Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.
DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I am 63 and pre-diabetic. Since menopause, it has been a struggle to keep my weight down. My problem is this: My sister has advanced Parkinson’s and can’t get out much. I eat with her or check in with her almost every night. While I don’t keep junk food or sweets at home, she thrives on them. We enjoy each other’s company, but I can’t resist temptation and the treats are keeping a lot of weight on me. I know I am responsible for my health, but I have a terrible sweet tooth. I’m out of strategies. Help me!—Kathy
DEAR KATHY: First, I think it’s so great that you are so devoted to your sister, and that you are able to spend this time together. I know it must be difficult, though, to be torn between wanting to be there for her but needing to take charge of your health. The fact is that this situation has the potential of harming your relationship as well as your health. At the very least, it’s detracting from what could be some very valuable time together as your sister nears the end of your life.
So what can you do about it? You don’t say whether you have explicitly discussed your problem with your sister. If you haven’t, that’s the place to start. Despite Sis’s physical condition, you have to be honest with her about how hard it is for you to resist temptation, and the struggle you are going through. I can understand the urge to protect her from this so as not to add to her burden. But think of it this way: Your lack of openness about the difficulty you’re having is robbing her of the opportunity to help YOU, to return the kindness you show her daily. She deserves the chance to participate in the give-and-take of your relationship.
So, have that conversation. Tell her you need her help in tackling your weight problem, and be honest about how difficult your visits have become. Ask for her to remove the goodies from sight when you’re there, and to refrain from indulging during your visit—as a favor to you. I can’t imagine that she would deny helping you in some way.
I would also suggest that you make sure you’re finding time for yourself. You might not think of yourself as a caregiver, but you are. And as such, you’re at risk of burnout, fatigue and exhaustion. I know it’s hard, but think about taking a night (or two) off, for yourself—perhaps to go to a yoga class, take a walk, or do something active to help clear your head (and assist with your weight issue). Exercise can help stave off caregiver fatigue and burnout, as well as make it easier for you to resist temptation. Perhaps another family member can sub for you on those evenings—or you could stop in after your class or walk, which would leave less time for snacking.
Other than that, you can employ strategies for resisting temptation (like chewing gum or sucking on sugar-free cough drops during your visit, or making a goal to drink a certain number of glasses of water while you’re there). Even though this post is focused on the holidays, there are some good tips that would apply to your situation. But I urge you to involve your sister in the solution—I think you’ll end up with a stronger relationship if you do.
Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and Spryliving.com. Ask her your question here.