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I want to talk to my brother about his health and overeating but I'm not sure how to

Tagged as: Family, Health<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (2 June 2020) 5 Answers - (Newest, 8 June 2020)
A female Ireland age 30-35, anonymous writes:

I live with my father (71) and brother (24). My mother died of cancer when I was 11, and I took on the cooking and cleaning. I still do nearly everything in the home. My dad helps out a little, but he has arthritis and joint problems that hinder him. Because of my mum's death, I try to be as healthy as possible: I eat a healthy diet, and I work out every day. But my family don't, and that worries me.

My brother has Asperger's syndrome, diagnosed depression and anxiety. His weight fell alarmingly after Christmas because he was so anxious 24/7, he literally couldn't keep food down. Now he's on new medication that is helping, but makes him hungry all the time. He has gained a lot of weight very quickly.

He also smokes weed every day, as does my father. I don't touch it. After smoking in the evenings, they snack constantly.

During the pandemic, I've been the one doing the grocery shopping. I've tried to buy healthy snacks, and just bake a treat, like cookies, once a week. But my dad has insisted on still going out wearing a mask to stock up on junk. My brother's overeating in particular is out of control. He has a job, but the moment he gets home, all he does is snack at his computer. He doesn't stop eating until he goes to bed.

The only time he eats a vegetable is when I cook dinner, but I'm working full-time from home. I don't always have time to make something for him if I've got leftovers to keep myself going. So then I feel guilty, because I know he's just going to have oven chips and frozen pizza. If I bought enough of those, he'd happily eat them every single day.

I feel like I'm watching him destroy his health, but when I try to talk to him, he acts like I'm the one with the problem. This weekend I bought some individual ice creams, a box of six. I ate one. Today, I found he's eaten the other five. I asked him to please not do that again, and pointed out that I paid for them and bought them for the family, for all of us to share. I said "All the sweet stuff just disappears around here" and he angrily said "What the f*ck do you expect? You live with stoners who get the munchies all the time". And I was so intimidated by his anger, I backed off. When he really gets going he can often make me cry, and I was afraid to get into an argument.

How can I approach this to have a proper talk about it? I'm terrified he's going to get diabetes or some other health problem. I'm scared of losing him early too. But I don't know how to handle this.

Today I was considering hiding the brown sugar, because he keeps making himself caramel popcorn, with about 100g of sugar each time (and that's on top of all the other sugar he eats in an evening)...and then I realised that if I need to hide the sugar from a 24-year-old man, something is very wrong. I care about him so much, and his behaviour is really upsetting me. What can I do? I don't know where to turn.

View related questions: christmas, smokes

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (8 June 2020):

Hi OP! May I just say that in my sight, You are a Fantastic Daughter and Sister! I truly mean that! You were only a child when you all lost your Mom, and I am sorry for your terrible loss! The thing is that you have stepped up, and have gone above and beyond what should be expected of a mere child, and now as just one person, in a three person household! What I would do, in your place, is draft a letter, to the physician who prescribed your brothers antidepressant medication to inform him of your brothers extreme overeating, since starting that particular med! Due to professional ethics, his doctor cannot discuss this matter with you, or disclose patient info, to you, but thats not what you are seeking. I would address the letter to the doctor, at his/her office, and mark the envelope personal and confidential, so the doctor will actually read the letter! Beyond that, you cannot do more. Btw, I would also reveal the pot use, to the doctor! I shall pray for You and Your Family, OP!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (4 June 2020):


You are not responsible for these two grown men, your role changed as a child to a mum, please educate them by your examples of healthy eating with some enjoyable sweetness but let them live their own lives. You will become ill yourself with worry.

People will always do what they want regardless of their health. I see it all the time at work, regular patients returning with the same problems, alcohol, smoking, obesity, etc and all the bad health that goes with it.

People do try sometimes and make it through with flying colours changing their health for the better, some struggle but make it in their own ready time, while others just carry on knowing they are getting worse and feel helpless or past caring. Help is often around, but the change comes from the individual, YOU! move out if necessary and get on with your life. We sometimes disable people by helping too much.

Don't hide anything, logic should tell you that he can just go straight back to the shop and buy another bag of brown sugar. Let their GP's explain the state of their health.

Everybody is responsible for their own health in some ways and you can cry until the cows come home, it makes no difference what you do or say.

Carry on been kind and understanding, do what you can but

time to take off the apron and take care of you now, the boys are grown up and independent.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (3 June 2020):

Thanks for your kind words. I just need to clarify that I have lived away from home: three years working abroad, then four years at college. Then I got a new job in January and moved an hour away for that, but when lockdown began due to Covid I moved back home, and will likely be working from home until August.

While I was working abroad, my brother ended up needing surgery for non-alcohol related fatty liver disease. He got that way through drinking too much Coke. This is what happens when he is left to his own devices. I dread to think what will happen when I move out again. He will also not begin cooking meals just because I've stopped. I know full well that he will just eat junk until he has another medical problem. I worry that he is ruining his body for life. His teeth are also not looking good.

I make the occasional treat because I enjoy it, I love baking and I think it's got to be better for us than something shop-bought and full of preservatives and goodness knows what... I just wish they would accept the idea of moderation! The ice-cream only happened because my brother was with me in the supermarket (people are allowed to shop together now for the first time in weeks), and he suggested it because it was so hot out. I never would have bought them normally, but I thought we'd share them, and I'd save half my share to have another time - no such luck!

I honestly just despair. I feel like I need to get a handle on this before I move out again, but they honestly just don't care about their health or the house. I don't know how to convince them to.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (3 June 2020):

As hard as this may be to accept, you have to learn that in life we can't control others. Even when it's for their benefit.

There is very little you can do or say that will make any difference at all to your brother and your father's eating habits. As you say, if you cook something healthy for them and don't provide junky snacks for them to eat, they go out and buy their own. What do you propose doing? Tie their hands behind their backs and wire their jaws together? You CANNOT control this situation. Stop trying.

I understand that you care about both of them and want them to be healthy, but they don't care and don't want to be healthy. Their choice, their call. Not yours.

This is the same sort of scenario when people try to control an alcoholic's drinking. They can't. The only person who can make changes to their lifestyle is the person themselves. You are not responsible for what they smoke, or eat or do. You can't change the situation or them or their intentions. You don't get the right to decide for others what they should eat or how they should behave.

You need to accept this and move on with your own life. You have tried to help them and they don't want your help. Time to concentrate on you.

Don't buy rubbish to eat and expect them not to eat it. This is their mindset. Buy something for yourself if you want it, but not packs of things that disappear overnight. You have tried hard and you have a good heart. But you can't change other people.

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A female reader, Aunty BimBim Australia +, writes (3 June 2020):

Aunty BimBim agony auntHow can you take care of somebody else when you can't even take care of yourself. You have been looking after these two for more than half your life ... why? because you were the girl?

Well, when you were 11 and stepped up to take on the cleaning and the cooking and caring you were a girl, but now you are not.

So pull up your big lady panties.

Provide three healthy, home cooked meals a day. Don't buy anything else. If they eat the ingredients don't buy any more. these two men are big enough to some weed every night they are big enough to make some adult type decisions.

If your brother's outbursts of anger are scaring you start saving to move out …. I know from personal experience it is very difficult to "turn off" when a sibling refuses to listen or to make good decisions about their health. Just start and it will get easier.

No need to let them know your plans, until a few weeks prior. They could get nasty when they realise the loss of their housekeeper cook and carer is imminent.

Your life is yours to live, live it, your brother's health issues can be managed by a health professional, and your father can buy and make his own bloody munchies.

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