DEAR AMY: I'm a comfortably retired mom with a 17-year-old son. I totally resented my parents' fat-shaming when I was growing up. (Oddly, I was tall and underweight at the time.) I went to the gym every day as a young adult and could never please my parents. I resented every comment from my parents about weight gain. Now I am a boomer on the high end of BMI and "overweight." My doctor told me my blood work is great, to relax, and not to diet. Now I see the point my parents tried to make. I am making my son log calories on a website to be aware that beef brisket has a ton more calories than fish. I make him run the stairs in our house (one flight) and do two minutes of cardio. I am teaching him not to be sedentary. I have this bad, looming, horrible, guilty feeling about this health education, because of how my parents treated me. Is it OK to get my son to log meals and learn about calories, good and bad fats, etc.? He gladly jumps up to exercise, but he isn't too interested in learning about calories and nutrition. I compliment him on his looks. I just hope he doesn't feel like I'm fat shaming. What do you think?
DEAR MOM: Your son is old enough that, rather than "make" him log meals and run up the stairs, you could engage him more fully in a healthy eating program at home. Learning to cook will equip him for when he leaves.
Start with asking him to chop vegetables for the family salads. Move on to making omelets, fajitas, and breads (which are surprisingly fun to make). Distinguishing between "whole" foods and processed foods will help him to make basic informed choices about his own eating. But should you force him to log his eating, with you watching over his shoulder? I don't think you should.
Be honest with your son about how your parents treated you, and how you felt about it. Tell him you want to pass along a healthier message.
He will be out of the house soon and on his own. If he feels knowledgeable, competent, and in control of his own choices, he'll be prepared for the ramen years. (And, by the way, there are times when a good brisket is totally worth its weight in calories.)
Your son might like trying recipes from "The I Don't Know How to Cook Book: 300 Great Recipes You Can't Mess Up!" by Mary-Lane Kamberg (2015, Adams Media).
DEAR AMY: My nearly 30-year-old daughter has developed some poor social habits and I am not sure if it is appropriate to offer advice or let her continue down this path. She wears old, worn-out clothes and has poor eating habits, including eating very fast, taking huge bites of food, using her fingers to eat, and slurping her drinks. She is bright, beautiful, kind, and has launched her career. She is independent. I obviously dropped the ball when raising her to correct these habits early on, and now find myself being embarrassed to eat with her. Is it appropriate as a parent to insert myself at this point? We talk very carefully about these topics and she says she is expressing her own "style" in dressing and has acknowledged wanting to slow down the speed of her eating, but there have not been any improvements. Do I stay out of this or do I gently insert myself?
Judgmental and Concerned Parent
DEAR JUDGMENTAL: No, you should not comment on your daughter's style of dress. She likely sees a mirror each day and is making choices.
However, I do think you should continue to prompt her about her eating style. None of us eats in front of a mirror. She says she is working on some of her habits. If a parent can't occasionally act as a "reflection," in a nonjudgmental but concerned way, then no one can.
DEAR AMY: I did not like your answer to "Worried," who was saddled with horrible stepchildren. You asked her, "Where's your empathy?" Why did you support these awful, rude young adults over the person they were mean to?
DEAR HORRIFIED: "Worried" had been in the lives of these young adults for almost 10 years. I suggested that she reflect on the role she might have had in how they turned out, and that more compassion (and less harsh judgment) might yield a better result.