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by Abigail Van Buren

Siblings Choose Words Carefully To Help Obese Sister

DEAR ABBY: My husband's sister is morbidly obese, and we are very concerned about her health. We know her weight is a delicate topic, but if she were drowning in a lake instead of in fat, we would try to throw her the same kind of lifeline.

We feel compelled to express our concern about her health. We know that how this is approached can make a big difference. We both feel she would benefit by seeing a counselor to confront life issues that may have caused her overeating. Can you please suggest a way to phrase it? We love her and want her to live a long and healthy life. -- SCARED FOR SISTER-IN-LAW

DEAR SCARED: Your sister-in-law is well aware that she is dangerously heavy, so this is a subject you can address only once without causing a rift in the family. The message might be accepted better if it came from her brother, and it should be phrased something like this:

"I hope you know how much I love you. My wife and I are deeply concerned about your weight because we're afraid we might lose you. If there are issues that have caused this, would you consider talking to a counselor about them? If your doctor can't refer you to someone qualified, we can ask ours for some names. And if what I have said is hurtful, I sincerely apologize and hope you will forgive me. I won't bring up the subject again."

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Health & Safety