Health & Wellness

How to get stubborn, proud, old man to change his eating habits

  • Last Updated:
  • Nov 18th, 2018 12:22 am
[OP]
Newbie
Feb 24, 2011
46 posts
5 upvotes
Burlington

How to get stubborn, proud, old man to change his eating habits

I want to help my dad lose weight because he's 83 years old and getting very clumsy. The doctor has also been saying forever that he needs to lose weight to help manage his diabetes and blood pressure. My dad has also had a minor stroke attack 2 years ago. My dad and I also recently returned from a trip to Peru, but while in Peru, I saw his blood pressure spike to dangerous levels at 190/100...we were extremely fortunate he didn't have a stroke while in a foreign country. My dad is extremely stubborn and proud. So it's hard to change his ways. For as long as I can remember, he eats every day as if he's training for the Boston Marathon, where his portion sizes are 3 times my portion sizes. I still exercise intensely almost every day ( I burn about 600-1000 calories in my training sessions), whereas all my dad does is read the newspaper and watch youtube every day. When my mom and I try to explain to my dad the benefits of changing his nutrition, he'll stubbornly say he's too old to do new things, and that because he has diabetes, he needs to eat as soon as his body says he's hungry, at which time he stuffs his face with enormous portions of food.

My dad also got a really bad flu and cough while in Peru, and still hasn't recovered. He is in the most sickly condition I've ever seen him (even worse than when he had a minor stroke which resulted in aphasia that only lasted one evening in the hospital), and all that extra weight he's carrying makes him even more dangerously clumsy when he refuses to listen to us and tries to do things around the house without our help.

My mom and I are thinking we have to forcefully intervene. If my dad wants to be self-sufficient, then we need him to eat properly and lose weight. I feel like we have to control every meal he eats until his body adapts to a new nutritional life style that will allow him to reach a healthy weight, so that he can move around more easily.

Im not sure if what I'm about to do is a good thing. I don't know if there are support groups I can talk to for advice on how to deal with stubborn, proud, elderly people who refuse to change for the better?
14 replies
Deal Fanatic
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Oct 1, 2011
6237 posts
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It's extremely difficult to get adults to change habits or choices they themselves do not even want to change.
Deal Fanatic
Dec 11, 2008
8735 posts
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Who is preparing his food? Is he snacking junk food as well?
[OP]
Newbie
Feb 24, 2011
46 posts
5 upvotes
Burlington
Sometimes he prepares his own meals. Other times my mom prepares a big batch of food for the family, and he takes his portions from the batch. He eats four large meals per day

My dad doesn't snack.

So I think we have to strictly control his meals.
Deal Fanatic
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Mar 23, 2008
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Edmonton
Unless your father is senile or suffering from dementia, he’s a grown man entitled to make his own decisions. You can advise. You can ask his doctor to advise him on the risks of his situation. But unless you’re willing to put a padlock on the cabinets and fridge, how do you plan to “control his meals”?

C
[OP]
Newbie
Feb 24, 2011
46 posts
5 upvotes
Burlington
CNeufeld wrote:
Oct 22nd, 2018 1:44 pm
Unless your father is senile or suffering from dementia, he’s a grown man entitled to make his own decisions. You can advise. You can ask his doctor to advise him on the risks of his situation. But unless you’re willing to put a padlock on the cabinets and fridge, how do you plan to “control his meals”?

C
Based on my understanding of senility, I would say he seems to exhibit its characteristics. Example, just the past weeks, there are two occasions in which he forgot he was cooking oatmeal on the stove, and it set off the fire / smoke alarm on both occasion. While in Peru 2 weeks ago, we had to remind him over and over again that there's a 1 hour time difference between Lima and Toronto, and on one particular day, we had to restate this fact 3 times on one day. It's like the past year, he has been extremely forgetful and negligent in many things.

Because of this, my initial plan to "control" his meals is to basically limit the amount of food in the house. And we make it explicit that specific portions of food have been set aside for him in the refrigerator, and he's not allowed to access the other fridge compartments.

Is this the best practice with dealing with individuals like this? Are there other proven methods to take control of another person's nutrition plan?
Member
Dec 29, 2012
476 posts
84 upvotes
Scarborough
It's a fine balance between love and control. When one gets to a certain age, and there's nothing else to enjoy except a good meal, then you either replace all food items with healthy low-calorie items to help them live longer, or you let them eat what they want and be happy. I used to control my Dad's food (low salt and low cholesterol) but then he got sick from other things and passed away, but spent his last 5 years being unhappy about his meals - so I regret not letting him indulge his tastes.
Deal Addict
Jan 2, 2015
1322 posts
582 upvotes
I understand the desire to have your father eat healthy. The fact that he is 83 and still travelling to peru is wonderful. Those things you describe are common in old age but do not necessarily make him senile or incompetent. You can aid by having healthier choices in the house. ‘Not allowing him other compartments’ seems extreme and over bearing.

I am sure you want your father to live longer and mean well, but controlling him is not your job. He is a grown person and at 80, he should be allowed some liberties. My dad who is about the same age, and we noticed he wasn’t eating as healthy, and suggested he eat differently. His response is that at his age, he figures he has 5 -10 left optimistically. He would rather enjoy himself over the next few years than deny himself, because at his age, there are few pleasures he gets. So what is the point extending his life by maybe an extra few years, and have him miserable.

