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Can I Fix His Diet?
Iíve been on my own for quite awhile and will be going back home to visit my family soon. I love my parents very much, even though we donít always see eye to eye. My mother works in the medical field, and, fortunately, she recognizes that a vegan diet is healthy, beneficial for the environment, and good for the animals. As a result, she has made some positive changes to her diet in the vegan direction. My father, on the other hand, is grossly overweight and must control his high blood pressure with medication.
I have tried to persuade my father to adopt a vegan diet, but like many people, he prefers to rely on information that confirms his current views. He also believes I am trying to manipulate and control him. How can I convince him before it is too late?
It is heartbreaking to watch loved ones engage in self-destructive behavior that appears destined to destroy their health. Poor eating habits and overeating can be compared with the psychological aspects of other harmful behavior, such as addiction, because for many of us our food preferences are based on habit and cravings. When we are threatened with the removal of our favorite foods, we respond similarly to any addict whose stash is about to be seized and confiscated: we rebel! In such instances, some people verbally defend their habits, others find ďresearchĒ to bolster their position, while still others simply ignore the warnings altogether.
Parents restrain their children when necessary in order to keep them safe. As adults, we might try to circumvent this relationship by placing ourselves in the authoritarian role of protector, a station typically reserved for parents and guardians. Certainly this is commendable when parents are too frail or incompetent to care for themselves, but itís rarely appreciated when the parents are lucid and capable.
Your father believes you are trying to control him because in essence thatís exactly what you are attempting to do. Regardless of your benevolent intentions or how sensitively you approach him, the truth is that you want to oversee your fatherís diet. He, on the other hand, doesnít want to surrender his power to you and therefore is resentful. He may not want to admit that you might know more than he does on this subject, or itís possible he feels indignant and is offended by a campaign designed to change him. Itís also quite likely that he just plain doesnít want to ďgive up his stash,Ē despite any potential health benefits he may gain.
Few people welcome anotherís viewpoints being foisted on them. Your father is a rational grown man who is able to make his own decisions. While your motivation and efforts are admirable and sincere, your expectations are somewhat unreasonable and quite possibly unfair. As cruel as it may seem, your father has every right to choose a diet that will exacerbate his health problems and increase his risk for disease. All the same, you are entitled to speak your mind about it to him, and let him know you love him, care about him, and donít want to see him suffer through a prolonged illness or lose him to a sudden, untimely death.
Positive life changes--such as quitting smoking, abstaining from alcohol, starting a regular exercise program, or altering our diets--are successful only when we are inspired from within. No one else can compel us to make these types of major lifestyle modifications, especially if we want them to be lasting. It is unrealistic to think we can make others do what we believe is in their best interest, and impractical to assume they would stick with it.
Provide your father with simple, easy-to understand, scientifically-sound resources. Then just walk away and let him make up his own mind about them. The adage ďYou can lead a horse to water but you canít make him drinkĒ is applicable to your situation. Do what you can, but respect your fatherís choices, even if they sadden and disappoint you. It would be senseless to strain your relationship over this matter, as both you and your father would suffer greatly. Furthermore, the stress and anxiety would also be detrimental to his health. If you back off a bit, your father may be more receptive to your message, and one day he might even be motivated to seek you out on his own for guidance.
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