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How to tactfully tell my sister she's wrong?


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She asked me to put a question on the CC forums. I've already answered it, but she won't believe me. Its a little long, but can you please reply explaining to her the sitch with this, that exercise actually includes hard work, its necessary! Anyway, here's her question, copy and pasted, other than my additions, the stuff in the {curly brackets}

"I want to do exercise, because I want to lose weight {She's 237lbs and 5'5"} But I can't jog faster than 1 mile in 30mins, and would do that once a week. I can swim, but my sister thinks I swim too slowly {After 1 length, she'll put her feet down and stop for 3/4 rests per length. One length of 20m takes up to a minute} The gyms are really mean because they don't let people under 16 workout there {She's 14}. So can you suggest exercise for me that's not too strenuous, easy, and I can do it once or twice a week so I can eat more calories?"

Yeah, I know! It's just that she doesn't ever do anything. I took her out on a jog (which caused me physical pain due to a knee problem) and within 100m she'd stopped. Over the rest of the mile-long jog, she jogged another 10m, total. walked the rest. Then she cried at the half mile mark, claiming complete exhaustion and said "she could feel that her blood sugars were low" and therefore I had to buy her a coke. And then she had the audacity to say "I earned this!"

My brother tried to make her do press ups and sit ups today (full sit-ups, as opposed to crunches). She didn't do a single press up or sit up, claiming that she "physically couldn't".

She's completely sedentary! She doesn't walk anywhere! She gets lifts to her term-time club 1/4 of a mile away, is picked up by a taxi which goes direct to her school, and claims all sort of things (all of which are untrue) to avoid doing exercise. She claims she has the same knee complaint that I have, that she has bad muscles, that her weight stops her, that its the gym's/dad's/ anyone else's fault for not providing easy options. She can't even ride a bicycle! 

I'm done trying to tell her the truth. If you guys could write something here that will show her what I've tried to tell her I'd be really grateful.

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The only prerequisite to be able to help someone is that the person wants to be helped.

It sounds like she just doesn't want to exercise. Noting wrong with that. She can lose weight through proper nutrition.

If you want to press the issue I'd say she should see a Dr., get a physical and have him recommend a program to start getting some physical activity.

It does sound like she wants to justify inactivity in any way possible, but you're also expecting a lot of someone who is overweight and not physically fit. A lot of girls who are not overweight at all can't do a regular push-up without working up to it with intermediate versions, so why would you expect someone who weighs 237 pounds to be able to push up her own weight on the first try? I am at a very healthy weight, run several miles most days per week, and can bike for hours, but I can't get an equivalent workout in the pool because I haven't trained for it and I get worn out quickly when I swim. Also, how on earth can you expect her to jog without even being conditioned with walking first? I think you're both being unreasonable, just in opposite directions. Maybe you could meet in the middle, with her being willing to commit to light exercise on a regular basis to start, without so many excuses, and you being supportive instead of judgmental. Keep in mind that for someone who is overweight and just starting out, what's light or moderate activity for you likely feels like vigorous activity for her.

I think 30 minutes of walking a day would be great for her.  Most weight loss will come from the nutrition side anyway; but walking is great for overall physical health.

Original Post by emmaleanna:

A lot of girls who are not overweight at all can't do a regular push-up without working up to it with intermediate versions, so why would you expect someone who weighs 237 pounds to be able to push up her own weight on the first try?

 Also, how on earth can you expect her to jog without even being conditioned with walking first?

...and you being supportive instead of judgmental.

Keep in mind that for someone who is overweight and just starting out, what's light or moderate activity for you likely feels like vigorous activity for her.

Okay, just for clarification:

1. They were box push-ups, which she does at school as part of a fitness test, so we know she can do them, plus the sit-ups.

2. My problem wasn't with the fact that she started walking. I fully expected it. The problem is, it took her about 10 minutes to "jog" 100m, and then at the end she acted like she'd run a marathon, sitting on the floor, pretend panting. I knew it was pretend, because to check she wasn't getting past her maximum heart rate, I checked; she was only a little above her resting rate. She wasn't even sweating, and she starts sweating on a normal walk.

