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why do people live in denial?

My mom has had mulitple by-pass surgeries, and diabetes, yet she lives in denial and pretends that if she eats good one meal then she is eating healthy all the time. I can't eat with her anymore while she sneaks bad food in to her mouth. Why does having your chest ripped open, coming this close to death, and then a full chest scar not scare the hell out of people?
I don't understand....
I have six siblings, all who tend to carry weight around their middle - this should be a "Hello!" moment this is the path you are going down, do a u-turn now, but instead I have a sister who seems to live like my mom.
Does anyone else have someone like this in their lives, does it drive you insane? How do I help her, and why doesn't she help herself? She eats like nothing ever has been wrong.
It has had the opposite effect on me, it terrifies me to see that scar, to know that I could prevented it, that she caused this. I can't eat without wondering how will this effect my body, does it help or hurt me? When I go jogging I imagine the blood pumping and pushing my arteries clean.
I want to help her, but I can't handle the denial, I think the only way to help her is to not repeat her history, and to ensure my children also take a different path.

Mon. Jul 9, 10:06am

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You cannot change other people's behavior; you can only change your own. Stop trying to get her to change.

Monday, July 09, 2007, 11:49 AM

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I can also not sit by and watch her kill herself anymore.

Monday, July 09, 2007, 12:11 PM

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I don't have quite your mother's issues, but I am an ex-smoker and a former drug user. NO ONE can 'save' someone who isn't ready - I don't care how negative the consequences of the bad behavior are. Any attempts will be resented and will just push the person into being more secretive about their self-destruction. You say you can't sit by and watch, but trust me on this: YOU CAN'T LIVE HER LIFE FOR HER, and she will grow to resent you if you try.

Back off, set a great example and be there for her when she takes positive steps. She's very likely not in as much denial as you think she is. However - that's not the point, the point is she's not committed to changing her life and you can't do it for her no matter how much you want to. Yes, it hurts to watch loved ones slowly destroy themselves - remember this when it comes to parts of your own behavior that aren't healthy that you don't want to change. However she's an adult and she has free will - she needs to make her own choices for her own reasons.

Also remember - "Mom, I love you. I'm so glad you're taking care of yourself - I want my happy, healthy mother around for a long time." is a lot more effective than "Should you be eating that?"

Monday, July 09, 2007, 1:03 PM

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I'm so sorry! I wish you luck in trying to reach her. She's your *mom*. Of course this is hurting you!!

Monday, July 09, 2007, 2:07 PM

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My mom has similar issues, she complains about being fat and unhappy and cant exercise because of her arthritis. She says since she can't exercise she will be fat anyways so why watch what she eats? Odd how different our mindsets can be... Sad part is she is only 53 and she seems determined to die fat.

Monday, July 09, 2007, 2:57 PM

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OP - I'm very sorry for your dilemma, seems there is no good answer. My mom was always the same way. She was overweight, and would sneak food all the time. Then, surprisingly, she met a younger man that encouraged her to lose most of the weight.

It really has to be her own choice, I think. Also, a lot of people do not realize that the brain is a part of the body. When the body is sick and miserable, the brain is also. She may be suffering from depression which manifests itself in just not caring about heself enough, and eating to make herself feel better. She may think she has nothing to gain by losing the weight. You may need to take her to a therapist for that kind of issue.

Monday, July 09, 2007, 3:19 PM

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Next time mom is stuffing her pie hole tell her mom why don't we go arrange a funeral because that is where you are heading. Maybey this blunt statement will lead to an open discussion on how people are always saying they would die for you but don't care enough to try to live for you.

Monday, July 09, 2007, 8:04 PM

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You are only responsible for your own behavior. All you can do is love your mother. If you must say something to her, think about it carefully first. Then say what you need to , so that if she passes away you won't live with regrets (e.g. "If only I had said .. to her before she died...")

Monday, July 09, 2007, 8:09 PM

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How long were you in denial? what brought you here?

