Families And Fat: What Can Help, What Can Hurt

Guests

Rovenia Brock, nutritionist and author of Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Livin' Healthy
Dawn Lerman, nutritionist, Magnificent Mommies

Living with an overweight parent, child or spouse can be difficult. Loved ones who want to help a family member struggling with obesity may be hesitant to broach the subject for fear of causing shame or making matters worse.

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CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Celeste Headlee in Washington; Neal Conan is away. Living with an overweight loved one can be difficult. You want to help your spouse, your sibling or your child who's struggling with their weight, but you don't want to hurt their feelings and you certainly don't want to make them feel ashamed.

Today we're going to focus on how you broach this very difficult subject. If this has been an issue in your family, tell us about a conversation that did or didn't work for your family or your loved one. Tell us your story. Our number is 800-989-8255. The email address is talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our website, of course. It's npr.org, and then click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later on in the program, the achievement gap. Is it time to lower our standards for students? Columnist Leonard Pitts says no, and he will join us later. But right now we want to start this conversation about how to broach the subject with a loved one. And joining us right now, Dawn Lerman. She grew up with an overweight father, and she writes about that experience for the New York Times Well blog. And she's also a nutritionist. Her company is called Magnificent Mommies. She joins us from our New York bureau. Dawn, thanks for being here.

DAWN LERMAN: You're welcome, I'm so happy be here. This is a conversation I'm very, very passionate about, and it's very close to my heart.

HEADLEE: I'm so glad to hear that because, you know, so often we focus on, you know, tips for how to lose weight. But we're really interested in the step before that. So often weight is an unspoken issue in families. It's very uncomfortable, and the person who is overweight has a hard time admitting to it. Those who are surrounding them have a hard time bringing it up. Why is that?

LERMAN: Well, it's a very emotional topic. Being overweight is not just about the food you're ingesting or a number on the scale. It's about what it represents. And in my family, I mean hiding the issue, there was no hiding it. It was not in the closet. My dad was morbidly obese. He was almost 500 pounds at one point. You know, he was usually around the 450-pound range.

He took up two seats on an airplane. You know, he had to get one of the large taxis or usually a car service. I mean everything was a big effort. He was like sweaty when he walked someplace. He couldn't walk more than a couple blocks. So it wasn't like we really had to hide the fact or it was a conversation we had to creep around. It was a part of every single conversation.

HEADLEE: And yet what's interesting to me about your story, Dawn, is that, yes, you didn't have to actually broach the subject - dad, you're overweight. That's a different issue, and I imagine some of our listeners are going to have that particular story.

LERMAN: Exactly.

HEADLEE: But for you, it still feels as though you're - the conversation still wasn't honest in your family.

LERMAN: No, it was never honest. We always had to tiptoe around it because it's a hurtful topic. You can't say to somebody you're fat, this is why we can't, you know, walk up stairs. You know, because you're obese, you know, it's embarrassing. We can't just, like, get last-minute tickets on a plane. So of course it's always, you know, it's always there, even if you don't exactly talk about it.

And as a little girl, it's really embarrassing. As much as you want everything to be normal, nothing was ever normal. Going to a restaurant wasn't normal. Going to a play wasn't normal. Sitting on a bus wasn't normal. It was never normal.

HEADLEE: Well, let's take a call here because there's - I'm sure there's lots of people who have the same kinds of experiences. Ann(ph) in Denver, Colorado. Ann, tell us your story about a time when this conversation had to be had, whether it worked or didn't.

ANN: Yeah, thanks for taking my call. Well, I was - I grew up in a family that struggled with obesity, and we always ate very poorly. And...

HEADLEE: The whole family, Ann?

ANN: My, mostly my father's side of the family. But even in my family, we just ate a lot of junk food and a lot of fast food. And then I spent a lot of time with my father's parents growing up. So we ate a lot of fast food and a lot of junk food as children. And so I struggled with childhood obesity as I was growing up, and then my father actually had a heart attack when I was 11 years old, and it kind of jolted our family out of - at least my immediate family out of that rut, and my mom started cooking a lot more, and we ate really healthy.

But it actually kind of had a negative effect on me because I became - I had always really been body-conscious, but I became very body-conscious as a young teenager.

HEADLEE: It made you self-conscious.

ANN: Definitely, yeah, and you know, any child just wants to fit in, and weight's a sensitive issue. But actually ended up developing an eating disorder because of...

