Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Parenting, Part II: Weight is heavy topic to discuss with grown children -

Kim Painter has written about health and wellness for USA TODAY since 1987. She is the mother of two teen boys.

Daphne Oz puts it bluntly: " 'You've gotten fat' is a pretty hard thing to hear from a parent." But it is something that, in one form or another, many young adults do hear from their parents, says the author of The Dorm Room Diet.

And weight is something many parents desperately want to discuss with their grown children, says Ruth Nemzoff, a resident scholar at Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center in Waltham, Mass. She writes and speaks on relationships between parents and grown children and says that weight is a hot topic among parents in her audiences.

"I hear this constantly," she says. "They'll say, 'My daughter is really bright. She's got a Ph.D., but she's really fat. What can I do? Can I say anything?' "

At this time of year, when so many people think of weight loss, the temptation to speak up may be especially strong. And if you happen to be at the end of a winter break with a college student who gained the dreaded freshman 15 (or, more likely, 5 or 8 pounds), this may seem like a perfect time to talk weight.

But think before you speak. And consider saying nothing at all.

That's the advice of Jane Isay, author of two books on family relationships, including Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents. "Our kids know what we are thinking before we say it," she says. "The idea that they are not aware that you are worried about their weight is nuts."

And, she says, "every overweight person has a mirror and knows what she looks like." She asks parents to consider their power: "Any criticism from a parent is heard through a megaphone."

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