Prodding Parents to Get Healthy

Skeptical DadMonday’s “Dear Mark” sparked a great discussion about raising healthy kids, but the conversation really got going (in the comment board and forum) when readers lamented the hard-headedness of their parents.

Yes, we too often paint younger folks as the impulsive, devil-may-care madcaps or hapless Pied Piper targets. Truth is, there are plenty of those qualities in every age demographic. Kids aren’t the only ones who can dig in their heels after all. So, to take on the flipside of Monday’s question, what’s a Primal child (of any age) to do when Mom and Dad are the ones whose health needs a major overhaul?

I venture to say that many more people find themselves in the role of concerned progeny than those who commented Monday. Far too many of us, I imagine, have been grudging witnesses over the years to our parents’ destructive health habits – whether it be crummy diet, complete lack of physical activity, smoking, workaholic lifestyle, chronic stress, or – who knows –  compulsive use of household insecticides. Sometimes it’s ignorance on their part. Other times it’s denial. In some cases, it’s flat out apathy.

We drop hints at dinner. We drop pamphlets, articles or whole books on their coffee tables. At turns, we find ourselves lecturing. We argue. We offer to help – to make dinner, suggest some relaxation techniques or pay for a gym membership. In the midst of the back and forth, some of us deal with the frustration better than others. Perhaps those of us who recently moved out or are in the process of doing so are just glad to be on our own, away from the influence for a while. However, for many of us it’s an ongoing source of disappointment and even an emotional roadblock in the relationship.

The questions nag at the back of our brains and maybe tug at the heart strings a little. Why won’t they listen to reason? Why don’t they value their own health? Don’t they want to live to be there for their grandchildren – for me? How can it not bother them to be giving up decades of their lives or at least the hope of some additional active and independent years? What am I supposed to do here? Will anything I do or say make any difference whatsoever?

Step Back

As difficult as it is, maybe the first step in dealing with the quandary is this: we should all take a step back. (A big breath helps too.) There’s a certain freedom in accepting that you aren’t responsible for another person’s choices. Although you certainly have a big stake in their health, in their independence, in their well-being, in their being in this world period, the fact is and will always remain that you don’t run their lives. If you genuinely worry for them, it’s a painful realization, but at least it can stop you from beating your head against the wall. It’s not your fault. It’s not under your control. It’s sad and horribly unfortunate that they stand a big chance of missing out on some of their good years as well as your life and your kids’, but there it is. Ultimately, it’s out of your hands. Que Sera isn’t a comforting concept, but it can be a liberating one.

Don’t Apologize for Your Lifestyle

Just as they are going to live their lives the way they want, make no bones about doing the same for yourself. Stop feeling guilty for refusing your mother’s pie at Thanksgiving if you don’t want it. Stop apologizing for bringing your own food to their house or turning down Sunday night get-togethers if that’s a good workout night for you. Stop caving to their pushing treats on the grandkids. Maybe the more you stand by your lifestyle, the more seriously they’ll take it. If not, you’ll at least feel more in control of your own life and less swept up by their choices.

Appreciate Small Changes

Just because you accept that you don’t control the ultimate outcome doesn’t mean you can’t leave the door open for them to change or that you can’t make the adjoining room all the more inviting. I’d never say give up encouraging your parents to get healthy. Nonetheless, it’s all about perspective. When you take yourself out of the role of health director or even rescuer, you’re in a much better mindset to encourage, see and appreciate smaller changes. You’re not caught up in the vision of deep and desperate change for them. Once you take the pressure off, they might soften up a bit and surprise you.

Offer Some Healthy Bonding Opportunities

So, your dad probably isn’t going to ever accompany you to a PrimalCon event, but maybe you can convince him to go for a walk on a nice spring day. Though your mother will never give up her carbs, she’ll love spending Sunday brunch at your house (with your food) when she can have fun with the grandkids. Invite your parents to participate in your life – and the lifestyle that goes along with it. Find things that both of you can enjoy and get something out of.

Finally, however frustrating or unchanging your parents’ choices are, enjoy your time with them. Live life to the fullest with them as much as you can. Show them you care and that you enjoy their company. Let them know they’re an important part of your life. In the best or worst circumstances, you’ll be glad you did. There’s an old fable in which the sun and wind compete to see who can get the coat off a man passing by. In the harshness of the wind, the man simply clutches his coat more tightly. In the sun’s warmth, he happily casts it aside. In the best circumstances, perhaps warmth and love provide the best inspiration for healthy change.

