This question comes from Dante in Silver Spring, MD.
For the new year, I want our family to get healthier. I’ve always been a fit guy, but my wife has put on some weight over the past couple of years. I’ve noticed that my 11yo daughter is starting to get a little chubby as well. When I told them that they should have weight loss as a goal in the new year, they both looked at me as if I was the biggest asshole on earth. How do I get my point across to them that I have their best interests at heart?
From an outsider’s point of view, I don’t blame your family for thinking you’re an asshole. I’m not saying that you are an asshole (because I don’t know you) — but unless you’re someone’s boss, you can’t tell anyone what their goals should be. Weight is a really sensitive issue for many women and girls, and a lot of that is due to the immense pressure society puts on them to look a certain way. It’s no secret that eating disorders and depression are major concerns for our young girls, and it could be for your daughter as well if you approach this issue the wrong way. I have two young daughters, and I’m doing my damnedest to ensure they view their self-worth by what’s on the inside. Will I be successful? I have no idea. But if I’m not, it won’t be because I’m focusing on their weight.
Since you’re telling me this is about health rather than appearances, I’d start by preparing healthier meals. Can you cook?
If not, you better learn, because it’s unfair to expect your wife to do it all.
I’d also suggest exercising together. It doesn’t need to be anything intense, either. A simple family walk around the neighborhood each evening would do wonders in that regard and you’ll get to enjoy some bonding time in the process.
Whatever you choose to do, I would highly recommend that you avoid putting any emphasis on their alleged “chubbiness.” One thing to keep in mind is maybe they’re happy with the way they look right now. And if that’s the case, you shouldn’t force your wishes on them by nagging them to lose weight. Doing so will put you at risk to lose more than weight — namely, your family’s love and respect.