HEADLEE: And this is the danger. That's Ann - thank you so much for you call, from Denver, Colorado. This is really the danger sometimes, if this conversation goes wrong. We're speaking right now about the conversation, bringing up this issue with a loved one so as in a way where it doesn't turn possibly toxic.

On the phone with me is Dawn Lerman, a nutritionist in New York City. And also joining us now is Rovenia Brock. She's a nationally known nutritionist, more commonly known as Dr. Ro, also author of the book "Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Healthy Livin'." And she joins us by phone from Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Ro, thanks so much for being with us.

ROVENIA BROCK: It is a pleasure to be with you.

HEADLEE: So we've heard about some of the dangers here that are inherent in this conversation. If this is an unspoken problem in your family, if this honest conversation has not happened, what's the best way to broach this topic with a loved one who's overweight?

BROCK: Well, the best way to broach it is with love. I think the first thing you have to let family members know is that you love them for who they are, for everything that they are, the extra weight, the extra pounds and all that that means, but that you want to help them to change in an effort to help to see them thrive, not just survive but to thrive.

You don't want - no one wants to see a family member hurting. And so the pain of obesity and overweight can be enormous, excuse the pun, but at the same time if it's a spouse, if it's a child, you want to see your child make it into adulthood. If it's your partner or spouse, you want to see, you want to grow old together.

So whatever the decisions and the choices are that you help them make and that you make together as a family, you've got to do it from a position of love.

HEADLEE: Now, I understand, you've actually had to have this conversation in your life. How did this conversation - did you have this conversation with your husband? And how did that go?

BROCK: Yeah, well, my husband grew up loving sweets. He never met a dessert he didn't love. And so having a sweet tooth, this really caused some enormous problems for him. The other thing is he's a stress eater. And he's a physician who works crazy hours and overnight many times, which interferes with sleep rhythms and all of that and interferes with your metabolism.

And so overweight became a really big deal for us. But one of the ways that we had this conversation is the first thing I wanted him to know was that listen, I love you, and because I do, I want to see you survive. I don't want you to make me a widow prematurely or preventively(ph). So here's what we need to do. We need to make some changes in our diet and in our lifestyle.

And how do we do that? Obviously I had to change the foods that I bring in the house. Because I know that my husband has a sweet tooth and prefers, you know, sweets, I know that I can't bring things like that in the house. So I can't bake a pineapple upside-down cake or a coconut cake, knowing that it's going to disappear in a day or so because he's there.

HEADLEE: We're talking about how to broach the subject of obesity with a loved one and how to do that without making them feel ashamed, without making them - making the problem worse, I guess. And if you want to join this conversation, you can call us at 800-989-8255. We want a story. We want your story of when you had this conversation and what worked and what didn't.

On the phone now from Shelby, North Carolina, we have someone - and I guess you had this conversation with your boyfriend. We can't go to that caller yet. OK. But let me go back to you, Dawn, because one of the things that you talk about is how your dad brought the whole family with him on dieting, right?

LERMAN: It was a whole family affair. Because my dad was such an obsessive dieter(ph), just kind of like what we were talking about earlier, we could not have a pineapple upside-down cake because it would be devoured. So my dad, it was very interesting because my dad was a brilliant, brilliant man. He is a brilliant man. He is in advertising.

So he really understood marketing, but yet he was always being marketed himself.

HEADLEE: He's susceptible to it, right. Maybe that's why he was so good at it.

LERMAN: He was so susceptible to it. So if he was on Atkins, we were all on Atkins. If he was vegetarian, we were all vegetarian. If it was no salt that week, everyone was no salt. So what he did we all had to do. And it was really important that we did support him, and I think because we loved him, we wanted to support him, and I don't think it was such a - he really needed the support.

And we didn't want him to die, because for my dad at points, he was so severely obese, you know, if he walked around the block, he would - you know, sweat would be coming down his face. So it was very scary as a little child, and I was a teeny, teeny little child, you know, just looking up at this big man just struggling at very simple activities.

And yet he was thriving in his career and every other part of his life. So...

HEADLEE: Right, you want to have this conversation before there's a health crisis.

LERMAN: Of course, because always the most important thing is prevention.

HEADLEE: Right, let me go now to this caller that I can finally talk to. This is Christina(ph) in Shelby, North Carolina. Christina, thanks so much for calling in.

CHRISTINA: Hi, how are you?

