Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My 18-year-old daughter is beautiful and very smart. She is going to her dream college. My concern is that she has gained 50 pounds since her junior year in high school. I paid extra so she could join the campus gym, and I try to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Her father is obese and a poor eater. I eat healthy (mostly) and am normal weight. My son (also a teenager) is tall and thin/normal weight. When I see the poor food choices she makes — going out with friends/food she brings into our home — and large portions, I try to gently verbalize concern and encouragement to eat healthier foods. But she always takes offense. She is smart; she knows she is overweight, but I don’t believe she realizes the detrimental health effects of obesity. I know in our society appearance matters, so I don’t want her missing out on any opportunities like jobs because of her obesity. Also, I can see in the faces of my mother/siblings and nieces and nephews the judgment — and I feel embarrassed. How can I help her realize her health is so important (her grandfather died at 56 of a heart attack) and encourage her to lose weight to become a healthier and stronger woman? Should I consider counseling for her or is there a book that would be helpful for me? — Concerned Parent
DEAR CONCERNED: Your sense of shame is not helping. Nor is your “help” helping. If she is beautiful and very smart, I suggest you lead with that when you talk to her — not your own disappointment at how overweight she is.
I can imagine what it is like for her to face your judgmental family — what a great excuse to “eat her feelings!” Your concern about her health is a red herring to cover your embarrassment.
You should not suggest counseling for her to deal with her weight, but you should offer counseling to her to deal with all sorts of issues that crop up with older adolescents, including how to deal with one’s parents. A book I’m currently reading on this very topic is “Body of Truth: How Science, History and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight” by Harriet Brown (2015, De Capo Lifelong Books).
DEAR AMY: I am over 80, and I realize I talk too much. It’s not advice that I’m giving, but “stories” or just chatter — but in a long-winded way. How can I stop? I must bore people to death. Please help before one of my children has me put on an ice floe. They don’t say anything, but I must stop! Thank you for listening. — Curious in California
DEAR CURIOUS: I applaud your willingness to see that you have a habit that can be annoying to other people. I receive a lot of letters from people complaining about other people “holding forth.”
Concentrate on listening, instead of thinking about what you’re going to say. Ask questions based on what they’re talking about and then listen to their responses.
Ask a trusted loved one: “I know I get lost in the weeds when I’m telling a story. Are there specific things you notice that I habitually do that I should try to stop doing?” They might tell you that you backtrack too much, filling in extraneous details.
You can also record yourself while you’re talking on the phone. Play back the recording and listen to the extra details that seem to slip in. A timer might help you to become more aware of the time you spend talking vs. listening.
Remember, too, that it is possible (probable, really), that your children love you and are happy to listen to you, no matter what.
DEAR AMY: I disagree with your answer to “D,” the new bride who broke off a friendship because her maid of honor got drunk and ruined her wedding. If she has a drinking problem, this is not the time to end the friendship but to stand by and help her get some help in her time of need. Or do you just believe in “fair-weather friends”? Shame on you. — Dismayed
DEAR DISMAYED: I believe that when a maid of honor ruins a wedding through her drunken antics, it’s pretty much a friendship deal-breaker. The bride does not have a duty to continue the friendship — only to be honest about how the behavior affected her.