When people start pointing the finger at others I’m always amazed, even if it’s under the pretense of Love. Look at the site we are on people and take a moment to remember what brought you here?, I wonder how many years we all lived in denial until we woke up and made a decision to do something. They key being we had to make the choice. I’m not trying to be mean I can honestly relate my mom struggles with weight and yes I get real tired of hearing her talk about needing to lose weight and in the same breathe eat a cookie, yes it’s verrry frustrating. I love her and will support her when and if she’s ever ready but until that time it’s her call not mine. I’ve actually been talking to her about peertrainer and how beneficial It’s been for me and if I’m lucky she might get interested enough to try it and who knows maybe she’ll find other ladies around her age struggling that can relate to her situation objectively and not emotionally. It might just give her the hope and the encouragement she needs to make a positive change.

None of us need threatened or sarcasm if you truly care about someone you should respect them even if you don't agree with them. I was told once "what's important to you is not always important to others" and "choose your battles wisely" this might be one of those times.

Monday, July 09, 2007, 9:32 PM

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About Denial

I agree with what you are saying, however I am 42 and am seriously overweight. But this is the good thing, I was introduce to Weight Watchers and lost 67lbs. I am an emotional eater so I kinda relate to your mom, sometimes we need a little boost. Instead of trying to change her, change with her. She might need a partner to start her off on her journey. Start slowly like ask her to take a walk around the block, after a few weeks start two blocks and so on, and so on, I am still strugling with my weight but this time I have a partner. My daughters, I want to be here to see them and I know that she does too. As far as stuffing her face, this could be becasue she might be an emotional eater too, When I am bothered or depressed, I also eat, and I eat a lot. Then comes the guilt and I eat again. When you see her doing this, try not to be sad, just try to understand. I think you can also try to go shoping, nothing inspires me like buying new cloths and don't take no for an answer. I also read a book called "YOU ON A DIET" beleave me it did a lot of good. Sometimes we need more that just one program and I think that support is most important with our family than with strangers. She will feel good about herself and others will start to follow in her footsteps. But don't give up and I hope the best for you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007, 10:46 AM

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Not the O.P., but can relate

It is so painful to watch someone suffer. It is hard to watch someone make choices that may continue to add to their sadness & death. It is extremely difficult to see someone who has the use of all their limbs & faculties, not be able to do some fun things in life because of depression, alcohol abuse, drug or/and food addictions (etc.). Growing up I watched my mother feel so limited by her weight & size. When she took me to do fun things like ride rollercoasters, go horseback riding & even bowling, she just watched. Not only because of her self consciousness, but because she couldn't fit. I hate it. It makes me so incredibly & deeply sad that many of us live like this, without the freedom to move & feel the joys of having a body. I love my mother. She has been an amazing & inspiring person in my life. She is a very powerful force in many ways but somehow still trapped by this compulsion. I pray for her everyday & am there when she needs me. I encourage a healthy way of life & support her healthy attempts. I guess that is what I am supposed to do. Sometimes it is extremely hard to hold on but try to let go at the same time. I am a young woman, who definitly has some food issues, but I have always been into health & activity (ironically because my mother was so supportive of me participating in sports). Yet I swear I feel like a very overweight girl on the inside.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007, 10:46 AM

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i think part of the anxiety the OP is feeling is coming from the belief that her mother is making poor choices intentionally and willfully. while, to the OP, it may seem obvious what is happening (and that it's voluntary behavior), this is just the OP's perception. her truth is not her mother's truth.
for some people, the "torture" that they put themselves through (by smoking, over drinking, over eating, poor relationships) somehow gives them a feeling of self-empowerment, knowing they can discontinue the behavior when they see fit. it's like a form of control if you are doing it to yourself. they don't see the big picture.
my advice is to stop trying to show her the mistakes she is making (in your eyes) and start trying to love her despite those mistakes. that is what unconditional love is about. hopefully the acceptance she feels will work its way into her self esteem and she will change naturally.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007, 11:00 AM

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there is rich soil in the delta at the end of the nile.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007, 11:59 AM

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it is very hard when you have to physically take care of someone after heart surgery, the stress, the emotions, the physical work, my mom is morbidly obese and not easy to take care of her when I am only 5'4" 130lbs. Then to watch her go thru it over and over, it is too much to handle, knowing that small changes can make huge improvements, just taking the prescribed medicine is the first step. I feel obligated to prevent her from killing herself, just as I would if I was watching someone kill themselves with gun. Once she has died I would hate myself if I didn't atleast try.
I know I can not change her, but saying that I can no longer have a meal with her. Watching someone with diabetes eat sugar and ignore it is not being a good daughter. It is her choice but I refuse to be a part of this any more, I love more than anything, and am sad that she is choosing this path.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007, 1:05 PM

