Eating Disorders Community
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Concerned Mom of obese adult daughter

I am a Mom of an obese adult daughter (27 yrs old). She has been grossly overweight for the last 5 years (started after she began and quit a marathon for breast cancer). She has a good job, a boyfriend who is very good for her, a house that they bought together, pets, cars and she maintains that she is very happy. During a recent visit, my husband and I noticed that she has continued to put on more weight -- her skin was pale and her hair was greasy and she walked around clutching a giant pillow and curled up on the couch after work covered in a blanket -- on the computer. We had a pleasant visit and I called her a few days later and asked her if I could bring up a personal issue. She said, "Sure Mom". (We were in a "good relationship" period). I said, verbatim, "I'm concerned about your health and weight". She was furious and hung up on me. I didn't tell her how to live her life...just expressed my concern.

She is still furious and hurt and has lashed out at me. I need some feedback from others -- did I interfere in something that is not my business as she has claimed. (I apologized for getting in her business and hurting her). Or is it OK to express a health concern to a grown child? I do not consider myself an interfering mom -- quite the opposite--I am proud of her in so many ways and let her know this many times when she calls with a new job...new accomplishment...or just to say hello. I have been supportive through many hard times and I can't decide if I'm horrified at myself or a little angry at my daughter who has lashed out at me and told me basically that I have done this sort of thing all her life and "if and when" she forgives me...she's never going to feel comfortable around our family again. And she ended one email with the statement..."I guess you were depressed the whole time you were here so I guess I can't do anything right."

I will add that my mother has an eating disorder and I do too although I have worked hard to be a "normal" person with food and health. I have struggled with cycling between getting slim and in shape and getting chubby and inert. I imaging this is part of the problem.

Help! This is causing me to lose sleep and I'm pretty depressed at the state of things.
Thanks to anyone who has any advice. I'm always willing to grow into a better person.
12 Responses
Avatar universal

First I want to say I really appreciate your concern for your daughter AND your willingness to look at your own approach. You did nothing wrong, and were only trying to help.

That having been said, unfortunately your daughter is clearly not open to your help at this time. This is obviously a very touchy subject for her. She is going through whatever she is going through with weight and food and she might be experiencing other emotional symptoms such as depression as well. Unfortunately, you may be the last person she will turn to for help, because you are her mother and mothers and daughters have difficult relationships. Eating disorders are often about control and so she will probably react strongly to anything she sees as an effort to control her.

What can you do? Right now, maybe nothing. If she is willing, continue your pleasant relationship as if nothing happened. If she brings it up again you might want to just gently say you were just concerned, didn't mean to overstep, and that you are there for her, perhaps that if she doesn't feel comfortable talking with you but talks with someone else that is ok too. She has all the cards now.
Avatar universal
Thank you so much for your response -- I really appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts. You are very astute to understand a situation from a description and I thank you for your advice. You have made me feel better and it is very comforting to reach out to a third party (other than family) who can see the issue in a rational way. You are a very kind person and I wish you well.   DACD
Avatar universal
I just wanted to let you know I have read your post. I really don't have a whole lot else to add because the advice you have been given pretty much covers what I think about your situation as well. I do not think you overstepped your boundaries by expressing your concern. Even though her reaction was what it was and she may have felt hurt, she probably appreciated it a little bit somewhere deep down inside, whether she knows it or not. I think she needed to know that somebody cares about what she's going through and she does. On the surface though, even in her own head, she is probably defensive and nervous about the whole situation. That is why she reacted the way she did. And like Zoelula said, you might not be the one she comes to for help. It has to be hard and I'm sorry about your situation. Let us know how you're doing.