3. TBH, I haven't said any of this to her face. I'm trying to be supportive, I make salads for her, I offer to go for walks with her, even after I'm exhausted from going to the gym. I'll admit, I'm being a little judgemental, but only because I know that she can do better if she tries. Every time I think she's finally breaking a sweat and working hard, she gives up again. I keep trying to help, and she says she wants me to, but doesn't stick to it!

4. I do understand she's not as fit as she could be. But having been 300lb myself, I can't see how she seems to fins even basic work so hard.

Maybe I'm expecting too much. But she on one hand says she really wants to lose weight and will I help, and then suddenly is asking me to walk down to the shop for her to buy the full sugar coke and a "bar and a half" chocolate bar! It just annoys and saddens me.

I wonder if you could step back and look at the bigger picture of the emotional climate in your family. You have described in detail the detrimental effect that your family's attitudes and treatment has had on you.

Do you see any of that in your above post? I know its a different angle but still the same lack of understanding for her needs and emotions. Just because you know that she needs to lose weight and know what will work, doesn't mean it's good for her for you to bulldoze her into health.

And if you make her feel bad about her state of health and actions, it may backfire with her feeling obstinate against healthy behaviours. It's not fair for you to do things that will make it harder for her.
Original Post by sarahhenderson88:

I wonder if you could step back and look at the bigger picture of the emotional climate in your family. You have described in detail the detrimental effect that your family's attitudes and treatment has had on you.

Do you see any of that in your above post? I know its a different angle but still the same lack of understanding for her needs and emotions. Just because you know that she needs to lose weight and know what will work, doesn't mean it's good for her for you to bulldoze her into health.

And if you make her feel bad about her state of health and actions, it may backfire with her feeling obstinate against healthy behaviours. It's not fair for you to do things that will make it harder for her.

You know what? I hadn't even thought of that. I was trying to help, and in the opposite way from my family, I'm putting negative pressure on her.

I just don't know what to do! She says she wants to lose weight, but gained 3lbs last week. She asks me for help, and when I give it, she refuses. Do I just leave her to it? I just don't want to see her get fatter and fatter. Soon I'm going to be a smaller size than her. She is much shorter and younger, and I can already borrow all her clothes! I don't want to get to, say a size 14, and have her still getting larger, and breaking out the size 24s I've folded up in the cupboard (I would donate them to charity, except she already uses some!)

There is no way to tactfully tell someone who doesn't want to hear what you have to say.

Running to the store to buy her sodas and chocolate is enabling her and probably is one thing that you ought to stop and is definitely in your control.  If you do run to the store for her I'd bring back a selzter water and some fruit instead of soda and chocolate...she can always go herself to get what she wants.

Exercise is not going to lose a ton of weight for her.  Modifying her eating habits will.  What exercise does is improve her overall condition and make her life more enjoyable in the long term and hopefully add a small deficit to help with weight loss.  Burning a few hundred calories exercising will not make up for crappy eating habits.  If there are any forms of exercise that she likes those would be the best ones to pick for long term health.  It doesn't all need to be running or free weights (although weight lifting is one of the most productive forms of exercise you can do both for health and weight loss).

If you want to show her the calorie equivalent for exercise you could take a walk with her and use M&Ms or some other small candy to show what the calorie expenditure truly is or even use fruit if you're feeling healthier although I'd be the chocolate would be a better first motivator.

Ask her if she wants to see a nutritional plan tailored for her.  You'll want to get an exact count of what she currently eats, then one showing options for eating simply to maintain her current weight and then one with a small deficit that would have her lose about a pound a week.  There is no reason not to include many of her favorite foods in small quantities.

The only way I can see to change her mind about what she eats is to show her the difference mathematically about what her choices mean, assuming that she's willing to listen.  Cutting out sodas in favor of flavored water might be enough to lose a pound a week.  Switching from candy bars to a square of dark chocolate would help too.  Dipping salads in dressing instead of drowning them makes a huge difference in calories but not an appreciable difference in taste.

I forgot to add that weight fluctuates daily/weekly/monthly due to a number of reasons including hormones and food that you eat.  Saying that she gained three pounds last week doesn't really mean much.  If she weighs three pounds more than she did the month before and the month before that then it's quite likely true, but one of the major problems is not taking into account the variables that factor into a change in the number on the scale.  Working out usually causes the muscle to retain water, eating more salt tends to cause water retention, hormonal shifts cause water retention, etc.

