Weight Loss Support - How to approach talking to a loved one about weight




Riemontana
07-03-2011, 05:22 PM
My friend has lost almost 70 pounds. She is on a different plan than I am. However, we have spent time talking about the other issues that come up while on this journey. She has a professional background in addiction.

The other day we were talking and I was relating that I think weight/health issues are a very personal issue. I am terribly worried about my dad. However, I don't think that it is right/respectful for me to say anything to him about his weight.

She profoundly disaggreed with me. She said that she is somewhat hurt/angry at the people who love her because no one confronted her about the food choices that she was making or expressed concern that she was morbidly obese. She thought that if she had been using drugs or alcohol, someone would have done some type of intervention - therefore, someone should have said something to her.

I have seen other posts here from people who are upset at family members who speak to them about concerns for their health/weight. On the other hand, are we doing the right thing by not speaking to the people we care about? I know that I will NOT talk to someone about their weight. However, it is weird because I certainly would speak to a friend who was abusing alcohol. Interesting question.

I bring it up here because I have struggled with the reactions that people have to my weight loss. I also have struggled with people who talked to me about my weight before. Anyway, I thought that this was a topic that is worth thinking about.

Rie


dragonwoman64
07-03-2011, 05:46 PM
that's a tough one, bec it's your dad, and he's older.

I had a few people "talk" to me, friends more than relatives. It didn't have much effect. I knew perfectly well I had a serious problem, but I didn't begin to tackle it until I was ready.

How do you think your dad would respond to bringing up the subject? maybe you have more insight as to how ready he might be to hear it from a doctor and family member, and how receptive he would be to the offer of help and support.

Engraved
07-03-2011, 05:51 PM
Well.. my parents talked to me about my weight, in a very loving-caring way, my very close friend did the same also. But at that time i wasn't ready to make a change.
Suddenly something clicked and althougt everyone stopped mentioning my weight issue i was finally ready to start my journey.
My point is, even when your loved ones talk to you in the most caring way about this issue, if someone isn't ready to confront it, it won't.
And sometimes out of anger even know, i blamed my mother for not pushing me to make better choices, but if i think twice, my mother did the best she could at that time, i wasn't just ready for it.
It's always easier to put the blame on other people, for things that did or didn't do, but sometimes we have to realise that we are the only ones in control of what we eat.
Whether or not someone is obese, i think they know it and see it but sometimes they r not ready to change it. And no matter what anyone can say to you, it's not gonna happen if you don't want it.


April Snow
07-03-2011, 06:02 PM
I was thinking about this a bit more after reading some other threads that were about the same issue. In my immediate family, all the adults are overweight/obese, so I guess none of us really has the "right" to talk to someone else. However, when someone is actively making an effort to lose weight and get in better shape, we all try to be supportive.

So I think that if I were in a position where I did think it might be appropriate to say something, I would probably put it in terms of "I know that you aren't unaware that you have a weight problem. I just wanted to let you know that if there was anything I could do to support you if you wanted to work on that, just let me know and I'll do anything I can." And then I'd drop it. but hopefully, that would at least open the door to talking more about it if they wanted to.

FassGal
07-03-2011, 06:09 PM
I don't like when people say anything about my weight, as it is none of their business and it's my problem. I won't get upset per se if someone tells me what they think about my weight. What makes me upset, and I think this is true for many others, is the meanness, or the judgmental tones, etc. from those who say anything about it. Moreover, I was never obese by any stretch and with the exception of my weight, all of my numbers were good so there was no need for an intervention of any sort about it. That's just me.

I'm not clear as to why you want to talk with your father about his weight so I will assume that it's for some health reason.
I'd start by telling him how much I love him, how much the grandkids love him and spend time with him, that I appreciate all that he's done for the family, and that we are not ready to lose him. Then say I am concerned about his weight, and I believe that if he lost some of it that he'd have a better chance of living to see the benefits of his hard work for a little while longer.
I'd speak to him alone, in a private, peaceful place with just the two of us and with no one within earshot.
Also, I'd be prepared for him to get defensive, maybe walk away and whatever happens I would not argue with him or force the issue. That just turns a well-intentioned conversation into a bad experience. Besides, I cannot make or force him to change, just as no one forced me to change.
If I were talking to him I'd let him know that too, that no matter what I love him and will always love him.
More importantly, I would never, ever mention his weight again unless he brought it up first. I've said my piece, and now I'm done.

blueheron777
07-03-2011, 06:13 PM
When I was overweight I would have taken offense to somebody bringing up the subject. Did they think I didn't know? And what kind of help could they have given me except to police what I ate? After all, I am responsible for what I put in my mouth.

