Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Two conversations with the parents

I was in Minnesota to visit my family over Thanksgiving and I had two extremely frustrating conversations with my parents. I know, somewhere in the back of my head, that they are only to be expected given the all the hype, but I still wanted to pull my hair out.

The first: My mother was talking about some recent knee pain that she's been experiencing. To put this in context, my mother is 67 and is obese. She hasn't always been obese. She was once terribly underweight. She's never been comfortable with the weight she gained and she's been a yo-yo dieter since her 40s.

My mother commented that she was certain that her weight did not help her knee and if she could just lose 80 pounds (yes, she stated 80 pounds), it would be better. I was aghast - not that she wanted to lose weight or that she correlated weightloss with less knee pain, but that she expected at her age and relative dis-ability due to her knee pain to lose and probably maintain that loss.

So I asked her, do you really think that's going to happen? It's good to test reality.

Well, no, she said, but it would help.

I pointed out that since this wasn't likely to happen that maybe other avenues of relieving the pain would be physical therapy or something. It was apalling that she thought of weightloss as the primary means of alleviating her pain.

The second: I pointed to my mother's cat, Max who is as big as a house, and said to my father that I thought that he was a good argument that not everyone is the same size or can maintain at the same size. Max is a supersize cat. He started out as a regular size kitten and in a year grew huge.

Now we've had other cats. These cats have had the same access to the same amount of food as Max and, while they might have been slightly bigger than they would have been on the street, they weren't huge. In fact, the variety in cat form in our household has been amazingly diverse.

My father's response to this was that he thought I was wrong. Everyone can lose weight and maintain a weightloss, was his argument, if only they are obsessed enough.

My father is also 67 and obese. He's tall and large and has been tall and large since leaving the army in his 20s. He's bigger than he ever was, yes, but he's never been "normal weight" for his height.

My father went on to explain that dieting was so problematic because you had to keep eating. If he could only figure out a way to stop eating, then even if he did slip from being obsessed, he'd be okay. He would have eliminated food.

So, I responded, you should become an anorexic.

Yes, he replied without irony, that would probably work.

I think that pretty much speaks for itself. On a positive note, I'm pretty sure that my father will not stop eating and become anorexic.