I am impressed by your ability to consider another perspective dellk. I'm glad you took my post this way, and I apologize if I was a little harsh.

I really think you have her best interest at heart, and I can respect that. What worked for you? What changed your mindset to a place you were able to overcome obstacles and get healthier?

Running as an overweight person is not advisable.  Running is an advanced sport and making someone who is coming from the couch and telling them they are just being lazy isn't going to help. 

I was 200 lbs at my heaviest and in my 40's heavy smoker and could barely walk around the block when I first started.  Let your sister start there.  Just eating right and walking can be the best thing to get her to see that exercise doesn't have to be painful and when she starts to lose weight and she can walk longer/ faster and such she may decide she want to take up running or jogging.

I still can not run and I've been at this for almost 9 years now.  I take my dog for walks each morning and I do jog on the flat parts, but it's taken me MONTHS to be able to jog longer than 30 seconds.  I too feel like I ran a marathon after just jogging for 30 seconds.  I am an ex smoker and have COPD and asthma- Does she maybe have asthma?  If I had tried to run even at only 200lbs I probably would have quit on the first day.  Like I said I could barely walk for 15 min around the block without feeling I was going to pass out.

Sit ups are also a horrific exercise.  They just cause tons of back issues later.  Crunches aren't much better.  Instead do planks work up to a 1 min plank but start with just 4 sets of 15 sec rest for however long she is able to plank and then continue.  Again building up.  Then challenging those with elevating a leg or arm or one of each.  Elevated planks, side planks, elevated side planks.  

Push ups are good, but start on the kitchen counter or wall instead of on the floor

Try some interval stuff.  Some body weight squats for 30 sec rest for 30 repeat for 5 min 

 

I apologize if my response was harsh, too. I didn't consider that the way you were communicating the situation to us wasn't necessarily how you talked about it with her. I also think it's clear that you have her best interests at heart, and I know it must be hard trying to find a balance of being supportive but also not enabling what seems to be a defeatist attitude from her. I actually think this thread might be a good model for how you could try to talk to her, and it might turn out to be a really good conversation between the two of you. Just keep her age in mind, and the fact that she seems to look up to you. I'm sure your support means a lot to her, and maybe there is more to her passive resistance than what it seems. I have no idea what might be behind it, but some possibilities are fear of failure, low self-esteem, a sense of shame...who knows?? Of course it could also just be not wanting to put in the effort, in which case a supportive chat could still be helpful. And I agree with smw that diet will have more of an impact than exercise; just keep in mind that calculators made for adults won't be appropriate for someone her age. (Frankly I don't think most of them are appropriate for adults, either.) If too much change all at once is overwhelming for her, there is nothing wrong with starting small - swapping one food for another, making sure to eat a certain number of fruit and vegetable servings each day, going for a walk everyday...

There's no magic "fix" you can give her.  You can encourage her, be patient with her, set a good example for her, forgive her when she fails, and hope that she eventually recognizes for herself that she is in denial about her diet and her fitness level. 

Original Post by dellk:


2. snip. I fully expected it. The problem is, it took her about 10 minutes to "jog" 100m,snip

OK, I'm calling BS. 100 meters in 10 minutes? That's 10 meters per minute. I'm metrically challenged but not so much that I can't say 10 meters is about 30 feet. Let's assume (for simplicity sake) that one stride is 3 feet. That's 10 strides per minute or about 1 every 6 seconds.

Now, stand up and try to walk across the room at 1 stride every 6 seconds.

Someone's exaggerating.

Original Post by kevinatthebrook:

Original Post by dellk:


2. snip. I fully expected it. The problem is, it took her about 10 minutes to "jog" 100m,snip

OK, I'm calling BS. 100 meters in 10 minutes? That's 10 meters per minute. I'm metrically challenged but not so much that I can't say 10 meters is about 30 feet. Let's assume (for simplicity sake) that one stride is 3 feet. That's 10 strides per minute or about 1 every 6 seconds.

Now, stand up and try to walk across the room at 1 stride every 6 seconds.

Someone's exaggerating.

Both she and her sister sound fairly young...using hyperbole accurately is an acquired skill.