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gosh, 1:05. I do feel your pain. not eating w/her was probably a hard decision to come to. I've often wondered if I should do something like that but instead decided to just make sure I eat healthy, small portioned meals. Instead of getting into ordering appetizers & high fat options in front of her.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007, 1:18 PM

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People live in denial for one simple reason....because its easier. That way they don't really have to face themselves and whatever problems really exist.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007, 5:26 PM

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5:26 - exactly.

I've been pretty vocal about my exercise and weight loss plans at work trying to get others to join in. When reading the story about the "Living XL" catalog for obese people, my coworker said "If I was fat..." And she's at least 40-50 pounds overweight!

Some people are so far away from their ideal weights. They think that they're ok, as long as they're not 200-300 pounds, obese and in need of bypass surgery.

I was in denial for quite sometime as well but it took a life-changing experience to wake me up to the fact I needed to change. Health is wealth. I hope everyone has that realization one day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007, 12:58 PM

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OP. I think you cant say anything and just love her. She is a grown woman and she knows what she is doing. It only hurts her feelings if you say something or dont spend time with her. You have to accept her as she is. You are her loved one. My brother asked me once why i was so fat? It crushed me! It's none of his business! Thats how i feel and he should love me the way i am because he is my brother and i obviously have a problem that we all know is not easy to fix and he shouldnt judge me for it. He said that he is only worried for me but really he is judging. And you are too. And you shouldnt.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 7:29 PM

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Oh and i dont think that she is living in denial. Its hard to change your life and lose weight and if you really had a problem with that then you should understand.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 7:30 PM

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I can't believe doctors have done gastric bypass for her that much. They normally have criteria and won't do such a dirastic surgery for someone who isn't showing serious signs of makeing changes to their life. My uncle had to loose 15 lbs and see specialists before he was approved for the surgery.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 7:38 PM

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You might benefit from doing some reading online on the following topics ...

Change Theory. Change theory talks about the psychological stages we go through (or not) in relation to lifestyle changes (weight, exercise, substance abuse, etc.). It's important to understand when someone's own readiness for change isn't at your stage of readiness for their change.

Interventions. We normally think of interventions in terms of substance abuse, but it can apply to issues such as this. It's not something to be taken lightly, but is one viable option for dealing with a loved one who's killing themselves.

Codependence. I'm not suggesting that you're caught in a codependent relationship with your mother, but it's not uncommon, so you may want to ask yourself if it applies.

The reason I bring these issues up is this.

I encourage you to assess your mother's stage of readiness for change. It sounds like it's quite low. I'm sorry, but that may never change. And you can't force it. Next, I encourage you to consider whether an intervention is an appropriate tactic in your situation. Maybe, maybe not - that's for you to judge. Are there other family members who feel the same way you do and who will support you? Next, if you think you may be engaging in some codependent behavior in your relationship with her, you have the power to assume control over your own role in the relationship - even if you can't assume control over her role and behavior.

I say these things because I've been there. A dear friend was morbidly obese for decades. I watched her health spiral downward while I watched other friends respond to her phone calls asking them to bring her food. She'd wheedle them to bring her the very things she shouldn't have, and wouldn't even get up to greet them when they arrived. One by one, she drove those friends away and tried to draw me into the cycle of "bring me food, tidy my house so I don't have to get up and do anything" and so forth. Another friend and I were her only friends left in the world, and decided we could not continue to watch her kill herself. We did an intervention, refused to accept her excuses, her crying, her pleas to help her because she was too "disabled" to get up and do anything for herself. We promised to help her and support her through any good faith effort to take control of her life and her weight, but also promised her that we would no longer associate with her if she chose to continue the unhealthy and antisocial behaviors that had hurt everyone around her. She promised to change, and we stood ready to support her change. She chose not to change, however, and only renewed her efforts to manipulate us into being a part of her self-destruction.

