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A Reader’s Tips to Deal with a Stubborn, Unhealthy Family

unhealthy family meal

Is this your family's idea of a well-rounded meal? Oye! Credit: ebruli

Today’s post on dealing with an unhealthy family is part of FBG’s Back to Basics Week that features the best beginner fitness and beginner nutrition posts that help you to be a little healthier and—in theme with the week—a little smarter. Read on to learn how, in her own words, reader Beth Osborne has managed to make her stubbornly unhealthy family, a little bit healthier—baby step by baby step.

I come from a family that loves its food. Getting together usually means copious amounts of butter and chocolate. It’s an excellent social time, but it threatens the size of my waist quite a bit. What’s more, in a sea of the slightly portly, I am training for a marathon and am an on-again vegetarian.

It is a constant struggle to try to get my family to eat the same food as me at dinnertime. Since returning home after completing my graduate degree, I find myself going head-to-head with my meat-loving mother. I worry not only for my commitment to this choice I’ve made to eat vegetarian, but also for the health of my 52-year-old mother, as well as the teenage brothers I have. All three are overweight and are hesitant to jump on that treadmill.

It’s a dilemma many people face. One hits that weight wall where they look in the mirror and can’t see a fit person underneath. They get discouraged, get disgusted and give up. The issue heats up whenever I force my tofu scrambles and vegetable-heavy casseroles on a family that would be infinitely happier with hamburgers. I try to sneak veggies in, but to no avail. My own mother picks out the healthy things, opting to eat the grains and cheese instead.

To all of those twenty-somethings (or older!) who are struggling along with me: do not fear! It takes baby steps and concessions on each side in order to make life-changing choices. The stages I often encounter include (but certainly are not limited to), the following…

4 Steps to Help Your Stubborn Family Be a Little Bit Healthier

1. Bargain. If I allow my family to have a junk-infested meal one night (think french fries, chicken nuggets and cheese sauce), I insist we have two nights of health food. By allowing them to get the bad stuff some of the time, I introduce the good without depriving them of the salt and fat they’re used to—thus slowly weaning them off.

2. Guilt them. It sounds bad, I know. I’m not proud of it. But whenever one of my family members complains about the Xs in front of their shirt sizes, I remind them that this situation is not a permanent one. Weight can be changed with a change in attitude, diet and exercise.

3. Retreat to the great outdoors. I will unplug the electronics in the house if that’s what it takes to get my brothers outside for at least a half hour each day. I aim for after dinner since A) that’s when they seem to eat the most, and B) the weather is beautiful.

4. Joke. The power of laughter should never be ignored. By making light of the weight issues in my family, they become more at ease with the issues at hand. An anxious doctor prognosis can be forgotten if we go outside and toss the football around while trying to make our best Stewie impression.

It’s a long road, and I have a feeling both the lean and the large in this situation will struggle for a healthier, happier family. But persistence and confidence does wonders for even the most dire of family circumstance.

Thank you Beth for sharing your story and your tips! Is your family healthy? If not, how do you deal and encourage them to make better choices? —Jenn

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  1. Nicole says:

    Thank you for posting this! I have this same struggle with my in-laws. Growing up, my husband had the good ole’ classic “American” foods, lots of pasta, burgers, and so on in copious amounts. Considering that he grew up that way, food is one way with which he identifies himself. So, if I were to suggest other healthier options, he would believe I am trying to change him as a person. It’s a constant struggle, but after being married for a little over 3 years, he is finally starting to be a bit more versatile in what he eats.

    As for my in-laws, it is absolutely brutal when we go visit them. I really, really, really have to watch what I eat because most everything is laden with fat or sugar or both. Being that they live in another state, I worry about their health as they age and am sad to see them fall into the same food traps over and over again.

    I love how it was mentioned that there needs to be a change in attitude, as well as diet and exercise! It is so very true!

  2. Samantha says:

    Great post! I can relate. I just moved back in with my family after living abroad for 4 years. My family ALWAYS turns their noses up at what I eat since I try to eat healthy. The good thing is that they are lazy so if I offer to cook than they usually eat what I make. I even go my mom to go to the local Farmer’s Market and buy fresh fruit and veggies. They still have their snacks but they are getting better.

  3. Rosie Bank says:

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