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Finding a middle ground for giving health advice


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My family has this mentality that they care SO much about dieting and exercise, but mostly for aesthetic reasons and everything has to be SO extreme... From a view on the only right exercise regime being a fanatic exercise regime, to diets that promote deprivation. I, myself, used to be a lot like this when I was a teen and was VERY unhappy. Now, I STILL do exercise, but for different reasons, and eat all types of foods (always try to go for the healthiest choices, though... whole grains, fruits, veggies, etc... Not like them, who think carbs are mortal enemies and even whole grain and fruit are to be avoided like the plague). The main one is because I want to remain healthy (especially mentally... as soon as I started exercising after the mono, I could tell something radically changed in my brain) I guess another main one is because I want to be better conditioned to get started with a certain sport (I have specific martial arts in mind, and do workouts specific for them, and as soon as I have the money, will take lessons) and so that once I do, I can focus on skill more than conditioning. So I developed an inimical attitude towards many of the beliefs in my family about exercise, and my younger brother kinda picked up on this... Thing is, he's not really interested in sports, and has gained a good bit of weight. Nothing bad really, but I sometimes get afraid that he might keep gaining and gaining and end up putting his health on the line...

 

I would like to say something to him but I'm afraid 1 of 2 things could happen:

 

1- He will not listen to me and think I'm being hypocritical.

OR

2- He will listen to me but again adopt the obsessive attitude my family has towards these things.

 

I am terrible with the way I word things sometimes, but I think there is a way that I could suggest for him to just exercise like SO many people do (I mean, lets be serious... Not everybody my age has a 4 minute mile record or is even interested in having it, is an athlete or wannabe athlete, or has huge muscles and a six-pack, but I've noticed that just about every one I know has some sort of workout even if it's JUST jogging or biking to keep a healthy heart. Even people I never suspected exercised, do. Just cause they don't look like they do, doesn't mean they don't... They just care about health, not aesthetics) not obsessively, mostly for health-preserving reasons. [/b]

 

I know diet is a huge thing, but for the most part his diet should be ok since he lives with my mother and she doesn't buy sweets and buys healthy stuff like whole-wheat bread, etc, and always includes veggies in all meals (only thing is, I don't think he would ever choose to eat veggies if it weren't because she puts them there... I mean, what is he gonna do when he goes to college and she's not around to cook for him?). Back in junior high, he used to be really thin and exercised a good amount cause he was very into soccer and even thought about joining the team in high school, but he changed a lot, became more anti-social, and at first I know he sometimes ran on the treadmill instead of participating in a sport. He's become MUCH more social now (he's got girlfriend who is a cross-country athlete whereas before he used to say how much he hated the "preps" and "jocks" and what not. So he's MUCH more open-minded, which makes me think that he could believe in something similar to me if I presented a balanced suggestion, not something extreme like what my parents and other siblings do), but I still don't think he's got his interest in social sports back (I've kinda suggested fun stuff like tennis or soccer, but he couldn't care less any more).

 

I guess what I'm really asking is: How do I make a suggestion to him, without sounding like a hypocrite and sticking to my "health first and aesthetics don't really matter" attitude and ALSO not sounding like I'm telling him "dude, you're fat" so he doesn't think I'm a hypocrite, or a douche and doesn't get alarmed or angry at me?

 

I guess ideally, I'd like to help him find an activity/sport he could enjoy, and that way, he can get healthy/healthier, and at the same time be doing something he enjoys that, thus, can turn into something life-long, not just a weight-lifting for "teh gunz" phase that he'll get tired of because he doesn't actually enjoy weight-lifting and is just looking for "results" but doesn't see them fast enough (that's just an example... I don't know if he actually DOES enjoy weight lifting... I know I don't and would only do it to train for another activity that i actually enjoy, like rowing... I don't think he enjoys it much either cause I know he's tried it before but got sick of it quickly).