I made the very difficult decision of letting go, because I couldn't watch it anymore.

She died one year later.

I know you're talking a parent rather than a friend, so I know your pain is even greater than my own. I don't tell you the story of my friend to depress you, but only to reinforce that you may not be able to do anything other than control your own life and your own behavior.

I wish you well ...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 7:55 PM

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I don't know, I can only speak from my experience and I have had people be open and honest with me about their feelings. Basicallly telling me that they can't stay around and watch me kill myself with food. It didn't help. It only made things worse. It only proves that I am unlovable. So then what do you do? You go and stuff your pain once again. And after a lifetime of stuffing the pain you end up obese and very unhappy. It may look like denial but there is not one fat person out there that doesn't know they are overweight. We look at ourselves every day. We are not stupid.
Perhaps your mother sees this as an overwhelming obstacle and so she doesn't try or maybe she tries and fails. whatever the case she is worth your love and support even when it hurts you to see her this way. Saying or treating her harshly in my opinion will do nothing but harm.
Illness is not enough to change a person. Not always anyway. I am very overweight and very disabled, the pain I live with every day is not what got me to this point. Looking at what I am missing out on is what finally changed my thoughts and in turn my actions. I thankfully have a family that is very supportive and was willing to love me through it all until I was ready to make a change.
So that would be my suggestion to you, love her through this time until she comes to the point that she can face herself and make a healthier change.
I guess I think about it the opposite of you, I would rather spend my time with my mom loving her and encouraging her even if she is making wrong or unhealthy choices than to miss out on any time I can have with her, I wouldn't want to look back and wish that I had been with her more and the only reason I wasn't was because it hurt to see her eat.
I wish your mother well and I hope you make the right decision.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 9:05 PM

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I totally sympathize with you. I haven't read all of these comments, but the majority of the ones I did read are ridiculous. How are you supposed to sit by and watch someone kill themselves? I don't get this 'stop trying to get her to change' and 'you can't change other people's behavior, only your own' bull. Does that mean that we can't help starving Africans, but we can change our opinion of them? Or that we should just let anorectics starve themselves and not try to get THEM help?

Personally I think that you have to be constantly at your mom, trying to get her to eat better. Try preparing fun and healthy meals together, or whip up some and store them in the fridge so that she has easy access. If you look around, there are some meals that are so delicious that you wouldn't believe they were good for you. I don't think that anyone should just sit by and let their loved ones do what they want if it's harming them. You may not be able to force change upon them, but it's better than doing NOTHING.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 10:49 PM

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i agree with the other posters that said that she is a grown woman and that she knows that she is fat. Just love her.

Thursday, July 19, 2007, 10:01 AM

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Similar situations

I really am sorry and I truly sympathize. I am in a similar situation, however my mother does not have diabetes or any other health problems typically associated with obesety. She is 450lbs and physically can't breathe or take care of herself now...I feel awful because I find myself hating what she has done. You can try everything for someone and trust me it doesn't work until they want to change. I am 23 and getting married in a year and just being around to see me get married is not helping her to even want to get better. I thank you for being so open and honest because you let me know too that there are other people in similar situations and I hope you can find solace in knowing you are not alone.


Monday, April 14, 2008, 7:22 PM

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if she is in denial, she probably does know, and feels horrible about it, and has trouble sleeping at night because she hates it. keep this in mind.
but the problem is compulsive, it is probably hard for her to make the first step
anyway, my grandparents are the same way, but my mom was so hurt by it, they began to make it better, they are still very overweight but they are trying
i appreciate that u must have tried a bunch to make things better, but ask yourself, "is she happy?"
if she is happy, u can relax and love the fact that the one you love is happy
if not, u are on the right path, just keep encouraging her and she might just might realize and try to help the problem
good luck

Monday, April 14, 2008, 10:05 PM

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Its nearly impossible to get other people to change, even if they know their bad habits will kill them. (smokers??!!) You just have to love the person, encourage her, praise her efforts and lead by example.

Thursday, April 17, 2008, 4:06 PM

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Denial is such a comfy place to be - you have no worries there. That's why people live in denial. It's not reality and sometimes or many times, it catches up to you, but it's seriously comfy.

Friday, April 18, 2008, 3:18 PM

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