Dad constantly baits him about his weight

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: I am a 24-year-old man, and my weight has fluctuated greatly over the years. In the last year, I have gained a lot of weight. I understand my bad habits -- overeating, bad foods and lack of exercise are all contributing factors. My father feels the need to offer advice and lecture me every time I visit home. I expect and brace myself for these hourlong repetitive tirades. He knows I know about my weight and I am struggling to deal with it. Over Christmas I got four lectures over a five-day period. I told him to back off. He let it drop, but then right after New Year's he sent out an email to our family, bringing it up again, in a public setting this time. My dad just won't stop. Recently I got more direct and told him off very strongly, but that hasn't worked either. The only option it seems is to cut him out of my life entirely, but that seems extreme. I know he cares for me, but it has gotten to the point that it is causing me to relapse into depression. How should I deal with a loving family member who keeps harassing me about a sensitive issue? MichaelDEAR MICHAEL: You've given your father many opportunities to change his tactics, and he has responded by turning up the heat. Emotions, such as anxiety and anger, have a lot to do with body image and overeating. The healthiest way to respond to your challenge is to avoid the triggers that cause you to feel worse -- and to orient yourself toward positive examples and reinforcement.

You needn't cut your father out of your life. You do need to avoid him -- and his regrettable behavior -- until your health is more stable. The armchair psychologist in me suspects there is a lively connection between your father's attitude toward you and your attitude toward yourself. Turn some of this anger into action.

Overeaters Anonymous uses a 12-step model and group meetings to address chronic eating addiction. Check oa.org to find a local meeting.