 

DISCLAIMER: I know he's an individual, so I'm not asking for a some miracle manipulation technique. I've just provided some background into our lives, the situation, my beliefs, HIS beliefs, and ask how to word things in order to not sound like I'm insinuating the wrong thing (i.e. if somebody walked up to me and just told me "you should start working out" what i would think they actually mean is "You're fat!" Well not so much anymore, but when I used to be chubby, and when I gained weight from not being able to even walk up some stairs for 4 months cause of the mono, that's what I would've believed, and I don't wanna risk sounding like a douche). In other words: if you believed what I believed, if you were me, only a smooth-talking me, what exactly would you tell him?

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I even bolded the question. you don't even have to read anything else to be able to give me some advice...

 

And I know there's people out there who are kind of on the same page as I am (I remember posting years ago, that I was angry and about to give up on exercise because I was seeing no results, and I was just lifting every other day but still nothing significant and people suggested I should find a fun activity, like capoeira, and stop exercising just to look good cause I'd just give up... I DID eventually get bored in like 5 months). I dunno...

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My sister looked up to me a lot in so many ways so sometimes even just your own actions of eating healthy and exercising will probably have a bigger impact than you can imagine.

 

Are there are any other activities that he may be interested that you can both do together? Even paintball or things that's not considered a common sports or an activity? When he accepts that he needs the change for himself I'm sure this is where you can make a suggestion. After all every one's body is different so communicate that fact to him and give some basic guidelines.

 

A positive social and mental environment would have an affect, being comfortable at home and even being in a relationship could have a negative impact but it sounds like his g/f is an outdoor type so you could always use that to your advantage and getting him more active.

 

And sometimes you really need the heart-to-heart or brother-to-brother talk and letting him know that you care and worried about his health, that you were there once and don't want your own little brother becoming sick or not able to enjoy his life in a healthy manner.

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People can gain a lot of weight on these types of diets because they are depriving themselves. Some people respond by their bodies dropping weight and some bodies start to stockpile - their metabolism slows down and they actually gain weight. It just depends on their makeup and also if they exercise. I think you should just continue what you are doing and maybe he will see your results and ask what you are doing to get them. Also - are you sure that your brother is "chubby" coming from a family like yours who obsesses could he just be more like "average" - not rail thin but weight in proportion to height plus maybe 5-10 lbs? He could have a different frame from you as well. A friend of the family always thought i was "chunky" but in fact, I wasn't. I just had hips and larger breasts where her daughter was very straight up and down so she just felt I was "fat" even though we had similar body fat. When we got a little older, she changed her view. My brother appeared like he had a little extra weight when he was a young teen. Part of it was his body being in a very awkward stage and even itself out if he is that age. All of the sudden my brother was 8 inches taller, but his waist was the same measurement as when he was deemed "chunky" but now his waist was just right.

 

Also, the other thing is that I think you should accept him the way he is. It may be a lot of pressure to not be rail thin coming from your family.

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Is he overweight now? If not, I would say nothing. Like you said, you have no way of knowing how he'll react. If you see him starting to become overweight, then invite him to go running or biking with you, or (I'm not sure where you live, but if there is one) find a nice park or something and suggest to him that he might enjoy biking or hiking or running, whatever there. On the food side, again, find some new foods that are healthy that you think he might like and suggest those to him. I'm not sure how old he is, but if he's a teenager, suggesting things to him will probably work better than just "talking" to him.

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Thank you all so much.

 

Well he's not really chubby, I'd say he's still normal range, a bit overweight, but nothing alarming, but it looks risky (a lot of the clothes he used to wear just a few months ago, don't fit him anymore... I mean he'll be 19 in may, and he's been the same height for a while already, so it's not a growth spurt or anything). Here's an example of how the rest of my family does things: My father was obese, lost a lot of weight through his obsessive, depravity diet, method and obsessive exercise (he was going for a Clarence Bass physique, which I never understood why he would go for something so extreme instead of finding balance and being content with being healthy. I mean why does EVERYBODY not only wish to look like a model/bodybuilder but also aspire to be like that if it's obviously not something they can dedicate THAT much time to?), but I guess he burnt out on it and quickly gained a lot of it back. He goes through phases where he goes back to his depravity diet and obsessive exercise routine, and loses 5-10 lbs, but quickly stops and gains it back. It all goes in cycles with all of them.

