Constantly, I am told to slim down through the stereotypical “weight loss talk” by my more active friends. When it’s approached incorrectly, the weight loss talk can cause tension and a rift between friends. If you want to help your over weight friend lead a healthier life, it is important to consider a number of things before you decide to talk to them.
There is a stigma that suggests overweight people should expect less in relationships because of their size. The problem with the weight loss talk often is, if you have never been overweight, you do not know the challenges and torment that can come from being overweight. The negativity comes, not just from mean people, but from best friends and family members who know nothing about your weight struggle.
When you want to help a friend that may be “getting out of control” with their weight, it is important to first examine your own intentions for the desired conversation.
Do you want them to lose weight for their own health benefits, but do not know how to approach the conversation? If you believe you have the purest intentions, talk to them alone so that there is no public shame (but continue to read below so that you do not accidentally approach the conversation incorrectly).
Do you feel like your friend would feel more confident if they lost weight because society demands a thin body? In this case, it is important to remember that you can talk to your friend, but they may not care about society’s expectations. It may be offensive that you think they should.
Do you feel ashamed of your friend because they are overweight? If this is the case, even in a small way, do not speak to your friend. Until you realize that they are beautiful, and do not need to change to be loved and accepted, it’s important to skip this talk. If you come to a place where you see beauty in your friend, but are still worried for their health, have a talk with them, but in a compassionate way.
To understand how these talks often go, here are examples of what NOT to say:
1. Weight loss is about your personal will. If you wanted to be pretty, you would be pretty.
There are many reasons for a person to be overweight, and weight loss solutions are not one size fits all. As an unfit person myself, I have known for years that there is not a quick fix. Someone who believes it is does not understand the pressures that bring someone to be overweight.
2. If you were just thin, you would be pretty.
This is said so often that some people basically just accept it as a complement. What this says, ‘If you would just change, you would be socially acceptable.’ The problem with this is, there is absolute beauty in everyone, and they deserve to know that their beauty exists. It suggests a standard for beauty that is hard for anyone to live up to.
3. The guy or girl you like (insert name of absolute hunk or babe) will like you if you lose weight.
This insists that they will ONLY fall for your friend if they change what they look like. There are actually people who like others for who they are. This statement suggests that who someone is on the inside will never be good enough for someone because worth is determined by society’s physical standards. It also suggests that your friend is NOT currently beautiful, which is so false! Finally, this says something pretty negative about the person that might actually like the thicker beautiful friend. It suggests that they are shallow and could only fall for someone who is thin, and not fall for someone based on character.
4. We can work out together all the time!
This is encouraging, until you bring it during the workout and look amazing while barely sweating. It’s hard to feel like everyone is looking at the fat person in the room or are ignoring them because they do not want to discourage them from working out in the future. It’s also hard to know that your friend is the fittest person there. It is important to ease them into the gym scene. Work out when you know it is less full. Go on a bike ride or take a walk as a great starter. Always remember that your overweight friend may have a different pace than you and ask them what activities they are comfortable participating in.
5. “You got this way on your own, the only way you will lose weight is on your own.”
Often enough, there is someone around a bigger person who instigates excess eating, or some emotional reason why someone overeats. Food can be addictive, which helps people deal with or hide their emotions. There could even be a medical reason why someone is overweight. It’s okay to suggest that they see a doctor before starting their weight loss journey. Never suggest that your friend should do this alone. The positive people around them, which make them feel as loved as possible, help more than a fitness coach could. I am best when I have a strong and loving circle of friends and family that understand that I am doing my best for my own body.
With all of this being said, your friend might not respond the way you want them to and they might be offended if you talk to them about their weight. The best way to help someone lose weight is to do the actions that show that you love them first, and then be a positive light throughout the process. Gently remind them that you will forever be there to care for them. Ultimately though, this is a decision that they must make on their own, and at the right time for only them.