Have your own stories and strategies for prodding your parents or other family members toward a healthier lifestyle? Thanks for reading.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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65 thoughts on “Prodding Parents to Get Healthy”

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  1. Had my parents doing ok for a while, but now they’re gone again.

    Mom is a frankenfood bar loving fruitarian and Dad is a cheese gobbling carb junky. SAD crowd they are 🙁

    1. Mom bought low fat cottage cheese “with fiber” the other day. That just about blew my mind.

      I’ve been trying to break her of the CW for a few years now, but she just refuses to believe anything different.

    2. It’s called “Powdered Butt Syndrome”.

      Nobody wants to listen to advice from someone after they’ve powdered their butt! 🙂

  2. “Far too many of us, I imagine, have been grudging witnesses over the years to our parents’ destructive health habits.”

    Dead on. I’ve been working on my parents. My Dad is much more open to new ideas but loves fast food. Mom is openly distrustful of the way I eat. And the in-laws… oy. More time to wear them down will probably be the way to go. Good suggestions about inviting them in to the cave. Thanks.

    1. I try to tailor food suggestions to individuals. My dad liked a diet that let him have bacon and eggs (cooked in the bacon fat) for breakfast. My Mom was pushed by the idea of starting the day with a bowl of fresh fruit in heavy cream.

      1. I’ve had far more luck with my in-laws than I have with my own mother. My mother insists on whole grains andlow fat diet because that is what the doctors tell her to eat and she is getting worse every year. My in-laws are open minded and have listened to everything my husband and I have suggested and have even made quite a few changes.

  3. My mom’s a raging diabetic who is on insulin. After 10 years of talking, plus living 8 hours away, I have resigned myself to the fact that I don’t have the power to change her. Only she can do that. I won’t give up. I will promote my health as much as possible, but those habits are hard to break. At 64, I had to accept that dog may not want a new trick. I hate when the dog is like that!
    If folks have used a specific tactic that works, please pass it on.

    In the meantime I look at it like a weird demented game of diabetes baseball. That run might score from third base (my parents going to that big Home Plate in the sky), but I can do all I can to cut off any runners at first base by being the example to my kids and not even letting them on. That’s a struggle, too, but something more within my control.

    Great thoughts, Mark

    1. I took the initiative based on this post and told my folks I would send them a copy of PB if they’d promise to read it. Perhaps we can gather up some success stories by taking this step. Let’s hope.

      1. Got a reply back from my mom. She’s willing, so I already ordered a copy of PB for her. I hope she takes the info to heart like we do!

  4. No tips, just a little anecdote.
    My mom came to visit me last Summer for a week. Of course, I cooked food every night, with no bread or pasta in sight (though I did serve potatoes at the time). She appreciated the food and remarked it was tasty.
    HOWEVER – she apparently was far more surprised than she gave evidence of. My sisters remarked that Mom had made a big deal of how “healthily” I’m living and how there was no junk food at all in my apartment. She was amazed that anyone would choose to live like that.

    I wonder how she’ll react next visit, when there’s not even any potatoes, corn or beans…

    Incidentally, she’s diabetic and arthritic and at only 67 feels that walking around the block once per day is as much exercise as she needs or wants.

  5. I politely refuse snacks and desserts along with the “pasta night” and just remind them that its not what I eat. Diabetic’s don’t eat sugar without consequences and I don’t eat crap because I know the consequences.
    On a separate note I’ve almost got them ready to buy a vita mix blender. I’ve had one for two years and it is the key to my success.

  6. My ex-wife used to wonder why I never ate like a ‘normal person’. My answer was “That’s why I look and feel better than a normal person”. Please note that she WAS my wife:)

    1. I have similar discussions with my wife, who is generally pretty unhealthy and buys me icecream etc. When i turn down an unhealthy food, it causes her to feel judged. If i slip up at all, then she feels like i am being a hypocrite. i refrain from any sort of lecture, but i still get the occasional lecture from her about how my fat consumption is unhealthy, etc. (okay, i seem to be the healthy and happy one though, with low BF)

      it can be frustrating, as i want her to be healthier. the best i can hope to do is follow my own path. if she wants to follow conventional wisdom then fine, i don’t care.

  7. We have 3 generations going primal – my wife and I are 60 something, our daughters and their husbands plus our grandkids.