I have see his point. The balance is that he doesn’t have to ver do it, but trying to control him at this age makes no sense. He should get to live out his remaining years as he chooses.
On a 'smart' device that isn't always so smart. So please forgive the autocorrects and typos. If it brothers you, then don't read my posts, but don't waste my time correcting me. If you can get past the typos, then my posts generally have some value.
[OP]
Newbie
Feb 24, 2011
46 posts
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Burlington
His food choices are healthy. He's been good at eating the low carb, low sodium, diet etc... He's basically done what the doctor asked him to do EXCEPT for the portion sizes. He's never in his adult life eaten portion sizes less than what he's currently eating now, so he doesn't know what that's like or how to get there, and therefore concludes that it is impossible.

When he was on the plane and travelling, he was fine eating the portion sizes served on the planes or small meals we pack for bus/car. I asked him if he ever felt hungry, and he said he was satisfied by the travel meal portion sizes. The sightseeing/travel probably distracted him from always thinking about food. A lot of people say that as people age, they become more like a child, and you basically have to use child management tactics at times, like forcing them to see options they haven't considered before they conclude said options are impossible.

I think my mom and I are going to force him slowly over time to see that he doesn't need to eat the enormous portion sizes that he currently eats. Once he sees that it is not impossible and he sees some results then he can choose if he wants to continue or not.

My mom, brother's family and I are the ones who have to care for him like buy his groceries, take him to doctors, be the interpreters at clinics/hospitals, clean his home, etc... I can't think of good reasons on why we should keep indulging his eating behaviour if it only puts more work on us (eg. we don't have to buy him more food from stores, we don't have to give him access to our food compartments, we don't have to translate for him, etc..). And also, it's tax payers that are paying for his medical visits due to his irresponsible eating behaviour. Why condone behaviour that only taxes us more?
Deal Fanatic
Dec 11, 2008
8735 posts
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If you control the food he has at home then you can set up the portions and help him. Hopefully he doesn't "run" out of food. Just tell him that this amount of food needs to last 4 days etc or whatever.
Deal Addict
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Dec 11, 2003
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Toronto
Maybe you don't need to change what he eats but how much he eats. If your mom is preparing the meals then scoop out his portions. At least he will get to eat what you eat but just less of it. Don't make it drastic right away. Start by giving him a little bit less for a few days. Then just a little bit less than that. And so on and so on. Eventually his body will get used to not eating as much. Maybe he won't even notice if you do that. If that happens then one day it'll probably just dawn on him at how little he's eating.
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Deal Guru
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Mar 14, 2005
11972 posts
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City of Vancouver
Does he drink coffee? Coffee curbs appetite.
Does he drink tea, water throughout the day? This also contributes to feeling full.
High protein diet, fats also contribute to satiety.
Maybe get the family to do intermittent fasting/one meal a day thing.

To incentivize movement, get him to do chores that other family members have been doing, like vacuuming, carrying groceries, etc.
To control portion sizes, buy less food and make smaller meals.
Consider hiding groceries, leaving them in the car trunk, etc.

People who don't care to change their behaviour often don't care about being a burden to their family. Not everyone goes out suddenly by dying in their sleep. Of course, as the aging brain degrades, it isn't surprising to find characteristics as less ability for self-control. Many seniors with dementia have preferences for sugary foods because it is suspected that food starts to taste more bland.
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Member
Dec 29, 2012
476 posts
84 upvotes
Scarborough
rematakla wrote:
Oct 23rd, 2018 6:00 am
His food choices are healthy. He's been good at eating the low carb, low sodium, diet etc... He's basically done what the doctor asked him to do EXCEPT for the portion sizes. He's never in his adult life eaten portion sizes less than what he's currently eating now, so he doesn't know what that's like or how to get there, and therefore concludes that it is impossible.

When he was on the plane and travelling, he was fine eating the portion sizes served on the planes or small meals we pack for bus/car. I asked him if he ever felt hungry, and he said he was satisfied by the travel meal portion sizes. The sightseeing/travel probably distracted him from always thinking about food. A lot of people say that as people age, they become more like a child, and you basically have to use child management tactics at times, like forcing them to see options they haven't considered before they conclude said options are impossible.

I think my mom and I are going to force him slowly over time to see that he doesn't need to eat the enormous portion sizes that he currently eats. Once he sees that it is not impossible and he sees some results then he can choose if he wants to continue or not.

My mom, brother's family and I are the ones who have to care for him like buy his groceries, take him to doctors, be the interpreters at clinics/hospitals, clean his home, etc... I can't think of good reasons on why we should keep indulging his eating behaviour if it only puts more work on us (eg. we don't have to buy him more food from stores, we don't have to give him access to our food compartments, we don't have to translate for him, etc..). And also, it's tax payers that are paying for his medical visits due to his irresponsible eating behaviour. Why condone behaviour that only taxes us more?
It's called love and caring, and returning what your parents did for you when they fed you, dressed you, cleaned up your p ...., made your lunches for school, did your laundry, gave you a home for 16+ years.
[OP]
Newbie
Feb 24, 2011
46 posts
5 upvotes
Burlington
Catnippy wrote:
Oct 23rd, 2018 5:54 pm
It's called love and caring, and returning what your parents did for you when they fed you, dressed you, cleaned up your p ...., made your lunches for school, did your laundry, gave you a home for 16+ years.
"returning what your parents did for you..." You mean they taught us to be a responsible by not indulging in decadent behaviour and needlessly burden members of our society and our healthcare system ? Yes, I will return that favour to them by enforcing the same rules they applied on us. They gave us a home for 20 years. We gave them a home for 20 years. So the score is even now.
Thank you
Deal Addict
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Aug 18, 2008
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Ottawa
Honestly, changing eating habits is very hard. Even if you have success for a few months, he may revert back.

Have you considered just encouraging him to be more active instead?

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