I needed something to motivate me from within. I lost the weight when I looked at a fat friend in bad health, almost immobilized because of her weight and decided I didn't want to end up like that.

But that's just me, and maybe your Dad is more open to you pointing out his problem and offering to help him. You know him best. GOod luck.

IsobelRose22
07-03-2011, 06:26 PM
I have to agree with the previous posters, if the person isn't ready to do something about their weight no amount of talking to them about it will help. In my case I dug my heels in and determined that I would lose when I wanted to and not when someone else said I should. Even though I know now that they knew better than I did what was best for my health and well being. You can mention it, just to put the idea in his head, but I wouldn't expect him to change right away x

JoJoJo2
07-03-2011, 06:34 PM
It's a good question. We want to help others, but how can we help. People who are overweight, already know they are overweight.

When I was overweight, I certainly knew it - I am not stupid. And if anyone, anyone, had dared to tell me that I needed to lose some weight I would have been deeply offended.

When the time came that I was ready to change my life, I did it. By myself. No encouragement needed. I started eating a healthy mix of foods. I started exercising. I was able to lose the lbs.

I would suggest that if you want to point out to a friend or relative that that friend or relative should get busy and lose some weight, be careful. Be very sure of your relationship with that friend or relative before you start telling them something they already know - that they need to drop some lbs.

You could be spoiling a relationship. Are you prepared for that?

SMess
07-03-2011, 07:03 PM
This is a very potent issue for me and my family - I'm comforted to see that I'm not the only one that has encountered this issue.

I can definitely understand where your friend was coming from - it is 1000% true that if drugs or alcohol had been the issue, my friends would have intervened. But none of my friends or family said anything to me about it. The only one that would say anything was my grandmother, but she was quickly shut down by other people in my family. I would have liked to know that people would have been willing to help me, had I asked for it. Instead, I just felt immense pressure to fix it without any support or understanding from others.

Everyone in my family is obese, but my brother has gotten amazing help from his friend (a PT assistant) and my mom discovered hypothyroidism was her trouble and has since lost 90 lbs. My weight loss journey started when I was ready for it, and it's moving slow and steady. But, like you, my dad is morbidly obese. He's been diagnosed with diabetes and refuses to acknowledge it (he has an almost manic dislike of doctors), even though the doctor said it would probably go away if he lost enough weight.

I've confronted him about it often, and each time he gets belligerently defensive. Lately, he's been criticizing my own efforts at weight loss and comments on my weight at every opportunity. It's actually surprised me just how mean he has been. What comforts me is knowing that the anger is just his way of avoiding the acknowledgement that he is angry at himself, and not at me. I've made sure that he knows I'm ready to help and support him if he wants it. Beyond that there's not really anything else I can do.

I think the reason weight is so touchy is because it's not something you can hide. It's so obvious that people feel uncomfortable pointing it out. I mean, you can live without drugs and booze. You can't live without food. It's the worst kind of addiction there is, in my book. I can't advise you what to do. If you mention it, you do run the risk of damaging your relationship. It damaged mine. But I would have regretted not saying anything if all he had really been looking for was encouragement from someone else. It's a very personal decision. I won't fault you for the choice you make, no matter which way you go.

xty
07-03-2011, 07:13 PM
Very interesting question. I have my own semi-twisted logic around this subject.

In general, I dont find it my business to offer advice on someone's health or life unless they ask me (and then often still no, hehe). However, having said that there are always exceptions, examples:
- in the workplace, if I have a reason to believe someone is unable to do their job (or affects the ability of a coworker to do their job) due to ANY issue (drugs, booze, medical issue, weight/food issues, etc etc), I will speak up. But this so rarely happens in my experience. Whether I was 240 or 120, my performance has always been excellent. Depends on the job though I guess?
- close friends and fam, in some rare cases such as those of morbid obesity
I guess my logic is that except for my close friends and fam, your life is your business. Whether that means you are dealing with alcohol/drug use, some form of addiction, having a medical crisis you may have fostered thru poor habits -- it simply isnt my place to have a discussion on the topic!

