Sister Overexaggerates Weight Gain

By September 10, 2012

My question has to do with my twin sister…. I am not around her every day, but from what I can tell,  she follows the Atkins diet very strictly. When she comes over to my house, she runs out and gets take-out food to supplement what I am serving. She tends to say that she’s always 10 lbs up from the last week, and overexaggerates her weight gain. She’s actually a lot smaller than I am, so how could she constantly be only gaining weight?   When she really feels the need to lose weight, I think she eats a lot of veggies and not much more. When she went into the hospital for a heart problem she had since birth, she obsessed about the weight gain she would have from the IV. I think she even brought her scale from home, because she didn’t trust their scales. And she sets her scale 20 lbs heavier I think to convince herself that she needs to be more careful because she’s gaining weight (sort of how I set my clocks 10 minutes fast…). What do you think?  – Lori

Dear Lori,

I can see why you are concerned about your twin. There are some generally accepted principles about helping a family member or friend when you are concerned. In particular, the National Eating Disorder Association publishes very good brochures and handouts on this topic. I’ll summarize some of the most important points that seem relevant to your situation:

You have already begun the first step. That is to gather information and do some research. You are seeking information from others and learning more.

You have also done a nice job of the second step – listing specific behaviors you see that concern you. If you decide to share your concerns with her, it is best to have identified SPECIFIC behaviors that are of concern to you.

When it comes to confronting someone, there are advantages and disadvantages to take into consideration. Of course, the fact that we care can make a huge difference in their lives. But sometimes people become angry or indifferent, or are so much in denial that they really don’t understand what you’re saying. They may not take any action for a long time, so you have to be prepared for this frustration. Remember, no matter how much we love someone, we cannot “fix” them.

If you are prepared for these reactions, you can resolve not to take them personally. If you do choose to talk to your sister, pick a time and place that is private. It is best to express your concerns by emphasizing YOUR feelings, not your judgments or thoughts. For example, “I feel confused when you say you’ve gained 10 pounds and you appear to be the same size.” Or “I feel scared when I think about your heart problem and I see you following the Atkins diet.” Or “I feel alarmed when I see you just eating veggies.” You could then offer to go with her to talk with a professional…maybe just for an assessment. You can even offer to make the appointment. Or you might ask her to read a book like those we talk about on this site about someone else’s successful story.

Sharing our concerns can be a gift to someone we care about, especially if we stick to how we FEEL about the ACTUAL BEHAVIOR we see (i.e. mad, sad, glad, afraid) and then offer suggestions. I wish you the best.