RTE's Operation Transformation psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy has some advice
A woman has written to Dr Eddie concerned about her husband's health.
“We are all worried, his parents, his sisters, brothers and friends and most of all me. Pat is a lovely man he is the father to my three children 7, 5, 3, two boys and a girl.
He is not work shy, a good provider, a good man. His weight is exploding and at 44 years of age he is moving to greater than 20 stone.
He has made attempts before losing 2 & 4 stone at different periods and has put more back on again.
He regularly skips breakfast and is too fond of the fast food and unhealthy snacks from the garage.
I think he has given up. The problem is he needs help but won’t go. I want him to go to a counsellor. We can all see it. When I bring up the subject he either reacts with anger or shuts down.
He is not really a drinker, but certainly he certainly is binges on crap (crisps, chocolate, white bread) at night. I would appreciate your thoughts. How do I get through to him, without damaging our relationship?
Dr Eddie’s response;
I empathise with your situation, not a week goes by where a wife, sister or mother, rings me seeking to assist the extremely reluctant male in their life.
This concern can be replicated for any addiction, depression, obesity, etc.
Your concern for your husband comes from a good space, a space of love but I can hear your frustration. It’s so challenging; you want to ‘fix’ him.
I think he is frozen with fear, embarrassment, shame and low self-esteem. Pat is reminded daily about his obesity, each time he looks in a mirror, puts on his clothes, his lack of energy, his negative mood.
Men struggle asking for help. They don’t like feeling vulnerable. A lot of this relates back to the ‘boys don’t cry’ message. The grown up version of this is the belief that being vulnerable and seeking help makes us ‘weak’.
Men like achievements, being providers and be recognised for things done well. When something goes wrong this triggers a feeling of failure, and drives men away from help. Being pushed into therapy often leads to poor outcome.
Counselling to me is an invitation to change. Telling people what to do rarely gets results. Start with your heart. Stay away from what you think are quick fit solutions or directions “you must lose weight or you will die”, “You won’t be around for the children”.
If your spouse doesn’t go for help you need lots of supports for yourself.
Sometimes peer support is a way to go, not from a person who has done the journey like the reformed ex-smoker, but someone who is equally struggling and offers a commitment to share the journey, to encourage by doing not giving advice, and most of all its not you the spouse!
Alternatively a good GP can nudge a person to commence the change journey. Focus family get-togethers away from food and onto healthier family activities like walking.
There is a big difference between refusing counselling and refusing to work on your worries and your relationship. You are there with unconditional love and support, not passive aggression, or implied criticism in the guise of ‘constructive advice’.
There will be a crunch point; one towards negative outcomes of deteriorating health or towards wellness, often this is triggered by a true crises or some insight. I wish I could give you a magic solution, I can’t.
However I can hold out hope, as this crunch point for many is a person playing with their child, and an internal decision to change. I also believe if a person has lost weight before, they can do it again. It’s a great indicator of change, the lesson of maintaining a healthy weight not losing it is the real task.