Avatar universal
Going thru the same thing w/ 26 yr old daughter.  She hasn't spoken to me in a month since I brought up her weight issue but relayed a message thru my sister that she wasn't mad, just dealing with some issues.  I know her and anger is her first response.  She blames me , the world, whatever, then she gets over the denial and does something positive.  When she was in the 7th grade I told her she had to start doing her own laundry.  She pitched a fit!!  Cried, saying her clothes would be ruined and that I was a mean mom!  She got over that.   Like I said, I know her.  We went thru her break up with her first "true love".  She got over that but it was a lot of work.  I'm giving her time and her space (we live 2000 miles apart).  She lives with her boyfriend in a house they bought together, they have great jobs.  But her boyfriend's family tends to be overweight and she started eating more the way they eat plus she has an office job, blah...She'll get it together.  And I'm sure when we finally talk, she'll tell me that she lost 20 lbs already!  It's hard for me to barge into her life but she's a smart kid and she'll figure it all out!
Avatar universal
I too need help with this situation.  My daughter is 26, just got engaged and planning a wedding for spring 2013.  She claims to be dieting but we go out to eat & she still makes the absolutely worst choices. I can't think of anything I Could say I have not said 2 or 3 times already.  Should I just shut up?  I am not just worried about nice wedding photos.  I am worried about her health.  She is always sick with something or another...plus I know she is not happy with herself. ???!!
Avatar universal
I too have same problem, My son has been obese   for many years, and with several weight related health problem, loss of employment, angry wife, angry in-laws and etc..
I have talk with him and encourage him to know that I do not want to loose him. At this moment he is sick and unable to work. I am afraid that I will loose him.
He will try to eat right but he health is so poor, he does not get a chance to work on his weight due to not feeling well.
Avatar universal
My son is 34 lost his job can't drive and has moved back home. I want to help but he's very touchy about it. He has health problems because of his weight. He's eating better now here with me but his pre existing issues are so hard to deal with. I need help!
Avatar universal
I have a similar problem and feel helpless.  I have expressed my deep concern regarding his health to my obese son and his obese wife on separate occasions.  All I hear is I know, I know.  Every time I see him, he is even bigger.  I can't sleep at night and don't know what to do.  He is a walking time bomb.  It is so difficult to see him this way.
Avatar universal
I think the best thing to do is be as active as you can and enjoy life. Alot of times people with disabilities tend not to be included or participate in sports due to competition. I think everybody needs to have a sport they love. And do it at least 4 hours a week.
Avatar universal
obesity is very complex and not just about food. its also about having HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS AND BEING HAPPY WITH YOUR LIFE AND CHOICES
Avatar universal
First I want to thank every one for this blog.  I appreciate the opportunity to read about a struggle many of us have. I also have a 22 year old son who has struggled with his weight since he was 5.  Food was something he just couldn't seem to control and craves the most unhealthy carbs.  My husband and I cook regular food...you know the kind you find in the garden and ordinary meats.  But it didn't seem to make any difference.  As soon as he became old enough to drive, he was eating at all the fast food places.  Anyway, it breaks my heart and I know he is cheated out of wonderful experiences because of his weight.  I am very careful not to criticise as  it takes me no where.  He is super sensitive and knows he is fat.  I am normal weight and eat healthy and have tried to lead by example, I exercise too.  However, I know at a point in my own life when I was younger I had a food addiction.  I honestly can't tell you how I got past it, but I think it was just persistence as I just couldn't stand being over weight.  not even 15 pounds.  Anyway, I guess I just pray that a light bulb will come on and he will want to change his lifestyle.  He is a handsome, bright ...a good person.  I just want the best for him.  
My son is 27 and very very overweight. He knows and says he is trying to get fitter but he just seems to put more weight on each time we see him.when he lived at home he played football 5 times a week..but a  injury and subsequent knee operation have put paid to this. It breaks my heart and i know how you feel. I feel he is missing out on a lot and i worry about his health and the future...it is very hard to watch and feel powerless.
Avatar universal
I am happy to find this conversation.  My 24 year old daughter has gained 60 pounds in the last 2 years and I have such concerns for her but don't know what to do to help.  We have a good relationship and I love her personality, wit, intelligence, etc.  About a year ago I told her I was concerned about her health and happiness and that she might want to connect with a support group like I did 30 years ago when I quit drinking.  She got teary and defensive.  I know she tries to diet and it always fails because she just keeps eating sweets and fast food as if she can't control it.  I keep thinking I should do something to help since I'm her mother, but reading the responses to DACD has convinced me to just continue to be here for her and support her with love and acceptance.  I think anything else I do will be counter-productive.  This is something she has to do herself and it's going to require her to develop some skills she's lacking right now - like self-control, long-term discipline, and delayed gratification.  Thanks Everybody!
That is a hard situation.  One thing that I wonder about is that often, a fast and significant weight gain is entirely emotional.  Adult women who were sexually abused as children will often put on weight as a true physical barrier, entirely unaware that they are doing it.  Same if they are in a difficult relationship now.  Anything psychological or any trauma in your daughter's life that a counselor might be able to help with?
None in the home growing up.  She has a very good, involved father and grew up in a safe environment.  However, you are correct about the emotional aspect of this.  She always tended to be a little chunky but nothing alarming.  Then she had her first serious boyfriend when she was 21 and he was unfaithful, disrespectful, etc.  It really hurt her when she ended it. She didn't put up with him for very long and I was proud of her for standing up and telling him to take a hike, but her weight gain began as soon as that relationship ended.  I recommended she talk to someone and eventually she did.  She saw a counselor a few times last year, but I haven't seen any change.  She also went to a medical doctor about 6 months ago and got on a weight program where they focus on nutrition, monitor weekly, have special food to buy, and give you vitamins and diet pills.  She lost 20 pounds in 3 weeks and nothing since as she hasn't followed the dietary limitations.  Thank you for your insights - I think you are correct and I need to keep that in mind.  It's not just lack of discipline and self-control - it's emotional.
My sister is obese. My mother is athletic and trim. I'm in the middle, in regards to weight and pretty much everything else.

My mom thinks she's helping when she says that she's concerned, or shares links on weight loss, etc. My sister sees every single one as digs about her weight.

The thing is that my sister knows she's obese. Unless they are delusional, I'd guess all overweight people know they are overweight. It's like the oh so helpful people pointing out that you have a pimple - yeah, you know already, thanks.

You joined a support group to quit drinking. I'm guessing people had mentioned your problem drinking prior to you going, but you didn't quit until the very day you were ready. I smoked for years. EVERYONE - people who loved me and complete strangers - said things to me about it, but I didn't quit until the very day I was ready.

My sister has tried the medical diets your daughter has. She has all the reasons why things don't work, but all it means is that she isn't ready.

Your daughter's weight could be a barrier to men - her first boyfriend hurt her badly, maybe in ways you don't know about or realize - so she gained weight so men won't be attracted to her (in her mind). Maybe she has an issue with food like you did with drinking.

My advice would just be to remind her that you love her unconditionally, and you think she's beautiful as is, which I'm sure is true. If she brings it up, then you can talk about it, letting her lead the discussion. I'm sure her doctor mentions it, she sees things about weight on TV, in magazines, feels it when she's shopping for clothes, etc. You can just be her soft landing spot, her safe haven from all that. :)

That is exactly what I needed to hear.  And it is exactly what I will do.  Thanks so much.
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