    My wife and I were ready for some change to our lifestyle. We ate pretty healthy but were gaining weight and getting less active. Youngest daughter mentioned PB book, ordered 2 copies (one for us one for daughter) and the rest is history.

    We exchange recipes we like and it’s great for our daughters to know that we will be feeding their kids primal when they’re at our house. Grandkids having a bit of withdrawal to carb snacks but we’ve found some gluten-free crackers and they love sausage!

    Looking forward to many, many years together.

  8. My husband and I are in our 50’s. My parents are in their 70’s and are a true blessing to me. I was raised on “healthy” food, meat, veggies, whole wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal cookies, etc. but am now primal/paleo and my husband is low-carb. Recently my Mom has been willing to try eating more protein and fat and dropping the carbs. In the past she’s always been constantly hungry, but now for the first time in her life her hunger is gone and she’s lost a few pounds (even though she wasn’t really overweight to begin with). She’s thrilled. My dad thinks we’re all kind of nuts, but he’s been eating a bit more protein and we always make sure we’ve got a dinner roll for him to have along with our meat, veggie and salad meals, or we go out to eat where he can have a small serving of pancakes (plus eggs) or pasta (plus chicken) for his meal. It works for him and keeps us all happy.
    My folks walk daily, even in bad weather. My dad was even telling his men’s walking group that they should all watch out for high fructose corn syrup in processed food!

  9. My parents aren’t Primal but are among the healthiest people I know in their 70s. Their pantry is a carb and processed food lover’s dream but at least they exercise regularly. I have four siblings and each year our Christmas present to our parents is a membership at a near by recreation center which has a pool and exercise room.

    They are contemplating selling their house and moving into a retirement condo. My father is getting tired of the maintenance and upkeep on the house which I understand, but I’m concerned that if they move into a maintenance free living environment their activity level might decline. They are very active people so maybe I’m worrying too much but I watched my father-in-law’s quality of life deteriorate dramatically once he moved into an assisted living facility.

  10. I had to learn that I couldnt’ convince anyone to do what I do. I’ve just had to live it. Since then I ‘ve had a couple of coworkers come to me about controlling their blood sugar and a couple of relatives too, at a family reunion. Don’t know how there doing though, except one of the coworkers eats processed crap for lunch every day (pasta laden “Smart Meal” type crap) and wonders why she’s at a weight loss plateau. The other one is trying hard, and is experiencing first hand breaking the addictive-ness of grains.
    I’m hooked for life. It’s gratifying that I’ve got more endurance, and can stretch farther and kick higher than the teenagers in my Karate class!

  11. Yeah, what IS it about the constant use of insecticides? My mother’s house reeks of Raid. Bugs aside, she’s also a type-2 diabetic (nearly 300 lbs.) who believes wholeheartedly in the eat-what-you-want-cover-it-with-insulin mantra. She’ll come to my house and ask me, “Is this ok for me to eat?”, and if I say no, she’ll start her bit about how all food turns to sugar, etc. So why does she even ask?? I have no interest in being the food police, but I answer her questions to the best of my ability. I’ve bought her Bernstein’s books, had her watch various videos on low carb and the benefits on insulin levels, blood sugar, etc., to no avail. It’s frustrating, but I’m at peace. I’ve done all I can.

    1. This is my bf’s father to a tee(and his mom to some extent as well). He is also severely obese and diabetic, but claims he no longer has diabetes anymore because it’s currently balanced with insulin. As he gains weight, he just ups the drugs. I don’t get it but it isn’t my place to criticize and my suggestions have been disparaged enough to just keep my mouth shut. He laughs at the idea of low-carb eating as he hops from one fad to another (Wii! agave nectar! The Biggest Loser!) and all I can do is face-palm.

      1. My mother in law works out on the Wii, but we’ve been lucky enough to have at least one side of the family that is supportive of our food choices. For Thanksgiving this year we were offered green beans without any Kraft Mushroom Onion Nastiness. We also had sweet potatoes instead of regular white ones. My parents also ordered a free-range turkey (they were annoyed with the expense, but I offered to pay for it). It hasn’t changed their minds—they said the turkey didn’t taste any different (sigh)…but at least they were willing to give it a go.

        However, they have mentioned how healthy we look since going primal. 🙂

  12. BTW, in addition to our 3 generations (above), close friends of ours (3 different couples) are also going primal to various degrees. They’re cutting out grains and sugar, getting active and feeling great.

