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.

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23 thoughts on “Helping Your Fat Friends (and Staying Friends)

  1. Pingback: Weekly Link Love: Healthy and Happy Life | iHanna's Blog

  2. I found your post through iHanna’s blog, and recently it seems I read articles on obesity and fat and weight everywhere, and then I read the comments…. People are mean, and even meaner on the internet. I am fat, and I know what I have to do to loose the weight. I have tried going to the gym but I always stopped. I have tried exercices at home but I stopped. I need to start again and I know it. But… I sometimes talk about it to some of my friends and then they begin to tell me what I should do and they never stop telling me, talking to me about calories everyday!

    Anyway, this is a great and different articles of what I fell upon so far, thank you for this.

    • You will lose weight when the emotional side of your brain contacts the left, logical side of your brain and comes up with a way to make it work. I lost the 65 pounds only after I hit that realization. You will find your reasons in good time.

  3. And your #2 point could also include the side effects of some essential medications. The cruelest was when a friend of mine had finally wrangled herself to the weight she wanted to be, then had to to go on corticosteroids to save her life. Heartbreaking…

  4. Yesterday while extending my hand to grab a packet of sweet toasts I thought “Quinn doesn´t” Yes, even in English.
    “But they are neeeeeeeewwwww. You love trying out new stuff”
    “Since when are you nice to me IC?”
    “Since those SWEET toasts were there right before your eyes. You deserve them”
    “Deserve? What´s deserve got to do with it?”, I asked. My hand still in the air.
    “Ci-nna-mon. They have ciiiiiiii-nna-mon” She was squinting at me, her perfect blond hair in slow motion waves. “You deserve a treat”.

  5. I love everything you have said….with the exception of “fat”. Overweight is certainly an easier to hear word. “Fat” is negative from the get-go.

    • I was fat. I still am, in some eyes. I always referred to myself as a fat person. I use the word after careful consideration. Some people might find it offensive, I am claiming it because it is startling, and makes people think it over, just as you did. I’d use “overweight” if I were in a class, but I’m not. I’m asking for attention to a difficult topic and the use will get more attention.

      I appreciate the boldness of your speaking up. Excellent opinion-giving!

  6. I just love everything you write and say Quinn! You truly are one of my favorite people and I’m glad there’s someone like you who can write so eloquently, the important things that need to be said.

    Regarding the “magic bullet”…..does anyone really think it’s an easy process? Sheesh! I hate working out every day but I know it has to be done for my health and sanity. That doesn’t mean I enjoy it or I’m addicted to it. I always notice that I get negative comments from all the people who never exercise, telling me I’m doing too much or that I don’t need to lose weight. They don’t care about the reasons I’m working out, they just want to pass their judgments and say things to make themselves feel better for not exercising. Grrrrrr, this is a big pet peeve for me (as you know from our many conversations).

    Again, you are my hero Quinn. You have made some of the hardest decisions of anyone I know and I admire you for the path you have taken. I know it’s a challenge every day. You are amazing!

  7. Thanks for this message, I needed it for myself as a reminder that I should not do those same things to myself as I go through my own weight loss journey. I also shared on Facebook, I thought your message was spot on and that others that don’t follow your blog should read it too.

  8. With this and your last post, Quinn, I can relate. Like you, I’ve been on a weight loss quest. For almost a year now I’ve been dumping the pounds (and I’ll be the first to tell you — I haven’t lost as much as you.) 🙂

    Although, I’ve done pretty well by losing a little over 50 pounds.

    I don’t like it when people ask how I’ve done it because they’re looking for a magic bullet. And when I say I upped the exercise and and lowered the intake they are always disappointed.

    One of the greatest things I’ve had though is a multitude of well wishers and cheerleaders all helping me along. Plus, I’ve kept track of everything (including my emotions) in my journal and that is as close as I can get to a “magic bullet.”

    And, your #3 point is the most important in my estimation. It only happens when one is ready for it to happen.

    • You are absolutely right–they are looking for a magic weight loss plan. And while I know it isn’t true, I get the feeling that they are thinking, “and if you can do it, it must be easy and work fast.” A few times, when I’ve started to explain how I did it, I saw fear on the face of the person I was talking to. “No, really, what did you DO?” they would say, ignoring the hard work and hoping for something easy.

      Be grateful for every cheerleader! And congratulations on staying with it for all those pounds. (I’ve had two messages on emails. One woman told me she lost 10 pounds more than I did. . . .)

  9. Another great post! I appreciate you writing this, it’s a good reminder for all of us that being kind always is a good thing, but that kindness doesn’t come from telling others your own values… ever.

    • Being kind is no harder than being rude, but the results are more far-reaching. And that horrible need to be right, I think it comes from watching too much reality TV, or being abused at work. But it doesn’t help friendship much.

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