Esofia
07-03-2011, 07:22 PM
I'd start by telling him how much I love him, how much the grandkids love him and spend time with him, that I appreciate all that he's done for the family, and that we are not ready to lose him. Then say I am concerned about his weight, and I believe that if he lost some of it that he'd have a better chance of living to see the benefits of his hard work for a little while longer.

I know you mean well, but I don't think that telling someone you think they're going to die because of their weight is a good idea. I've actually broken off contact with a family member recently, and one of the reasons was because she kept on ringing me up and telling me of all the terrible things I was going to die of because I was so dreadfully fat. I was 140lb at the time, which is definitely overweight but not exactly courting an immediate heart attack, especially since I'm only 33 and vegan. She, on the other hand, is a lot older and heavier than me, to the point where she actually is at risk of these things, and known for projecting her weight problem onto other people.

pinksparkles
07-03-2011, 07:56 PM
Ah, that's a tough one.

I feel like nearly everyone with a weight problem is aware of it, and there's no need to point it out, because, often, it'll make them feel worse/defensive/upset. If they choose to make lifestyle changes/go on a diet, etc. then that's great and I'll be the first to support them, but I won't be the one to tell them to do so, you know?

This might just be because I'm hypersensitive about any weight-related talk, which is something I'm trying to work on. *I'm* allowed to make jokes/comments at my own expense, but no one else can without making me sad. :P

mirax3
07-03-2011, 08:01 PM
This is a very interesting topic...

I am not sure where you all are from, but I live in America. In much of the west (not just America) obesity is all too common. This is what my Moroccan boyfriend had to say about the subject:

He thinks that one of the biggest problems that the West has is the "taboo" that Westerners put on discussing weight/health issues. My boyfriend never called me fat but encouraged me to go to the gym in a very healthy and supportive way. I was devastated at first that he even mentioned the topic (as it really is a taboo and a sensitive subject for me all my life). But then I realized he was genuinely concerned for my well-being, and wanted to offer advice on how I could feel better about myself. I have traveled all over the world and experienced many different cultures. Some people in other cultures will just openly talk about your weight and tell you right to your face you are fat and need to lose weight. I am not saying that this is the right approach... it is not in my opinion. That being said, we need to stop putting such a taboo on talking about it, especially if the health or general welfare of the person as in danger. I know from personal experience that a lot of emotion can be attached to a weight problem. But it is so important to let your loved ones know and get them to be aware about their health. You can't watch someone eat themselves to death and not say anything just because their feelings might get hurt!

Astrild
07-03-2011, 08:05 PM
She profoundly disaggreed with me. She said that she is somewhat hurt/angry at the people who love her because no one confronted her about the food choices that she was making or expressed concern that she was morbidly obese. She thought that if she had been using drugs or alcohol, someone would have done some type of intervention - therefore, someone should have said something to her.

I have seen other posts here from people who are upset at family members who speak to them about concerns for their health/weight. On the other hand, are we doing the right thing by not speaking to the people we care about? I know that I will NOT talk to someone about their weight. However, it is weird because I certainly would speak to a friend who was abusing alcohol. Interesting question.

I lean toward agreeing with her. Of course most people will respond negatively to someone mentioning their eating habits, but that's true of anyone with a problem. How often do you approach someone with a substance abuse issue and have their response be, "Oh really? I'm glad you brought that up. I'll have to think about that." Everybody responds defensively when it comes to personal issues, and you have to be prepared for that.