HEADLEE: I'm doing well, thanks for calling. You've had this conversation.

CHRISTINA: Yes, I have, and it is not an easy one to have.

HEADLEE: So who were you speaking to, and how did it go?

CHRISTINA: I spoke to my boyfriend. I have known John(ph) for four years, and in our sophomore year of college he started gaining a lot of weight just from the stress of college and from the stress of what it is to be a college student right now. And it's been three years since then, and he still hasn't lost that weight.

And so I really, I went to him and I just said, you know, I can tell you're not happy. I can tell that this is affecting your life and that you're really - you have been - he's been at a place - he's at a place now where he's never been this heavy. This is the first time in his life he's ever been heavy. And so it's really impacted him emotionally, severely, and I can tell.

And so I really said, you know, I can tell you're not happy, I can tell that it's affecting your life, and I want to know if there's anything I can do to help.

HEADLEE: And how did that work?

CHRISTINA: It went pretty well. We've been - he's still adjusting to the idea of doing something about it more than just changing his diet and exercising more. We've been talking about going to see a nutritionist and just finding somebody who can really give him some tips, because he's got other digestive issues going on. It makes it really hard to lose weight.

But I feel like it's finally - now that I've had that first conversation, now it's a lot easier to talk about, and it's a lot less touchy because he knows that it comes from a place of caring.

HEADLEE: And a place of love, which is what both of our guests, both Dawn and Rovenia, talked about. We're talking about broaching the subject of obesity with a loved one. If your want to join the conversation, you can call 800-989-8255. Or send an email to talk@npr.org. Nutritionists Rovenia Brock and Dawn Lerman are my guests. If one of your loved ones is struggling with this, and you've had this conversation, we want to hear the story about it.

In the meantime, stay with us. I'm Celeste Headlee. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HEADLEE: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Today we're talking about families and weight problems. When a loved one is overweight, it can be very tough to talk about it in a way that doesn't hurt feelings or lay blame. But it's also hard not to talk about it when there's serious health ramifications.

People who are obese face a higher risk for all kinds of major health complications, like diabetes, heart disease, some kinds of cancer as well. So if this has been an issue in your family, we want to hear how that conversation went. Tell us about a talk that went well or one that failed. The number is 800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our website. Go to npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Calling right now is Jen(ph) in California. Jen, tell us about this conversation and how that went.

JEN: Can you hear me?

HEADLEE: Yes, I can.

JEN: So my - I'm the other side. I have a lot of obese people in my family. And I happen to be, whatever, bordering on obese myself. And I've had a lot of family members say really unhelpful, really hurtful things. But - and I want to say to them I already know that. You think I don't know that? Those are not helpful - those things aren't helpful.

And really the only person in my family who can help me in understanding stuff has been my sister, who also is - well, she's morbidly obese - but understand because it's not just the food. You know, telling someone to just tape their mouth shut is not helpful.

HEADLEE: Well, let me - stay with me for just a second here, Jen, and let me take this to Rovenia Brock, because Rovenia, is there something Jen can say to her family? Is there a conversation she could have?

BROCK: Yeah, you know, it's so funny that Jen calls with this comment because that is the very thing that I wanted to say to you, that if a person is overweight or obese, believe me, they're the first ones who know. They don't need anyone else telling them that. And yes, there are things that she can say to her family, like I know you want to help me. I know you're trying to help. But some of the ways in which you express the help is very hurtful.

And nobody - people, these people, your family members are well-meaning. They think they're saying and doing the right thing. But because they don't walk in your shoes, have no idea of how painful some of those words can be to you and to others, you know, who must deal with this situation.

So for your family and for all families listening, just know that to give helpful information like here's - I'm sorry, to give information like here's what I think might help, you know, it's - whether it's a meal plan, whether it's a lifestyle change, small incremental lifestyle changes that you feel a person can do without setting them up for failure, but - and without saying to them you're fat, or it's just so embarrassing or whatever.

You know, all of those kinds of thoughts are very painful. To express whatever the help, the way in which you wish to help your family member in a loving way is always going to win over the opposite.

HEADLEE: That's good advice. Jen in California, thank you so much for calling. And we got this email here. We're talking about the conversation, just broaching the subject of a loved one being overweight, not necessarily telling them - recommending a diet but just talking about it.

