Helping Your Fat Friends (and Staying Friends)

Yesterday I posted three experiences I’ve had during my continuing weight-loss journey. Today, I’d like to help you stay friends with your fat friends while caring about them. Here are some tips:

img-thing1. Love them for what they are–kind, funny, smart, creative–rather than for what they are not–thin. You would not want to hear that you aren’t as pretty as you could be, have odd hair, or a birthmark. (Before you say, “but those are characteristics I was born with. . .” read #2.

2. Fat is not always a choice. Do you think Oprah Winfrey wanted to yo-yo up and down the scale? She had enough money to do whatever she wanted about her weight, and even with a cook and trainer, she still struggled. So it’s not just about self control. Don’t assume your fat friend has no self-control, is lazy, or doesn’t care.

Diabetes is an endocrine disease, not a punishment from a divine source for loving sweets. Grave’s Disease, and hypothyrodism are not diseases people want to have. Or worse, choose through “bad decisions you have to own.”

3. Don’t start. If your fat friend wants to talk about weight, you’ll know. Otherwise, don’t bring it up.

my-diet-doesnt-need-a-label-e13659982178694. Don’t offer opinions or advice. What works for you may not work for your friend. Do not offer diets, emails with links to dieting advice, or fashion suggestions.

5. Say, “You look great!” and mean it. Don’t say, “You’d be really pretty if you lost weight.” Don’t say, “That dress makes you look two sizes smaller.” Instead say, “That color looks great.” Or, “That’s a very flattering cut,” (don’t add, “on you.”)

6. Honor the mind/body connection. Making a decision depends on two separate steps. The first is the logical, rational understanding part. “To lose weight, you must expend more calories than you take in” is one of those statements. The next part of decision-making involves a strong emotional link. Emotion and decision making are both made on the right side of the brain, and without an emotional component, there is no lasting change. That’s why diets don’t work. They make sense, seem like a good idea, but there is no emotional commitment. And without emotional buy-in, change won’t last.

Nagging makes emotional agreement impossible. So leave your fat friend in peace. No pleading, nagging, or guilt-inducing drama. It won’t work. Save your energy for walking your own journey.

7. Don’t give “change back” messages. Losing weight is hard, lonely work. There is no easy, fun diet. Losing weight is a long-haul trek. When a fat person changes–eating habits, food choices, clothing sizes–friends and families have to change, too, in the way they relate to their friend. Often, family and friends don’t want to change, so they send “change-back” messages. “You shouldn’t lose any more weight,” or “you have to treat yourself sometime,” or “You’ve always loved this and I cooked it just for you.” Drop it. It’s hard enough for your friend to stay on a diet without you tenderly sabotaging the effort.

-Quinn McDonald is still losing weight. She has no answer for people who ask, “tell me your secret.” There is none. It’s tough decisions, every day. And walking five miles a day helps.