    Guess it’s contagious 😉

  13. My mom would LIKE to listen to me, but her doctor has scared her out of her wits with his CW garbage. She’s got high cholesterol (who cares!?), and he’s convinced her she’s on the verge of a stroke. Any. Minute. Ugh.

    His advice to her?? No red meat. No cheese. No butter. A TEASPOON or two of olive oil a day. Oatmeal every morning. Soy milk (lowfat, of course). Lots of grains.

    Why does she listen to him? He’s a DOCTOR. I’m not. My F-I-L is the same way. A man with a heart full of stents, but he snarfs down his fat-free dressing and rubber imitation cheese. Takes the meat off sandwiches because it’s “healthier.” All while popping his nitroglycerine. Doctor’s orders!! (Grrr!)

    1. She should see Fat Head. I’m reminded of a part in which they discuss how fat has no effect/ actually helps prevent heart disease.
      This clip isn’t the specific part I’m thinking of but it also discusses it:

  14. My biggest challenges occur when I go home (I live 3-4hrs from my mom’s house) on a weekend.
    Admittedly, part of it is on me for not being able to resist her yummy cooking … much of the temptation isn’t even because of how it tastes; it’s because it (the food) creates a sense of nostalgia … it reminds me of being a little kid who didn’t have to worry about the future, money, etc.
    With my dad (whom I don’t see very often because he lives on the other side of the country), it’s a lot more challenging. He smokes (not as much as he used to though), drinks, and while he claims to try to eat healthy, he can’t be convinced that egg yolks and red meat are good and that “whole grain” products are bad.
    He claims to be impressed at how I’ve improved my body composition but won’t see the evidence even when it’s right there in front of him!

  15. Great post.
    My in-laws are life long smokers who have no shame in telling their 14 year old grandson that doctors make up lung cancer statistics (not sure why they think that).

    it’s horrible and offensive and it’s just the tip of the ice burg as far as their overall health.

    1. That’s so sad. We have a rent house and their are bad nicotine stains all over the house. And now he’s dyeing of lung cancer.

  16. Wonderful and comforting post.

    While we shouldn’t underestimate the power of a good example, we may not be able to change our parents’ lifelong food habits in the end. After all, whatever bad habits we’ve struggled to overcome are all the more ingrained in them.

    But if we can’t give them health, we can at least give them the gift of healthy children and healthy grandchildren. And that’s not bad!

    1. I like seeing posts like this.

      My parents are so engrained in grains they don’t even know what’s hitting them.

      I could only dream of parents who truly understood what they put into their body.

  17. I got my parents to “go primal” for a month, on the condition that I did all the shopping/meal prep. They liked the food and admitted they felt better. I was discouraged after they went back to tortilla chips and bread after the month was over, but at least they cut way back on soda consumption, sweets, and processed foods. They eat salad with homemade dressing almost every day now, so it’s been at least a small victory!

  18. My mother’s in town visiting and it’s nice to feel a little solidarity from all the PB’ers whose parents are far from healthy. Also really inspiring to read comments about families that have embraced healthy habits.

    My approach to my mom’s health and diet keeps changing through the years ranging from “you should really try this, it’ll work” to saying nothing at all. Currently I’m focusing on allowing myself to really and deeply feel the stress, anxiety and despair I have experienced for many, many years b/c my mother has a long-term eating disorder. In doing this I realize that many of my past attempts to change her were rooted in my own desire to not feel the negative emotions that accompany her condition. I’m curious to see what my next approach will be once a lot of my emotional baggage is processed and integrated.

    Thanks to all who have shared…it’s nice to know there are many others dealing with the same dynamic. (-:

  19. This is a very timely post for me, as my diet-fad-hopping mother contacted me last night because she wants me to go to PrimalCon with her!! Says she’s never been more excited about an event. I’m still trying to figure out the financial aspect, but there might be two fewer spots left after tonight.

    So how did this happen? I got to my parents through a younger sibling. My 15 year old sister was recently diagnosed with IBS, so I gave her a copy of the Primal Blueprint for Christmas. Three weeks later: her IBS symptoms were gone and she’d lost 5 pounds without trying. Meanwhile, my mother had started reading and dabbling in the diet as well. She’s down 8 pounds now and is finally convinced of its power.

    Results speak for themselves.