That said, there are both thoughtful and thoughtless ways of approaching any touchy subject. I think if it's a close family member with a serious food addiction---not just a little extra--then one could think of something thoughtful to say. It's wrong that people get openly concerned for anorexics but not someone with binge eating disorders. Ultimately it is in their hands, but I don't think it's wrong to even mention that you care about them. I think it is more of an insult to behave as if you don't, whether they're receptive or not. Just don't be a jerk and constantly harass them about it... I think deep down they know.

mirax3-- I agree with you 100%. We are so sensitive about it that it's actually self-destructive, imo.

celrae
07-03-2011, 08:33 PM
Right now in my family drugs/alcohol is the issue for my mother, my father, (they are divorced and remarried) and my husbands mother and we are not speaking up loudly. The reason is people know they have a problem and they don't react well to intervention/judgement. I think wishing that someone would have said something is trying to shift the blame and not accepting responsibility for why you became overweight. I knew I was obese and I just wasn't ready to do the hard work need to fix the problem.

Example:
~Last month while visiting my father he asked for help/support regarding his drinking problem. One day later when he brought up the subject he became angry because I talked about taking sobriety one day at a time. He did not like the words I used, he was not ready to be helped.

~Just this week my mother left abruptly because my Step-Father addressed her drinking issue and asked her to seek counseling. I had wanted to ask my Mother to go to 2 counseling appointments with me because our relationship had been rocky. Her drinking was not at the top of my list. But, I knew she would not be receptive and I decided to approach the subject later when I could handle a negative reaction. I am so glad I took a pause because, she would have freaked out on me.

~My husbands mother tried to make amends via Facebook this week, she is in AA. I have not responded, except to tell her I got the message. She is not ready to hear why I don't trust her and why I will never allow her to have a unsupervised relationship with my girls.

Thanks for letting me vent. My point is people don't want the truth and often they can't handle it. I wish we could all be supportive and honest with each other. However, when the subject is painful it hard.

Take Care

kaplods
07-03-2011, 08:42 PM
I agree that weight loss, obesity, and generically health issues are far more taboo than I wish they were. I would love for it to be a more open topic, but it really isn't, and that makes it difficult to discuss.

If you want to compare obesity to substance addictions, that's fine as far as the similarities go. There are some differences though that make it a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

"Interventions" and confrontations with family members regarding substance abuse is riskyand messy business. Many professionals believe that interventions and confrontational discussion of the substand abuse should be done only with the presence and supervision of a trained expert (and without that supervision the confrontation tends to backfire, even making the situation worse in many cases). Intervention and confrontation tends to work out positively only when the person agrees to go immediately into in-patient treatment (the goal of most interventions). Some experts argue that interventions that don't immediately result in inpatient treatment, tend to make the substance abuse worse, not better.

In that regard, there's almost no option for that kind of help. There are very few inpatient treatment for obesity and weight loss (and the treatment programs that do exist, are almost never covered by insurance), so even the substance abuse model doesn't work very well here. Finding and getting outside help is a lot harder for weight issues than for substance abuse issues.

Having had family members that were constantly on my *** about my weight loss, I didn't find it helpful. Mainly because everyone had an opinion on what I was doing wrong, but they had very little idea of how to be helpful in fixing the problem (most of their advice sucked ***, even more so when it came from people who had similar or other behavior control issues - I felt "fix yourself, before you try to fix me.")

I think it is possible to talk about taboo subjects with friends and family members, but it's difficult, and so difficult to do well, that it almost always backfires. Many people are willing to start the fire, but no so willing or able to hang around to deal with the fire and help put it out. Instead folks dive bomb you with criticism, and then get mad at you when you don't take it with a smile and thank yous, and really get pi**ed if you share some of your own criticisms of them (they can dish it out, but they can't take it).

If you're not prepared to deal with the possible backlash, which can include anger, rage, dispair, feelings of betrayal... it's best not to open the discussion. This is as true about alcohol and drug abuse as it is eating disorders and obesity. You have to not only weigh the potential consequences, but be prepared for any and all likely responses. Are you prepared to dash someone's world to pieces AND are you willing to stick around to help them pick up those pieces. Or are you expecting to criticise, maybe make a few suggestions, and expect the person to be grateful and able to run with your suggestions with no further help or input from you (it's a pretty safe bet, to say that's NOT going to happen).

I would not bring up what I saw as a friend's alcohol abuse either, unless I was prepared for the backlash. Am I willing to lose the friend? Am I willing for the person to verbally attack me and hate me forever, because I told them what they didn't want to (and may or may not have needed to) hear from me. Bringing up a friend or family member's substance abuse shouldn't be a casual subject either. It should be well thought out, and the consequences need to be weighed. It's not generally a topic for a casual conversation, and it's rarely a pleasant or even civil one.

