Dear 100 Hour Board,
My sister has always been overweight, but she recently went on a weight loss supplement and lost about 80 pounds. She is now very thin. After her weight loss, she met and married a guy who is really into physical fitness. She is starting to regain the weight, and the supplement she is on isn’t safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding, so she will have to go off of it eventually and she’ll probably regain all of the weight she lost.
My new brother-in-law is upset that my sister is gaining weight. He is coercing her to exercise and is starting to control her diet. ( I observed her try to grab a bowl of ice cream during a family get together, and he grabbed her arm and wouldn’t let her eat ice cream with us. I’ve also observed him controlling her food intake and exercise in other instances.) I consider this behavior to be abusive. I think/hope that my new brother-in-law is just clueless and sees his actions as helping with his wife’s health, not abuse, but I really don’t know what’s going through his mind.
My question is, what can I do? This is none of my business, and it’s not something they talk to me about. Should I say something or will getting involved just make everything worse?
-lover of ice cream
It's admirable for you to be caring about your sister. However, judging from your description of the situation, I wouldn't be worrying too much.
Honestly, this just sounds like something your sister and brother in law will have to work out for themselves. If your sister ever reaches out to you about this, definitely support her, but otherwise, just let things lie.
I actually disagree with Anathema. I would be concerned - it's important for individual spouses to have autonomy over their own bodies. If he is physically or emotionally coercing her into eating/not eating certain foods or exercising, there is a problem. There is a big difference between being coercive and being supportive (as in, they are basically opposites - supportiveness is unconditionally loving, coercion is selfish and about being in control).
Food/exercise/body image issues can be a big problem in our culture. I imagine your sister is suffering quite a bit in that regard, given the behavior of her husband. She may benefit from individual therapy with a good therapist who knows a lot about these kinds of problems specifically. She doesn't need her husband's permission to do that. Also, her husband may want to consider therapy as well.