  20. Thanks Mark. I really love this post. I can’t and shouldn’t judge my family, but I want them to respect my health choices so in turn I should respect theirs first 🙂 But I want to do the impossible and show my parents that I can be stubborn and be Primal just like they can stubbornly follow the standard American diet.
    I ‘agree to disagree’ with parents and let it go (and wait patiently for the day when they ask me how I got so healthy and fit)

  21. my stepdad has very bad hypertension and in serious risk of another heart attack. everytime he has one he says he will turn over a new leaf but 1 week later hes smoking cigarettes, drinking mass alcohol and eating crap all over again. i live on the other side of the world from my parents now all i can do is suggest stuff and link this site, but it doesnt seem to get through at all =(

  22. Well most of my family eats crap, but ehh they come from different times and who am I to judge them. Cos I bet I have some quality’s that other people hate and would change in me.

    1. My grandfather had diabetic, overweight, smoked and like to have odd drink with his mates. On last years he bloody had to hide to have a cig, cos everyone was concerned about his health. I knew he was still smoking, cos I once been one. But my perception of what is healthy and makes me feel good is not what he thinks is feeling good. It his last years, if he enjoys having bottle of vodka with his old mates from school, I will take him there and make sure he has bloody good time. Do not get me wrong going primal makes me feel great, but what we think is great might be not great for other folk.

  23. I’ve been secretly replacing their canola oil with Enig’s oil blend. I left a copy of The Primal Blueprint” lying conspicuously around the house. I just donated 2 lbs. of grassfed steak to a future family dinner. I voice my misgivings about the statins my father is on. I make high fat, no sugar desserts for the holidays. I bought them a copy of “Fat Head” and some resistance bands.

    Man! I’m really annoying!

  24. That’s the thing I’m more thankful about this primal WOE.
    About a year ago my mom, who has been overweight since her 20s (tried all existing diets), was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, she was obese at that time and her quality of life was really bad. It took me several months to convince her to try Atkins, she tried it but she didn’t want to give up her morning wholegrain cracker and the sugar in her coffee so it didn’t work; I kept insisting every single day, finally i convinced her and she dropped grains, sugar and everything but meat (chicken, beef, pork, etc), veggies, dairy and nuts… It totally changed her life.
    She lost 40 pounds of body fat in less than 8 months, her blood sugar never goes over 80-90, her lipid profile is amazing and i think sometimes she has more energy than me, and i’m 22 xD
    So i guess if you try hard enough you can change them lol

  25. My parents and siblings are all very obese, and diabetes is common in my family. However, I was always the “skinny one” in my family, even as a kid. My health has improved dramatically since I went primal, but I think my family dismisses that as a freak genetic thing that isn’t really relevant to them. I wasn’t really that healthy before, but I was always much healthier than the rest of my family, so I think that the difference is hard for them to see.

    For example, I wasn’t really all that overweight, but I was getting there from gradual weight gain over the years. However, losing 25 pounds isn’t all that impressive to someone who weighs almost double what I do. Likewise, I can see how much more fit I am, but the difference probably doesn’t really seem significant to someone who can barely walk around the block.

    Of course, the irony of all this is that while I presumably have a greater genetic resistance to the harmful effects of the SAD, that really just means they have so more to gain. Unfortunately, it’s always been a touchy topic, and pushing it would probably just backfire.

  26. Excellent simple, yet effective tips Mark. They key is taking baby steps. We can all learn from when we first started to walk. We were babies and were taking incredibly tiny steps. We would constantly fall down but would get right back up trying to take a few more small steps. Eventually those small steps became bigger and we fell less. In just a few years we learned to run with the wind.

    And, we are not able to control how our parents live. It is great to encourage them and give them our advice, but ultimately it is there decision on how they want to live.

    Excellent post.


  27. I’m a parent. Imagine that your parents were trying to convince you of something. What sort of strategies would work the best? Nagging? Criticizing your lifestyle? Leaving pamphlets around? Chances are that your parents have used at least one of those with you at some point. (I certainly have … ask my kids!) Start with the unconditional love, don’t refer to them as idiots, and lead by quiet example. Remember, parents are adults too. Change comes from within and as many have said, adults are responsible for their own choices.

    As a mum, I like the “bring really good cooked food to family events” approach. If you are still at home, take over one or two meals week – cleanup too – with no preaching.

