How many times have you been hanging out with your girlfriends, when someone breaks into some variation of the “I’m so fat” mantra.
Friends that continually complain about their weight is a common occurrence. Sometimes it can be an off the cuff remark like “God, I’m so fat”, during that last minute scan in the mirror before heading out for a girls night, or a mini-breakdown after too many drinks that gets messy.
For some people that really struggle with their weight, how ‘fat’ they feel can be a conversational touch point with their friend group.
If you have ever found yourself on the comforting side of this exchange, knowing what to say to be supportive can be difficult.
So imagine this scenario. The next time that your friend tells you that she’s fat, and then looks to you for a response do you say:
A. Ok, let's talk about setting some goals and getting you into a workout program.
B. You look great just the way that you are.
C. You are beautiful and intelligent (add specific, personalized compliments here) and the scale can’t measure everything that you offer.
I realize that choosing an answer depends on a whole lot of factors. My gut answer is A, every time, but I know from my own experience that it’s not always the best fit.
Let me explain. I had a friend named Megan who had been obese most of her adult life. Once we had established a close friendship, she opened up about her weight. While I blathered on about my dating life and relationships incessantly, she continuously discussed her weight.
The question that she always asked, was if I thought she would always be fat. I really struggled with answering her, because I believed that she could make a change, and it was ultimately in her power to start living a different life. This was a very hard working, intelligent, emotionally aware person. I believed in her.
I didn’t feel comfortable saying this to her because as the years ticked by, she made no attempt to change. There were times when I wanted to get real with her and felt that our friendship would survive a ‘wake up call’ moment, and I came close many times, but ultimately, I would placate her by giving her an answer that held a kernel of hope, but also supported where she was in the present moment. I recall saying things like: ‘When you are ready, it will happen’.
When you are emotionally invested in a friendship, it can be frustrating listening to someone that you care about constantly complain and degrade themselves.
So what’s is the right answer?
According to a recent Canadian study, the only acceptable answer is B: You look great just the way that you are. This also might be because Canadians are notoriously nice, polite people.
According to the study, you shouldn’t encourage weight loss, you should just be positive and encouraging. Apparently, answering ‘B’ will make your friend feel better, and stop stressing about her weight, which will then leave the path open for her to actually lose weight.
We have been amplifying messages that support body acceptance and body confidence, and that is what this response supports. Given that, we still have to play Devil’s Advocate and call ‘bullshit’.
Unknowingly, I kept answering some variation of ‘B’ every time my friend told me that she was fat. What happened next was not what I expected.
I wasn’t the only person in our friend group that Megan was talking about her weight with. Everyone, for the most part, was giving her their versions of answer ‘B’ as well. After a while, all of these people starting talking to each other about Megan’s weight and how challenging they found those conversations. These were not ghosip sessions, what was being discussed was expressed as legitimate concern. Gradually, a sort of support group developed of Megan’s friends that would talk about her daily weight struggle. The biggest frustration amongst her friends, was that no one felt that they could express their concern in a way that was ‘PC’, and watching Megan continue to spiral was devastating. People talked about having an intervention style talk with her, but no one in the group felt comfortable running the risk of unintentionally ‘fat shaming her’ by suggesting an action plan that they felt would help.
Eventually, the frustration that this caused put too great of a strain on the friend circle, and people just started fading out. ‘I can’t watch her destroy herself’ was what one person said.
Before you say that these people weren’t ‘true’ friends - they were. They were true friends that couldn’t or wouldn’t find their voices because they were afraid to have a conversation that might offend.
I stayed close to Megan until life took us in different directions. I can feel good about our friendship and the many memories that we shared. I just wish that I had spoken up, just once, and told her with love what I really thought. I owed her that as her friend.
This was all many years ago. Today, I chose to be lovingly direct. I chose to be honest, even when that opens up a difficult conversation. Most of the time, I am willing to risk offence with the people that I love, if I believe that the benefit to the other person is what's at stake. That has also meant that I have had to learn not to be as reactive when people choose to tell me difficult things from a place of love.
Here is me being direct with you. I believe that you would benefit from working out a few days a week for 20-30 minutes. I also believe that if you have NetFlix or Disney or Hulu, you should have one service that pumps health and fitness into your home. I know that we can help you can get in the best shape of your life, because we've been helping people get in shape since 2008. I know all of this, and even tho I've never met you in person, I know in my heart that fitness and movement will only have a positive impact on your life. I believe this so much in fact, that I am going to give you an exclusive, back door, 30 day free trial (or standard trial is 7 days). You can get the trial here. I'm going to challenge you to try one of our beginner workout series. We designed it for beginners, so I know that you can do it. That's me being direct with you. How will you take it?
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Have you ever had an experience like this?
What do you think is the right thing to do and say?
Thanks for letting me share my story with you.
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