didn't get out and do things, didn't socialise as much as he should. I wasn't having a great day, so I snapped at her "jesus ma, he's seventy, he did all that shit his whole life give him a fucking break hey? Let him stay at home and be happy with his TV and occasional visitors.".

I refrain from lecturing my dad about his food intake, even though he's gained almost everything back after the gastric bypass. I model what I want him to do in terms of talking to my daughter and I never ever want him lecturing her, so why would I lecture him? If I want to spend time with him why am I making it so hard on both of us?
posted by geek anachronism at 7:50 PM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I knew an older woman who was obese, never exercised, ate meals that revolved around sugar, salt and fat, never exercised, and refused to go to the doctor until she had a stroke and it was no longer her decision. Then it emerged that she'd had type 2 diabetes for who-knows-how-long. She lived for years after that, and not due to lifestyle changes.
posted by bunderful at 7:57 PM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Honestly, it's just fucking HARD to see your own parents get old and sickly. Pile on top of that the WTF experience of seeing your parents regress to childish behaviors and you becoming the adult/parent in the relationship, and it's a huge mind-fuck. Trust me, every one of us who has a parent live past 60 experiences this at some point. They may even live long enough that you need to literally change their diaper and put a spoonful of food in their mouth.

My husband and I going through this with our own parents and all we can really do is remind each other that you really can't change your parent's health situation, especially once they reach a certain age. It's terrifying because you're afraid of the same thing happening to you at that age. Try to keep them comfortable and happy, and remind yourself that they've had a lot of life experiences already. Now is not the time to lecture them on good behavior.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:35 PM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Here's a practical and easy suggestion: ask your dad to take an 800mg chromium picolinate supplement once a day. This pill is a miracle for me. I go from crazy compulsive about food to someone who can say no thanks or stop eating when I want to. It's seriously night and day for me. I took it years ago and just started again after a break for pregnancy and nursing. It always has had the same effect. I've lost 10 lbs now in a month and a half without trying to diet. I am simply less crazy about food with no real effort. I will say chromium is most effective for sweets, at least for me, but I am also doing better with my carbs and fatty foods.

I don't know if this could be a game changer for your dad, but it's easy to try and it's not going to hurt anything. I buy mine at the drugstore. Works out to $5-10/ month.
posted by mirabelle at 8:35 AM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

If he really does want to make a change but just doesn't have the willpower to stick with it, perhaps a ketogenic diet would help him. You cut out basically all carbs and eat more fat instead. The great part is that after a few days, your cravings for carbs disappear like magic. Then it becomes easier to lose weight because fat is so satiating you'll be less likely to overeat.

I spent years horribly addicted to sugar and carbs, depressed and morbidly obese and achy all over. I am slowly starting to climb out of that hole, and I have come to believe that a lot of modern medicine has things wrong. I feel crazy saying that, but I've lost 27 pounds since August by eating bacon and eggs with butter and salt, and not exercising. I can walk past amazing sweets that I would have wanted to stuff myself with before, and I just don't want them. It's remarkable how my feelings about food have changed.

I know you can't change your dad, and you'll need to focus on taking care of yourself emotionally, I just wanted to put this out there as a potential tool for him to help himself. The Reddit group /r/keto is the most informative, supportive group I have found on the topic, particularly their FAQ.
posted by beandip at 2:35 PM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

At that age, with the problems and conditions you describe, and with the attitude he has persistently demonstrated, nothing is going to be "turned around", I'm sorry to say. I can suggest only the following:

- Your father replaces one meal a day with a protein shake of some description (there are plenty of super-delicious flavours for the person with a sweet tooth) loaded with psyllium husk or something similar for bulk and the feeling of fullness this provides

- Quest bars for snacks

- A pot of green tea always at his side. Plenty of different flavours there, too

- Walking. More walking, wherever possible.

These are tiny things that can be introduced gradually, not all at once. They may not have a noticeable impact...but they will help to slow the detriment he is doing to himself. I'm afraid that's all that can be done at this point.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:56 PM on October 25, 2015

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