  28. A few months ago my parents were just like seemingly everybody else in this ridiculous country. My mom had chronic high blood pleasure and my dad was downright unhealthy (still is to a lesser extent). I was getting more and more into health and had had my breakthrough that what we do to our bodies has a profound effect on the quality of our existence and I began taking initiative for my own health. They noticed that I would turn my nose up at dairy, grains, sugar, and I would criticize certain things that they were eating. Bit by bit it started to stick and slowly my mother, who is actually concerned about her health, began buying healthier groceries and making an effort to eat more fruit and vegetables (I felt like I was talking to a little child). She remarked how much better she felt when she ate more natural, raw plant food and it didn’t stop there. As a holiday gift I got my parents (who spend most of their time indoors, even in summer) bottles of vitamin d. The next week seemed like a whole new ball game as their serotonin production began to normalize. “I feel great, are you sure these aren’t narcotics?” was the remark I got. So suddenly it was evident that I wasn’t just talking out my ass and it was quite easy to pursued them into fish oil supplements. Their diets are getting better all the time with less refined grains, sugar, dairy, vegetable oil, and more of the good stuff for the most part. They’ve added a few more supplements too. Now my mother’s blood pressure is perfect and my dad’s arthritis is much improved. They’re still way below what I consider to be par and could exercise more and could have much better nutrition, but I suppose that’s something I can’t get hung up over, as the article as so eloquently persuaded me to do

    [email protected]#$. I wish it could have been the other way around. I wouldn’t have such thin bones most likely. Seriously. That there are people in this age who feed their children junk makes me want to get primal on someone!

  29. My mom’s on statins and I can’t get her off the things. But I know that the older folks were raised to see doctors as next to God. They have an extraordinarily difficult time doing anything contradictory to what their doctor says.

  30. I’ve seen it stated time and time again that it is near impossible to give advice to your own parents

  31. My mother is diabetic and eats the usual SAD. She´s obese, osteoperotic, arhritic aso. Sugar is important and nearly zero fat normal. She uses sucrose, fructose and aspartame all together in the coffee. As one can imagine you don´t need to argue. She knows everything. So I´m always advised what to eat. Regardless of the evidence of my health improvements.If I had followed her diet I would be nearly dead. I just prevent the worst.
    More worry about my husband who is still healthy but also on SAD. Don´t know how to convince him to give up at least grain/sugar. we are the only couple I know where the wife is the meat eater and the husband on carbs. Thanks to all of you for sharing.

  32. Wow, what a timely article. My parents are both 80 years old, and we’re dealing with some serious issues with my father, who has Parkinson’s as well as a number of other health issues, including diabetes.

    An average day for them consists of frozen pancakes with syrup for breakfast, Spaghettio’s for lunch, meat and potatoes for dinner, and chocolate, ice cream and shots of insulin between those meals. Just a scary way to live.

    What I have to remember is that they are from a different generation. What they consider a healthy meal is nowhere near what I consider a healthy meal. Exercise isn’t even something they think about.

    My gentle efforts have been in vain. I’m sure they will both end up in a nursing home in the not so distant future. Maybe if they are given no option but to eat healthier foods, their diet will improve. But it seems like it’s just a little too late…

    1. Chris, I feel your pain.

      I’ve watched my dad drink and eat his way to diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure, which ultimately led to a disabling stroke.

      My mother also had a stroke a few years later, though that was down to a leaky heart valve causing trouble rather than diet-related.

      I’ve tried getting them back on track – I printed out Mark’s Guide to Grains and a few other things but they are still eating bread and muesli, plus ready meals because the strokes mean they can’t manage in the kitchen too well any more.

      My dad still eats biscuits (that’s cookies, if you’re American).

      I’m an only child, so their ill health directly affects me since I will be the one left as a carer in the future – either that or forfeit any potential inheritance to pay to put them in a home. I am unmarried and have no siblings to help share the burden.

      Parents not taking responsibility for their own health is not just a matter of frustration – it has very serious implications.

  33. my dad is the LAST person i would have expected would show an interest in my primal diet. i never tried to push it. he kept asking questions over the phone and asking for recipes. he liked the recipes! a couple weeks ago he asked me to write down a summary of how it works. so i’m working on a short book, more of a long pamphlet, for him, i’m calling it “the primal primer”. i’m so happy he will be healthier, and instead of my diet causing me to seem like a freak, as it usually does, it’s actually creating common ground in this instance! I’m really proud of him because he lost his wife to cancer a year ago and instead of just eating out (which he could afford to do) or eating junk, he is taking the initiative to cook for himself and make it good food. He’s 72.