Original Post by smw:

Original Post by kevinatthebrook:

Original Post by dellk:


2. snip. I fully expected it. The problem is, it took her about 10 minutes to "jog" 100m,snip

OK, I'm calling BS. 100 meters in 10 minutes? That's 10 meters per minute. I'm metrically challenged but not so much that I can't say 10 meters is about 30 feet. Let's assume (for simplicity sake) that one stride is 3 feet. That's 10 strides per minute or about 1 every 6 seconds.

Now, stand up and try to walk across the room at 1 stride every 6 seconds.

Someone's exaggerating.

Both she and her sister sound fairly young...using hyperbole accurately is an acquired skill.

buzzkill;p

Your sister sounds like mibe. She wants to get in shape the easiest way pissible. If I try to bring her to workout wuth me, she always flakes out in me. If I lose any weight or make any sort of progress, I'm "obsessed" or "anorexic". My husband finally told me to stop inviting her to work out with me. He said to give her diections to the gym and let her decide if she wants to go.

I know someone with an attitude similar to your sisters. In her case, she's probably morbidly obese, so I'm sure she weighs more than your sister, and she's 36 years old and about 5'4". She is currently on disability because of her weight and I don't think she actually wants to lose any weight. She did drop down to around 200 pounds a few years ago, but she gained it all back and more and is sitting right there.

You can't force someone to lose weight. They have to want to do it, themselves, or it's never going to happen.

I think the most you can do with your sister, is to make sure she knows what staying overweight is going to do to her, health-wise, and let her make her own decisions. Work on your own health and your own weight and exercise. You can spend time with her, maybe do active things that you both enjoy without it being exercise, but don't expect her to change her ways because you told her to.

One other thing to think about: it's possible that she might not think she can do the exercise. It might seem too hard to her, if she's really out of shape. When I started trying to get in shape, that was how I was. I didn't think I could do most exercises. What I did do, was I started with yoga. I knew it was easy to do and probably wouldn't make me sweat a whole lot or make me sore. It's something that anyone can do. Also, I could do it at home and didn't have to go to a gym. After I'd built up some confidence with that, I worked my way up to pilates and then more difficult exercise. If I'd thrown myself straight in to weight lifting (what I'm doing, now) I'd never have made it. I'd have been miserable and quit, especially if I'd felt like I do right now, with sore muscles.

Another thing to think about is nutrition. Eating right does more for weight loss than exercise does. Just cutting down a little bit can cause some weight loss. Substituting healthier options for something can do a world of good. My friend I was talking about, for instance, if she wanted to lose weight and actually asked me about it (she hasn't, but you never know, right?) could start by baking her chicken instead of using her deep fryer. Or substitute popcorn for chips or whatever. Or have veggies and dip for a snack or something like that.

Whatever you do, don't try to force it on her. If she wants to make changes, she will, especially if you're working on setting a good example by doing it, yourself.

walking 30 minutes a day would be the best thing for her right now. 

her diet needs to change first.

She can lose weight simply by adjusting her diet to one that is more nutritional and calorie light. She has to eat a lot of empty calories just to maintain her current weight.

Any type of empty calorie-dense reward for anything will simply wash out any diet or exercise so she is literally spinning her wheels. That's the hard thing. Ween her away slowly. A piece of a snickers bar instead of a whole snickers bar. Instead of soda, try water-enhancers like MIO or generic store brand to get her used to drinking water. Have her find a flavor that she can tolerate.

She needs to just walk... not even a fast walk. It's low impact and will burn plenty of calories at her weight to just move her from point A to point B for 30 minutes a day.

I would suggest pool exercises but my experience has been that very over weight people don't move a lot in a pool. They just like the feeling of being light weight and don't move much. They start with some water resistance exercises but get bored and stop moving.

Don't set weight goals unless she really is feeling better about it. Instead, trying goals like walking an extra 5 minutes next week, etc. Try introducing more veggies and fruits weekly. Goals that change her lifestyle rather than concentrating a weight loss.

Whatever you do, don't ridicule her for being lazy or a wimp. She probably gets that enough from media and people she doesn't care about, how much worse does it feel to get it from family?

Sad that nature is tough on
A person
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