We got this email here from Miriam(ph) also in California: One Christmas, Miriam says, I confronted my dad, who is obese and diabetic, about the Danish he'd ordered at Peet's Coffee that morning. My direct confrontation to him tried to make him face the facts - the sugar, fat and overall unwholesomeness of the Danish - and it backfired.

In my attempt to get the facts right, I called the bakery in Oakland, which made the Danishes, then got the pastry chef on the phone to tell my dad the nutritional value of the Danish. My dad was rude and defiant to her on the phone. So I pulled the phone away from him, immediately apologized to her profusely. She talked to me warmly and kindly for five more minutes about the challenge of working with overweight family members.

I don't know her name, but I'm grateful, and I no longer directly confront my dad. The next Christmas I bought him some workouts with a personal trainer of my dad's generation, a little bit older. That's an email there from Miriam. Dawn, I wonder what your response is. Why doesn't direct confrontation like that, just laying out the facts, why doesn't that work?

LERMAN: Well, eating is a very emotional thing. Most people are not overweight just because they overeat. There's a big emotional connection. And what Miriam said, how she was empathetic but the second time she did it, she went and bought him the things to show support. But if you're - I found eating is - it's up there with religion and politics. If you come in someone's face, they're going to come back at you and do the very opposite thing, and it's going to stress them out and it's going to cause them to eat more.

Just like the other caller was saying, what they said to her was so not helpful. If you come from a place of love - I'm not you, but I want to do anything I can to support you, why - you know, and kind of trying to talk a little bit, what else is going on in their life, because there's more to being overweight than just what you're putting in your mouth.

It's your lifestyle. It's the stress. It's needing love. It's not having enough support. There are so many different factors. So when we look at somebody being overweight, we have to look at the whole picture. So the best way we can support them is by having a real conversation with them, asking them what they need, how we can support them and how we can help them to be healthier because we love them and we don't want to lose them.

We're not trying to criticize them. Since you mentioned...

BROCK: I could just...

HEADLEE: Go ahead, Rovenia.

BROCK: To support what you just said, Dawn, if I could just cut in to say that, you know, eating is a very emotional experience for many people.

LERMAN: Very emotional.

BROCK: It's a very emotional experience, and by the time somebody's 50 pounds, 100 pounds overweight, it is not about just calories. It's not about the food. It is certainly much more about an emotional connection and a relationship with food. People think of having relationships with other people, but believe it or not, the reason that our nation is two-thirds overweight or obese is because we have a dysfunctional relationship with food.

HEADLEE: OK, we're speaking with two nutritionists - Rovenia Brock you just heard, and also Dawn Lerman, both joining us by phone. They both had to have these conversations in their own lives. Let me go now to Sarah(ph) in Sacramento, California, because it sounds like Sarah also needs - Sarah, you need specific guidance on how to broach this subject with a loved one of your own, right?

SARAH: Yes, my baby brother, he's eight years younger than me, 26 years old, about 100 pounds overweight. Our father died about 12 years ago when he was only 49. He was similarly morbidly obese. His cancer was hidden by his extra weight. And we sat down as a family and we all decided to get healthy except for my baby brother, who was 14 at the time.

He's now grown into a man without a father figure, and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to see my baby brother follow in the same footsteps as my dad. And when we - we've tried all the encouraging, hey, come run this 5K with us, hey, here's some workout clothes, or hey, you know, we love you, but, you know, dad died because of his weight. We don't want to lose you. You're our baby brother.

You know, nothing seems to work with him. When he's around us, he defends his eating. He says - I see him hardly eat, actually. At family meals, he says he's reducing his intake. But because he doesn't ever gear up that metabolism, he's depressed, he's isolating. And I know he doesn't have a good self-image.

But he's just kind of locked into this mode of this is who he is, and dad didn't die because of his weight, it was cancer that killed him, and it wasn't - he's got it all justified. And I don't know how to break through.

HEADLEE: Sarah, we can hear how hard this is just by listening to you. Rovenia, what's the solution here?

BROCK: Well first of all, it's a multi-faceted solution. You know, there isn't just one solution to this problem because the problem itself is multi-faceted. What I do with my patients is get to the heart of not so much what they're eating but what's eating them.

And I would say for your brother, of course this is not who he is because you mentioned that he presents himself as, like, hey, this is just who I am. That's not who he is. What he eats is not really who he is, but the solution or part of the solution is getting to the heart of what's really bothering him. What is it? What's the root cause of the reason he overeats, the reason he isolates, the reason he isn't true to himself, nor to the family members about what he's actually eating?

