Do Not Say “It’s About Time” to a Dieting Friend
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It’s not easy to support a friend who is struggling with weight. There’s a fine line between being supportive and hurting their feelings. And shame on you if you become an Evil Diet Saboteur with your comments.
For a morbidly obese person, interventions (loving family and friends confront someone with a serious issue) are popular these days. However, I’m not going to speak to that approach.
When someone is struggling with weight, a wrong comment can not only be hurtful, but may result in a backlash of bad diet behavior. For a more gentle and kind way of supporting an overweight friend, here’s what I have learned to not say – and to say. This approach isn’t necessarily right, but it’s something to consider.
• Do not say….
- … Shish – you’ve certainly put on weight!
- … It’s about time you started dieting!
- … Here, try this pasta – one bite won’t hurt.
- … Let’s all go for ice cream after dinner.
- … The color of that outfit looks terrible on someone your size.
- … I’m glad you’re finally on a diet.
- … You’re ordering THAT for dinner?
- … When is the baby due?
- … You know that cookie has 200 calories!
- … Are you kidding me? Your 10 minute walk did not equate to French fries at lunch.
- … You’re dieting AGAIN!
• Do say…
- … Good for you
- … How can I help?
- … Want to take a walk?
- … You’ve lost weight and you look fabulous!
Want to be supportive?
- Don’t be judgmental of a dieter. No rolling of the eyes.
- Don’t criticize. If your friend chooses to eat badly, that’s her choice.
- Do not guilt your friend. Making her feel bad only makes it harder (okay, maybe some mothers can get away with that, but no one else!)
- Be a considerate hostess. Sure – serve your most delicious high calorie dishes, but alert your friend to the menu – and have an alternative available (e.g., a big salad).
- Do not eat high calorie treats in front of your friend (do you really need to eat that dessert in front of her?)
- Recognize that your friend is an adult and can make choices without your unsolicited input.
- If a diet is going well, acknowledge and praise. If the dieter is struggling, do not lambast the person, put down her effort or make her feel bad.
In the end, helping a friend on a diet is all about empathy. Overweight people don’t need to be told they have a problem, they don’t need to be shamed into losing weight. There are very few overweight people who would say “Really? I had no idea I need to lose weight.”
Dieting is a difficult journey – a good friend is a support, not a critic.