  34. I bought PB for my Mom for her birthday last summer. She read it cover to cover, then consulted with me (she asked tons of questions that I was more than happy to respond). After a visit last October, she and my step dad went completely primal. No carbs (except for a little potatoes here and there), no fruit (not even berries), and no crap. They’ve both lost a lot of weight (though they were not very overweight to begin with) and feel much better. And after taking 4k iu Vitamin D3, my mom experiences milder symptoms of erythropoietic protoporphyria (which I’ve ‘cured’ for myself).

    Now if I can only get my step mother on board, and my father-in-law who has type 2 diabetes but won’t give up white rice to save his life (literally), I’ll be one happy camper. But I’m putting more energy into getting my kids to be primal first.

  35. So just thought I’d share a little anectdote. I’m in college at UW-Madison. I don’t drink, and I live a very primal lifestyle because I am training for the 2010 CrossFit Games. This weekend is one the liveliest we have had so far this semester: tons of parties, a hockey game, etc. I didn’t drink or binge on bad food, but I still dressed up and went out. And by doing that I recieved more respect from my roommates and friends, than had I drank with them. But what prompted me to comment was the “Don’t Apologize for Your Lifestyle Section.” I have none, but I don’t let the Primal Lifestyle get in the way of having a fulfulling college social life. So for all of you out there who are struggling because of social situations: don’t apologize for it and be proud of your choices.

  36. My mother was getting high fasting blood sugar since last year. Not really into the diabetic range but still quite high. I was telling my parents to give up refined oil and sugar. Refined oil was quite easily dropped. My father will avoid sweets, but my mother has a sweet tooth. It has been difficult with her.

    Slowly and slowly she has stopped that. Also they have started the fish oil.

    Now her fasting blood sugar level has become normal.

    I do tell them to eat more meat and fish, and they do that, but not much. Rest of the food is OK.

  37. My parents are so unhealthy, it’s really sad.

    My dad had his first heart attack at 35, and his second a month later.

    He had his third at 40, and this one was so bad that he had to get a heart transplant. Today, he does not really care about his health (although his spouse is a nurse, so she tries to take care of him as much as he can). I cannot even imagine myself trying to talk him into primal food and exercising 🙁

    My mom is one of those women that has been on a diet for the past 30 years. The one she is on right now (and has been for the past years) is working pretty good and is following a little bit the primal views, so at least her alimentation is not that bad.

    When it comes to sports, I lended her my Wii Fit for a few months, showed her and it worked and realised she was in a worst shape than I thought; she was exausted after a few minutes, and she never used it again!

    I really wish I could do something, but you’re right, we cannot control them 🙁

  38. The only real way to convert is not to push, but allow them to follow. Be the best example of health you can, in your most humble, modest way.

  39. i’m 16 and i do parkour and my parents are always saying i wish i could be that young again *cough* you can be

  40. Thank you so much for this article. Puts things into perspective.

  41. Same story here, random health ailments on my side and in-laws as well…heart attack (with continued smoking and consumption of hydrogenated HFCS “creamer”) chronic inflammation, arthritis, candida overgrowth, depression, you name it! But the thing I’m dealing with is…attitude problems.

    Anger, bitterness, short tempers, the “everyone is out to get me” concept coupled with the habit of looking at what everyone else is doing and judging it instead of looking at SELF. There’s a lot to it…but a good start is dietary change. I’ve gifted the copy of Nourishing Traditions, I’ve delivered the homemade sauerkraut, forwarded links, talked until my face hurts (it’s killin’ them!).

    Loved this article because not only can I related to it word-for-word, but the advice is what I needed to hear. I can’t stand seeing people I love be ill, and I’d like to enjoy time wiht them but they spend most of it upset at someone or each other, talking about what hurts on their body and arguing about CW vs. PD…and I also can’t stand the fact that the food industry has caught them like a bug in a web. But, I started with me. I’m transitioning…ditched grain and processed foods a while back, went from 200 lbs (after the birth of my 3rd baby) down to 145…but I’m a dairy lover. It’s mostly fermented dairy, but I know I need to cut back. I’m here to learn the ways of Grok and although I’m tired of “swinging my club” at all of my ill family members, I’m going back to my cave to sharpen my tools! Thanks for the great post.

  42. Thanks for posting. I’m new to paleo, but my parents are overweight and unhealthy. My Mom had a stroke at 68. Every time I think about it I try to eat healthier. I can’t get her even to give up drinking cokes. It’s so frustrating!