 

I guess I can suggest things for my younger brother, yes. I can suggest bike rides and stuff like that. We went for a ride once, but that was it. He says he enjoyed it but got too sore because he hadn't done it in so long and would have to get used to it (so I think there's potential there... if we went out for regular bike rides, and he truly enjoys it, he'll probably start riding on his own, or using the stationary bike in order to get better at it, etc). Maybe I'll try to make it a habit. I'll try this suggesting bike rides and such.

 

Anything other suggestions? Cause, like I said, he's really not fat or anything, so I wouldn't want to risk alarming him into a state of obsession or risk him not listening to me and thinking I'm just obsessed too.

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He's 19 and by what you're saying he's barely overweight. IMO, there's really no reason why you should be trying to stage any sort of intervention of sorts. We all have our pet topics which we are OCD about, but we need to be careful of laying them on others in this manner unless the situation is dire.

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Yo-yo dieting and obsession is havoc on a body. You never learn healthy habits as when you are off the diet you backslide, versus just having general good nutrition.

 

Don't look at the 'sizes" your brother is wearing. Even when people stop growing height-wise, it takes a few years sometimes to reach their fill adult shape. Its more apparent in women, but it happens in guys too. My boyfriend is 15 lbs heavier than when he graduated from high school. He is extremely extremely in good shape. He is not into lifting weights, etc so its not like he put on a lot of muscle mass, etc. But there is no area where he could lose weight.

 

When you say "he doesn't fit clothes he wore a few years ago" - if he was 35 years old a few years ago I would be concerned but a 16/17 year old boy is still growing! There can be a big difference between a 16 year old boy's body and appearance and a 19-22 year old man's.

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He's 19 and by what you're saying he's barely overweight. IMO, there's really no reason why you should be trying to stage any sort of intervention of sorts. We all have our pet topics which we are OCD about, but we need to be careful of laying them on others in this manner unless the situation is dire.

 

If he is running cross country - he is no couch potato, IMO.

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He's not running cross-country, his girlfriend is. I mean, it's not about intervention... I mean, some exercise never hurt anybody, whichever size they are. He could be toothpick thin and gaining weight, and I'd still suggest he find some sort of activity he could just do 3 times a week at least. And I want to make that suggestion without sounding like "dude, you're fat" because he's not really fat. That's exactly my point, he isn't, and I don't want him to think that I think he is, and just want to help him find a healthy, non-obsessive hobby he can enjoy. He's about my height (6'1"-6'2"ish) and I'd say he probably doesn't make it to 220lbs, so it's nothing alarming at all for a tall guy (especially considering that, even though I've got more muscle and a more adult physique, I think he's got a thicker frame than I do by nature... I mean looking at our hands, our fingers are the same length but his hands look a lot thicker than mine, yet they don't look fat at or anything), but I wouldn't want it to become alarming, or that one day he gets to actually be fat and starts obsessing about it like everybody else in the family and even I did back in my teens... He's not 16/17, though. I mean, I guess he could still change a bit, but I don't remember gaining 2-3 pant sizes in a matter of months when I was 19-20 even though that was my "lifting for teh gunz" phase.

