DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother has been really depressed lately and is gaining a lot of weight as a result. I've noticed him eating a lot and not exercising at all. It's been gradual; since last November, he’s been slowly gaining more and more weight. I think losing our great-aunt may have triggered this depression. They were very close, and he really hasn’t been the same since she died. I’m concerned for his health and his happiness. Losing control of his weight may worsen his depression. How can I intervene without upsetting him or making him feel bad? -- Intervening
DEAR INTERVENING: The combination of losing your great-aunt and the impact of a yearlong quarantine has likely doubly impacted your brother’s health. This has been a tough year for many. It can be hard to notice the effect of this time on the human spirit and body. Your brother probably hasn’t even noticed how he has changed. Of course you want to tread lightly, but you also should take the risk of making him slightly uncomfortable in order to get him to wake up.
One thing you can do, if you have time, is invite your brother to do things with you that get him moving. Ask him to take a walk in the park. You could also coax him into participating in exercise challenges with you where you both commit to moving your bodies several days a week, even if you are not in the same place. Becoming his accountability partner can help him -- and you -- to become more fit as you are connected around a shared healthy living goal.
Talk to him directly about how he’s feeling, and point out your concerns. Tell him you do not mean to hurt his feelings or make him feel uncomfortable, but you have noticed that he seems depressed and has put on a lot of weight. Tell him you are concerned about him. Recommend that it could be good for him to see a counselor to process his thoughts and feelings. Recommend that he get a physical and possibly see a nutritionist, too.