  43. Heavens, this rung true. Whenever I visit, my mum frets and says ‘I hope you’re eating real food…’ I feel like smashing my head against a wall. You can’t get more REAL than primal! Not to mention the crap she eats, all labelled neatly with ‘No fat!’ or ‘99% fat free’!
    I think the amount of fat I eat scares her a little. She’s kind of swayed towards the whole idea of the diet, knows that on paper it’s optimally healthy, but doesn’t see it as anything more than her depriving herself of all the ‘good and yummy’ stuff, despite the wonders it would do for her.


  44. Many people holding fundraisers have advertised them on Facebook and other social media outlets. The main and the fierce competitors of this brand are Uneek and Jerzee.

  45. I can’t take it anymore. The preaching and pleeing, they just won’t listen. The worse part is, they think they eat healthy and that I’M the unhealthy one! My parents are way too stubborn to read up on good nutrition and continue stuffing full-fat cream doughnuts down their hole or sprinkling salt all over their processed sodium nitrate sausages. I was personally attacked today by my mum who said I spent too much time alone in my room reading and I will grow into a sad, lonely little man. She constantly references people who ‘eat whatever they want’ and tells me they’re perfectlt healthy, ie., alive, today. Oblivious to the quadruple amount of people who have perished along the way. I don’t understand why they won’t atleast hear me out. They must be pretty weak if they give into temptation so easily…they think the FDA will keep them safe. (If they even know what that is). I asked, ‘would you drink petrol?’ and was met with a sharp ‘No, of course not!’. I followed with, ‘how about petroleum-coloured sweets? ‘. Of course, an excuse in wait for the second. It’s a losing game watching them eat themselves to death. Do they not know heart disease is the no.1 killer in the world? And that poor diet plays a HUGE role in that statistic.

  46. Hi, so this will sort of be a long post but I’m hoping so much that somebody replies.

    So my mom and my dad, they eat bad. Really bad. When I was growing up (my mom is in complete denial of this), my mom gave us corn dogs and hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, boxed tuna helper (the kind with msg) and packaged foods with huge ingredient lists. This led to me becoming a sugar addict and I would binge on huge amounts of sugar and little debbies. I was eating nothing but junk with barely any veggies. There was one healthy meal that she would make every now and then; Stew. But my dad would refuse to eat it.

    At one point she made lots of stew and I adored it, I loved the boiled veggies and stuff. My dad would throw it in the garbage and not eat at all. Like…he’d starve himself until my mom would give in and make junk food.

    Since this time, I have recovered from anorexia and also binge eating disorder, (at my heaviest I was 195 pounds). Over the last two years however, (I’m a shorter guy haha, 5”5) And i’ve lost 50 pounds of fat and put on muscle. I started eating veggies and lean meats and such. And lots of coconut oil and avocado.

    My mom started to take notice of my dietary habits and slowly but surely she started to do what I do, after I started cooking for everyone. My mom started losing weight on accident from switching from chain drinking soda to just water and green tea. She now dislikes sugar and eats her own veggies and meats she prepares and i’m so happy for her.

    My dad is not this way. My dad is one of those people who’s really skinny but has a huge gut of visceral fat. He has developed rheumatoid arthritis, (really young actually, his doctor was shocked how young). He constantly eats nothing but Tollhouse cookies and chocolate muffins. He doesn’t want my mom to cook for him because my mom eats healthy. He hates vegetables and pretty much anything that’s not sugar or a carb. His dinners are packaged lasagna and pizzas, and he eats no vegetables, takes no vitamins, and binges on huge amounts of sweet. He is convinced that nutritionists are all wrong and liars and that they spout lies. He thinks doctors are wrong. He tries to convince me that eating sugar is healthy. (My mom parrots this sometimes).

    When my mom rarely cooks for him these days, even foods he once liked he throws it in the garbage. He chain drinks mountain dews and iced teas with heaps of sugar, and he literally only eats burgers, lasagna, macaroni, sodas, cookies, brownies, and muffins. And processed food in general. I am very concerned for his health, and I cannot find any help online anywhere. I really want somebody to read this comment. I’m sorta desperate for him, he has this big visceral belly gut that’s stiff and it’s absolutely horrifying.

    My mom listens eagerly now to my nutrition advice and she also researches things herself now and she’s eating so well. But my dad is just, a nightmare. I don’t know how else to describe it. Sugar addiction maybe? I don’t know.