 

And I guess I want to do something about it because my family has already been telling him "you're getting fat, start working out" "I'm worried about you" and I want JUST to make a small suggestion like going for bike rides for the better of his general health. I don't care if he never fits into those old clothes again. He's a handsome guy, has an athletic girlfriend, so it's not about being thin or being athletic for him (or anybody... his girlfriend just happens to be athletic as a side effect of her cross-country training, which she trains for because she enjoys it, and she will probably do it at least for her college career too, like so many high school athletes do, and that's 4 more years. I've never heard of nobody in varsity football who goes through the pain of hours and hours of training, and being pushed to win JUST cause they want their abs to look pretty. They do it cause they enjoy the game... IF their abs end up looking like a model's, that's just a side effect). It's just for his health... Besides, I AM taking into account that he is his own person, which is why whatever I do, it will be just suggestions, no brainwashing or attempts at persuasion, etc, JUST suggestions at trying new things, be it badminton or power lifting or even running like his girlfriend, whatever he finds enjoyable that he could do for years, if not the rest of his life.

 

The way I see it, if I do this correctly and help him find something good, only positive things can happen:

-he'll get the rest of the family off his back so they won't tell him "I'm worried about you" anymore.

-his health will improve both mentally and physically.

among many other things...

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Why not go hiking and invite him and his girlfriend? And DO NOT talk about weight.

 

It is taxing on a person to hear "exercise - you're getting fat" from a family and by him not partaking in the family regimen perhaps its his way of rebelling or he doesn't feel so great about himself because of it.

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Why not go hiking and invite him and his girlfriend? And DO NOT talk about weight.

 

It is taxing on a person to hear "exercise - you're getting fat" from a family and by him not partaking in the family regimen perhaps its his way of rebelling or he doesn't feel so great about himself because of it.

 

Exactly! I most definitively do not want to say "you're getting fat" because that's not necessarily even true (it might just be 5 lbs he puts on and that's it). I do want to suggest he start doing something healthy for himself. So I don't know a whole lot about hiking. I'll find some places. I think he could find hiking enjoyable.

 

Any other suggestions?

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Exactly! I most definitively do not want to say "you're getting fat" because that's not necessarily even true (it might just be 5 lbs he puts on and that's it). I do want to suggest he start doing something healthy for himself. So I don't know a whole lot about hiking. I'll find some places. I think he could find hiking enjoyable.

 

Any other suggestions?

 

Keep the focus on hiking too somewhere "there's this really cool stream with fossils in it" or something or some sort of exploration where exercise is the side effect. For some people its boring to just walk and walk and walk. Make an afternoon of it with the three of you or invite a guest yourself too.

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Keep the focus on hiking too somewhere "there's this really cool stream with fossils in it" or something or some sort of exploration where exercise is the side effect. For some people its boring to just walk and walk and walk. Make an afternoon of it with the three of you or invite a guest yourself too.

 

This sounds great AND fun too! Thank you.

 

What other fun possibly life-long activities do you suggest?

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This sounds great AND fun too! Thank you.

 

What other fun possibly life-long activities do you suggest?

 

You can't determine what life-long activities are going to be for him. Also, except occasionally inviting him to things and including him in things, I would really lay off. You are going to come off as someone who is micromanaging someone else's life. I would attend to my own affairs and its up to him to do what he wants to do. If in the future you are inviting him to things because you genuinely appreciate his company - invite him, but don't continue to create ploys to get him to do what you want to see him doing. It will only backfire.

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You can't determine what life-long activities are going to be for him. Also, except occasionally inviting him to things and including him in things, I would really lay off. You are going to come off as someone who is micromanaging someone else's life. I would attend to my own affairs and its up to him to do what he wants to do. If in the future you are inviting him to things because you genuinely appreciate his company - invite him, but don't continue to create ploys to get him to do what you want to see him doing. It will only backfire.

 

You're right. They're not necessarily "life-long" activities. I guess that was a poor word choice. I said I wasn't interested in some hidden message or way to brainwash him, yeah... I just think it's a good excuse to spend more time with him, and HOPEFULLY (but not necessarily), he will gain interest in something that will make him healthier. Like I said above: no pressure. The LAST thing I want to do is what my parents and other siblings are already doing to him creating unnecessary pressure: "Dude you're getting fat. You gotta start working out and stop eating carbs". I genuinely would like to spend time with him and, exercise being a secondary thing, do healthy things together.

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