I think most overweight people realize they're overweight (I think most alcoholics realize they have a problem with alcohol). I don't think comments or confrontation ever helps unless the person is already on the brink of making the changes on their own. (You can't drag a person into change, at best you can nudge them in a direction they already were heading).

Unlike food addiction and obesity, a person can be committed against their will to alcohol or substance abuse treatment (it's not easy, but it at least theoretically can happen). That option isn't available with obesity. Voluntary treatment (inpatient or outpatient, or even self-help groups) aren't always easy to find, at least not affordably. So it's a little riskier to push a person over the edge when there's no commonly available or agreed upon way to pick up the pieces.

I think "I'm worried about your health," is about as far as you can go without potentially making the situation (and your relationship with the person) worse.

You have to decide whether saying something is more important to you than avoiding the negative backlash likely to occur. In any case, if you decide to say something, I'd recommend choosing your words very carefully, if you want them to have a positive impact. Being positive without sounding cruel and judgemental is very difficult, and if you can't do it, it may be better to say nothing (but I think that's true of substance abuse issues also. Saying something only works out positively when the person is in the right frame of mind for change already - otherwise it just sounds like judgemental nagging).

celrae
07-03-2011, 08:48 PM
I think it is possible to talk about taboo subjects with friends and family members, but it's difficult, and so difficult to do well, that it almost always backfires. Many people are willing to start the fire, but no so willing or able to hang around to deal with the fire and help put it out.

If you're not prepared to deal with the possible backlash, which can include anger, rage, dispair, feelings of betrayal... it's best not to open the discussion. This is as true about alcohol and drug abuse as it is eating disorders and obesity. You have to not only weigh the potential consequences, but be prepared for any and all likely responses.


Thanks for writing this.

berryblondeboys
07-03-2011, 09:40 PM
When it comes to comments - "I'm worried about your health" is about as far as it should could go" And, "when you are ready to start this journey to better health, I'll be there for you" (and only say that if you MEAN IT!!!!)

My mother's mom never said anything to my mom about her weight and my mom blamed her mom for not saying anything. So, my mom started saying something to me when I hadn't even gained weight yet and I blamed her for part of my weight problem because she made me feel huge when I wasn't (yet). So basically I've concluded - there is no win win situation with weight. And it is wayyyyyy too personal. I knew my husband hated my extra weight. We didn't need to discuss it for me to know he was worried about my health. I didn't need to ask him if it affected his physical desire for me. I knew. We all know.

MaryB75
07-03-2011, 10:55 PM
I guess I'm going to be in the minority here but this is what I think. I believe if you approach it as concern he will probably handle it ok. In about 2 years I went from a healthy weight to 60 lbs overweight. In that time I had two coworkers and one customer talk to me about it. I cleaned pools at the time. Everyone of those comments was made with concern and the offer to help with anything in my life that could be causing it. I never got offended and told each one I appreciated their concern. I then went home one day and asked my husband if my weight gain bothered him. He said he would never leave or cheat because of it but of course it bothered him. Each of those things hurt but that was only because I knew it was true. My best friend on the other hand said she would have been pissed and it was none of their business. It helped me to hear it though. Even though I knew I was gaining it wasn't so bad as long as I could pretend nobody noticed. Good luck with whatever you choose to do.

krampus
07-03-2011, 10:59 PM
Just wanted to let you know I'm struggling with the same thing. *hug*

You don't have to be a boot camp instructor, but there's nothing wrong with encouraging him to join the gym with you or something.

JayEll
07-03-2011, 11:33 PM
As someone who had to give up drinking, I can tell you that it's easy for some people, once they are sober, to think, "Oh, why didn't they tell me?" But if I am to be honest, I doubt I would have listened to anyone who tried to confront me about my drinking. I would have wondered who they thought they were, and who made it their business. But that's because most alcoholics are indignant people... ;)

With the question of weight, you risk hurting someone. So you have to think, will discussing it with them help, or not? If you just lay out to them, "Hey, I'm worried about you because you are so fat. I think you really need to lose some weight," and then you just go on with your life, where has that left them?

