DEAR AMY: My mother is only slightly overweight and otherwise in good health. She has struggled with losing anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds for as long as I can remember.
Her best success has been with Weight Watchers, and with daily walks. My mom opens up to me about her extreme frustration with her failure to lose weight. I cheer her on and try to be positive and supportive if she brings it up. Otherwise I keep my opinions to myself.
It can be difficult to be with her when she eats. She and I have very different opinions of what a "healthy meal" means. I am sensitive to the awful dynamic of a grown daughter lecturing her mother on "proper nutrition."
I was one of those "know it all" teenagers (is there another kind?) who came of age in the "fat free" '90s. There are still family jokes about my crazy diet. (Suffice it to say I have left those ideas in my past!)
I recently traveled with her, and her "light meals" consisted of a huge plate of enchiladas, an enormous mayo-loaded seafood salad with garlic bread, desserts at least once a day, and the ultimate diet food: A massive chef's salad.
Amy, she is a nurse and has 20-plus years in Weight Watchers behind her. She should understand the basics of nutrition. How can I help her? Does she really want help, or should I just continue to be supportive of her efforts while keeping my opinions to myself? — Trying to be Supportive
DEAR TRYING: You should ask your mother if she wants your help. But realize that if she is a nurse and has been following Weight Watchers for 20 years, there probably isn't much you can tell her about nutrition or portion control that she doesn't already know.
It seems the only thing she may not fully understand is impulse control. Weight Watchers has a handy smartphone app that might help her track her food intake (preferably before the actual intake). You could suggest it.
However, if she is only slightly overweight and is basically fit, the answer for her might be to work harder to accept herself just as she is. And to buy bigger trousers.
It sounds as if you have also had a lifetime preoccupation with dieting. If so, you might realize that your mother's struggles with body image bring up uncomfortable long-term issues for you.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I were first-time dinner guests at a friend's home. She has a lovely home, very clean and nicely decorated. She herself is very clean and tidy.
While chatting with her in the kitchen, as she chopped salad, I noticed she would push her hair back, leave the room to get an item to show me and touch other things, then return to preparing food, without washing her hands.
This isn't too much of a big deal, but while cutting cake for dessert, she used her fingers to steady slices as she placed them on each plate, licking the frosting off her fingers in between each slice and then touching the next slice, again without washing.
I was at a loss for words and ate the cake, thinking of her licking her fingers with every bite I took.
Your thoughts, please? — Grossed Out
DEAR GROSSED OUT: People preparing food touch cabinet knobs, utensil handles, the kitchen counter, etc. — usually without washing hands after every transaction. Licking one's fingers before touching the next slice of cake is unappetizing, but I don't think you should worry about it.
Obviously, if you are concerned about food safety, you should protect your health and not consume any food you believe is contaminated.
DEAR AMY: "Fearful" had a long-term relationship with a cheap guy. She seems confused about her relationship status, referring to him as both "my boyfriend" and "fiance."
After four years she may think marriage is coming and he may be fine with the status quo. Instead of poking into his finances, she should be asking where their relationship is going, since he clearly doesn't want to open a joint account. — Voice of Experience
DEAR VOICE: Absolutely.