And when people starting going in secret to eating, you're really in trouble and really have to fix it, because once they go in secret and they start isolating and going inward, they've kind of shut - put up a wall between the help and them. So...

HEADLEE: Yeah, there seems to be a lot of shame there.

BROCK: Yeah. So to deal with the shame - what are the shame issues? Let's get to what are the shame issues. And let's not talk about - talk to him about going on a 5K run. Let's talk about what's bothering him. What's making his soul sink?

HEADLEE: All right. Thank you, Sarah, for your phone call, and good luck.

SARAH: Thank you.

HEADLEE: We're - again, we're talking about how to broach the subject of obesity with a loved one. It is sometimes a very difficult, very painful subject for everyone involved. And I think, Dawn, what people may not realize is how deeply this can affect an entire family. Maybe it's the secretiveness. What is it that ends up having these kind of emotional reactions?

LERMAN: Well, it depends. I mean, I was just listening to Sarah. My heart went out to her, because I see her wanting - and I hear her, how she wanted to help him. But it was - it's not about the food. It's not about the 5K run, the fiber diet. It's about the emotions behind the food. And you have to really be able to get to somebody on the emotions before you can cure the problem, because it's not about the number on the scale.

So in my family - and I was so, so lucky, because I think I have a good relationship with food. I'm very healthy. If I didn't have my grandmother, who I spend every weekend with, who, you know, kind of gave me - who taught me how to cook and go to the farmers market and really loved me in so many other ways besides food, from giving me a bath to buying me clothes, to brushing my hair. It totally changed the self-esteem I had about myself.

HEADLEE: And I agree with your grandmother, that it's all about ingredients, fresh ingredients. You just can't go wrong.

LERMAN: It is about fresh ingredients, but it was about feeling love.

HEADLEE: Right.

LERMAN: I mean, so I always interpreted food as love. And I made - so my food had to be made with love. When I make food for my kids, it has to be made with love. If I just go to McDonald's, that food's not made with love. Everything I give my kids is made with love, and that's what I try to explain to my clients. If you're going to grab that bag of M&Ms, did someone love you who makes it? Do they care about your health? And also, it's been sitting in that bag for a very, very long time.

So it's about learning where your food comes from. So even if you don't change the quantity of your food - that's why I'm not so into calories when someone's trying to transition to losing weight. It's just trying to change the quality of the food and your relationship with the food.

HEADLEE: Yeah.

LERMAN: And it always works better if you have a buddy, just like going to the gym. You need the buddy system. You need some kind of support. I mean...

HEADLEE: Yeah, but families can give that. We...

LERMAN: They could sometimes, but sometimes they're also the cause of it. So sometimes family...

HEADLEE: Right.

LERMAN: ...could be the greatest support. Sometimes it's the dysfunction in the family...

HEADLEE: That causes the problem.

LERMAN: ...that causes the eating disorder - whether it being anorexic or overweight - in the first place.

HEADLEE: All right. Let's go here to Lauren(ph), calling from Tucson, Arizona, because - Lauren, thank you so much for calling. It sounds like you need a little advice with your situation, as well.

LAUREN: Yes. My sister has, in the past two years, she's had some new workload. She's doing really well at work, clear(ph), but, you know, her personal care has taken a backseat to that. And she's also a mother. My niece has just turned three. I am watching my sister gradually put on more and more weight, and I'm also watching the habit of her not really cooking at all, also looking at what she feeds my niece. And I'm a little worried.

I haven't broached the subject yet. I try when I visit to cook and offer, you know, vegetables, watch my niece refuse to eat them because she knows she can get chicken tenders or peanut butter and jelly instead on white bread, you know, full-sugar Jif and whatnot, you know, so I just worry...

HEADLEE: Right.

LAUREN: ...about, kind of, her diet. My sister and I both grew up in a household where we had access to soda, treats, fast food, and we both consequently grew up with - you know, being overweight children.

HEADLEE: Right. But that's really common in a lot of places. That's Lauren, calling from Arizona. Thank you so much. Rovenia, advice for Lauren?

BROCK: Well, you know, peanut butter and jelly is not bad food.

HEADLEE: Right.

BROCK: It's not - you know, in fact, there are no bad foods, per se. There are just poor choices. And so while I really think it's a great idea to introduce vegetables and fruit, let's not approach your sister - who obviously has different eating habits from you - and ask her to go straight to the health food store right away. Let's just ease into this.