So obviously more tact is needed. You could say, "Dad, I'm concerned about your health. Are you doing OK? Have you had your blood pressure and blood sugar checked lately?" And see where it goes from there.

Or, another way of approaching it might be to talk about your own weight loss--how much you have lost, how you have done it, all the positive things about it. If someone who is also overweight is interested, they may then want to ask questions or express an interest in losing weight themselves. And then you can help with your own experience.

Mostly I don't talk to other people about their weight. I figure they don't need my input. But a family member might be a different matter.

Jay

MariaMaria
07-04-2011, 12:23 AM
How fat are we talking here?

I guarantee you that anyone over, say, a BMI of 35 KNOWS that they're fat. It's not news. (Someone who's put on 30 pounds might be in denial but then again, 30 pounds isn't something you really should be butting into anyone else's business about. Google "concern trolling".)

Esofia
07-04-2011, 12:10 PM
It's wrong that people get openly concerned for anorexics but not someone with binge eating disorders. Ultimately it is in their hands, but I don't think it's wrong to even mention that you care about them. I think it is more of an insult to behave as if you don't, whether they're receptive or not.

Has anyone ever known this sort of approach to help an anorexic? I've had close friends with eating disorders, and run into many more online, and it's never gone well when someone has tried to call them on it. People with anorexia are more likely to be in denial than people who are overweight, but that doesn't mean they're any more likely to react well to having the truth pointed out to them. However, one big difference is that being severely anorexic can be immediately and directly life-threatening in a way that being overweight tends not to be (being high-risk for a heart attack is not the same as going into multiple organ failure), and that's the point at which intervention is certainly warranted, when you need to get someone to a hospital.

I don't think that pointing out the (doubtless already known) fact that someone is overweight is the same as mentioning that you care about them, and it's certainly not an insult to refrain from discussing someone's weight with them. There are many ways of showing that you care about someone, and non-judgemental ways at that.

Lovely
07-04-2011, 12:52 PM
I'm at a point now where I've recognized the changes that needed to be made in my life so that I get to a healthier place.

However, growing up, I was surrounded by more than enough "reminders" that I was fat. My mother's repeating "We all need to lose weight, and exercise more." (We all did... and should have.) My sister's endless strange diets. Doctors' recommendations. Bullies at school. Scales. Mirrors.

Let me assure everyone here. I've always known I was fat.

My mother's "reminders" truly came from a place of love, and I could see that back then just as I see it now. She was concerned for the entire family's health. That didn't stop the commentary from becoming annoying and sometimes even depressing.

However, it's only lately (the last few years) - due to MY choices and reasoning - that I appreciate speaking to my mother about weight loss.

I sometimes think about what it might be like for me now if I'd just "done something" about my weight and food issues at a pre-high school age, but I realize I'd had plenty of opportunities and "offers of help" from my family. It wasn't the right time for me, until, well... until it suddenly became the right time for me.

The question "How do you approach a loved one about their weight?" reminds me of the joke "How do you hug a porcupine?" ... Very carefully.

runningfromfat
07-04-2011, 01:51 PM
That's a really, really tricky one. When I was at my highest I KNEW I needed to lose weight. I was unhappy and I wanted to work out but I didn't have childcare in place to do so, so it never happened. For me it was a matter of getting consistent childcare to start running and from there thing eventually fell in place over time (better eating habits, awareness of what I was putting into my month, strength trainging etc). Someon who just told me "you need to lose weight" wouldn't have really helped much because I didn't have the help I needed to do so. My parents had actually said things to me in the past but not always in the kindest way and it came off as pretty hypocritical when they weren't solving their own weight problems first. DH also tried watching what i ate but that didn't work either because I needed to make that change myself and I would just hide food instead. :(

I say that all because at the time if I would've had a friend that could've said: "Let's switch off childcare so we can work out! Or lets take out our jogging strollers together so our kids won't go insane on a long run" THAT would've made a world of difference early on. Also, if a friendly family member would've made meals for me that were healthy and tasty so I had those around the house instead of junk that would've helped too. For me it was more the right structures in my life had to be in place first, does that make sense? Sitting me down and saying "eat less, workout more" isn't nearly as helpful as "why don't I make some snacks for you for the week or let's workout together!".