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My parents live in a different country; I get to see them once or twice a year. They are visiting me lately, and they will stay over for a month or so. My mom is a little bit sick and has to take medicine after every meal for the rest of her life.

It's not dangerous to her life if she keeps taking her medicine and eating healthy, but lately, she eats everything and has gained a lot of weight. It's really not good for her.

I love my mom, she is a wonderful person, and seeing her like this breaks my heart. I don't want her to get more sick and I'm very very scared of losing her because of that. I can't imagine my life without her. I want to tell her that I'm scared for her health and that she should eat healthy and that she should respect her diet, but I don't know how to tell her that.

I know that she is a sensitive person, she will not show that she's hurt even if she is and I really don't want to hurt her. How can I tell her what I described above without hurting her feelings?

EDIT : as mentioned in the question, I don't want to tell and control what what she eats, and even if I do, I won't be around her for a long time to do that, the question is: How to try to convince her to stick to her diet without hurting her feelings?

  • Who buys the groceries and does the cooking at your house while they are on their extended visit? Or is your primary concern her lack of compliance with her diet when she's at home? – aparente001 Feb 14 '18 at 15:54
  • @aparente001 the groceries are not the problem, sometimes i buy them, sometimes they do. i'm concerned about her health, and want her to stick to the diet when she's at her home to, and how to tell her that – Dhon Joe Feb 14 '18 at 16:13
  • @DhonJoe - Thanks for answering. I don't completely understand. Does she follow the diet when she's at your house? Do you and your father follow the same diet out of solidarity? Are there foods in the house that only she can't eat? Does her diet noncompliance occur purely when she's not at your house? Thanks. – aparente001 Feb 14 '18 at 16:21
  • @aparente001 we all eat the same thing, but in addition to that, she eats little stuff between meals... – Dhon Joe Feb 14 '18 at 16:24
  • That's helpful clarification. Is the snacking a problem because of food choice (in which case it would get back down to the groceries you have in the house), or food amount? If the latter, I recommend keeping her busy and serving small portions at mealtime. (Out of curiosity, what type of health condition is it and what type of diet? I'm asking because with at least one condition/diet I know, noncompliance leads to cravings, and compliance begets compliance.) – aparente001 Feb 14 '18 at 16:28
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If her doctor and/or nutritionist have given her a list of foods to avoid because of her high cholesterol, then make sure you don't have those foods on hand during her visits. Follow her diet with her, without making a fanfare. This may require doing some shopping on your own, without her or your father putting things into the cart.

In my experience this is more effective than any amount of talking.

Edit: Many people find that if they get the hang of following a medically required diet for a few weeks while visiting someone, it is much, much easier to follow it also once they get back home.

The best way to influence someone's behavior is through positive reinforcement, rather than through negative correction. Example:

Mama, I'm really enjoying your visit. I've been especially happy to have the opportunity to follow your heart-smart diet with you. I'm enjoying learning new ways of shopping and cooking and eating, and I'm so pleased to see the effects that following the diet are having on you. You look really good and I have the impression you're starting to feel better, too!

I hope that your father can pick up on this positive approach and start to use it too. He can play an extremely important role once they are home again. For example:

Honey, can you make that vegetable and tofu dish you made when (name of son/daughter) had some friends over? I wouldn't mind having that twice a week, it was so good. What spices and herbs did you choose for that dish? They really made the tofu sing.

In short, my motto is

Start somewhere.

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She's probably already aware of her health issues and diet, so this won't be a surprise to her. There are many long-term diabetics, for instance, who go blind and/or lose limbs even though the diet is pretty straightforward (watch sugar intake, eat more vegetables, etc). Note: I don't minimize diabetes here but use this as an example.

That being the case, your reminding her about that won't do more than tell her what she already knows.

What's important is to make her aware of the effect, not on her, but on YOU. You can be her ally in this if she will let you. You have the basics of the conversation in your question. "Mom, I love you and can't imagine life without you. I'm watching you harm yourself by not following your diet; it really hurts me to see that and know how it will impact me. I want to help you with this; how can I?"

In the end, it's her choice (otherwise a lot of doctors would go out of business) so it's up to you to help her make a healthier choice. You want her to make the choice and you to help with the results of the choice. If you decide for her what she will eat, she's only going to resent it. You can make it easier, however, for her to eat healthier if you allow her to help you help her do this.

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