(LAUGHTER)

HEADLEE: Right.

BROCK: So - and having said that, it's OK. You know, the caller mentioned having peanut butter and jelly on white bread. So, yeah, no problem with peanut butter and jelly. Let's switch it to whole-grain bread, OK?

HEADLEE: There you go. Just make some small changes.

BROCK: Because you also want to - you want to encourage people, including a three-year-old, to eat the food - to eat what they like. But at the same time, let's choose the healthier versions of that.

HEADLEE: Right.

BROCK: I don't even have a problem with chicken tenders.

HEADLEE: As long as they're not bad. You're really...

BROCK: I really don't, because you can grill it. You can do oven-bake so that they're not, you know, doused in fat.

HEADLEE: Right. Of course.

BROCK: They're not drenched in fat. So there are healthier ways to do this. I'm not saying that you can never, ever have a chocolate chip cookie...

HEADLEE: Right.

BROCK: ...for as long as you live. You can never have a chicken finger. No. I actually think...

HEADLEE: No. Yeah. OK.

BROCK: ...there are ways that you can have the foods that you love, but we can prepare them in a way that makes them work for you rather than against.

HEADLEE: Right. Rovenia Block is who you're listening to. She's a nutritionist. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

And we want to take another call, here. We're talking about the difficult conversation with a loved one when obesity is involved. And Michael is calling from Charlottesville, Virginia. Michael, thank you so much for calling.

MICHAEL: Yes. My dad is, I guess, 550, maybe.

HEADLEE: Your dad is over 500 pounds?

MICHAEL: Yeah. And he's been battling this for a long, long - very, very long - most of my life, been up and down. And, you know, last year, I just told him that I just can't be around him anymore. And I think it's just too...

HEADLEE: You've cut off contact with your father?

MICHAEL: Pretty much, yeah. It's just too sad, too depressing to see him, you know, just sit and do nothing.

HEADLEE: Oh, my gosh. That's...

BROCK: Michael, may I just ask you if you could just - because it's your dad. I'm sure you love your dad.

MICHAEL: Oh, yes.

BROCK: If you can imagine what it must be like to live in a 550-pound body. Obviously, this is a very difficult proposition for anybody. Would you agree?

MICHAEL: Oh, yeah. Oh, absolutely.

BROCK: So if you could find the compassion in your heart to embrace your dad for all that he is and try to be there for him - and that doesn't mean bringing him loads of fast food or bringing him loads of fatty and sugary foods, because some people are enablers and they do that. That's how the body gets to be 500 or 1,000 pounds. They're getting health from the outside. But I'm going to have to ask you to find the compassion in your heart for your dad, because if ever he needed it, this - the time is now.

MICHAEL: Yeah. Yup. OK.

HEADLEE: Michael, thank you so much. That's Michael calling from Charlottesville, Virginia - a tough situation. Dawn, we only have about a minute left, but you've been in this situation.

LERMAN: I've been in this situation, so actually, I could feel for Michael. And there's also a time when you also have to self-preserve a little bit and take a step back, and somebody has to want to help themselves. And you know what? The best way to inspire somebody is to be the example and to make it fun for them. So when my father said I want to be on a liquid diet, OK, we all thought it was kind of crazy. But I got in the kitchen with him and I showed him how to make shakes with him, and we made shakes together. We poured chocolate in it and we poured spinach in it. So we had a good time with it. So we were able to bond over that, and I think that's the most important thing, which I said several times, is...

HEADLEE: Right.

LERMAN: ...support and making small changes that are lasting, which is what I tried to do.

HEADLEE: And letting it come from love, which is something you both have said from the beginning of the segment. Obviously, these are tough conversations. You just heard Dawn Lerman, a nutritionist in New York City. She writes about growing up with a fat dad for the New York Times Well Blog, joined us from our New York bureau.

Rovenia Block - Brock is known to many as Dr. Ro, also a nutritionist, author of the book "Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Livin' Healthy," joined us by phone from Atlanta, Georgia. When we come back, Leonard Pitts will join us, not thrilled with the new education standards that Florida and Virginia have adopted under which they've set different achievement goals for different students based on whether they're black, white, Asian, Hispanic or disabled. We'll be back after a short break. Thank you to our guests. I'm Celeste Headlee. It's TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

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