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TROUBLESHOOTER / I’m tired of my obese, lethargic mother’s inaction

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter,

I’m a woman in my 20s. I’m sick and tired of my mother, who is in her mid-50s, obese and always stays at home.

She always says, “I really have to go on a diet.” But she never exercises and is too lazy to even go shopping. Only her appetite is exceptional.

As there are no elevators in our apartment building, she needs to use the stairs to enter and exit. She complains: “My weight feels heavier than the bag I’m carrying. I can’t take this anymore.” Listening to such self-degrading talk, I want to say something like, “Stop talking nonsense!”

She once showed me a picture of when she was young. She was much thinner than now and had a figure that would make most women envious. I can’t remember a time she wasn’t chubby.

I have complained to her before, saying, “You have to go on a diet!” However, she doesn’t seem the least bit concerned. She had knee trouble before, and I’m sure her lifestyle will cause further health problems. How can I make her feel like she needs to take action?

R, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. R:

No matter how concerned you are with your mother’s health, she doesn’t care at all. She always says, “I really have to go on a diet,” yet you wonder why she won’t act on her words. There seem to be several reasons for that.

First of all, she’s lazy. Second, she thinks obesity is not a serious issue as she can start dieting whenever she wants. She also wants you to leave her alone. How can you change such a mentality?

I suggest you convince your mother that obesity is a serious health problem that causes various diseases. You should make her afraid by saying, “If your blood pressure goes up, you could have a stroke or heart attack.” You can also tell your mother that obesity damages the liver and can even lead to cirrhosis. In addition, I recommend you mention that obesity causes diabetes and she could lose her vision.

Finally, convey your feelings to her by saying: “You’re not the only one who is affected by these diseases. The family also suffers. You can’t simply say this is none of my business and that I should leave you alone.”

I hope such an approach forces a family-oriented mother to give in.

When it comes to specific methods of dieting, she should just do what she can for now rather than seriously exercise. One option could be for her to go outside more often. I think she needs to ditch her lethargic lifestyle, which can be a start to curing her obesity.

Soichiro Nomura, psychiatrist

(from May 22 issue) Speech

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