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Featherweights For those with just a few pounds, or trying to lose those last few pounds.

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Old 12-27-2011, 01:30 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by KatieC87 View Post
kaplodsI can definitely see the validity in this argument. I just wish diet/weight wasn't a taboo topic on BOTH ends of the spectrum. It seems that people have no problem sharing their opinions now that I'm at a healthy weight, but no one - and I mean no one - said anything when I was in the obese range. Heck, even my doctor didn't say anything!

This wasn't my experience. I've been overweight since kindergarten (so 40 years), and tons of people from teachers to strangers on the street have offered me (and my parents) unsolicited advice regarding my weight (when I was 5 and my brother 3, a stranger told my mother to stop feeding me and give the food to my brother - who she had no way of knowing ate like a steamshovel, but couldn't gain weight)


I've had strangers walk up to me and hand me weight loss product information. I've had people critique my menu choices at restaurants - either to my face, or in loud stage whispers I'm meant to hear but not react to (Who is she kidding, getting a salad - you know she's going to go home and down a dozen donuts....).

I can count on one hand the number of doctors I saw who didn't mention my weight. To the point that I felt like I could have gone into the ER with a gunshot wound or a knife sticking out of my eye and somehow the doctor would have made it about my weight.



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Originally Posted by KatieC87 View Post

I wish a lot of things that are considered taboo weren't - like money, sex, weight. But even if people did open up about these topics, unsolicited advice is just plain annoying unless someone is literally on the verge of catastrophe.

I agree it's easy to find unsolicited advice annoying - but that doesn't stop any of us. Can you really say you've never once given an opinion that wasn't sincerely requested?

I would also disagree that being on the verge of catastrophe doesn't make unsolicited advice easier to take. For most people, it makes it harder, because the stress level is so high that it's harder to see that one person's opinion is just that - an opinion.

In fact, I think it's the stress level and a person's coping resources that make unsolicited advice annoying in the first place. I know when I'm confident in my choices, and when I'm managing stress well, and not in "catastrophe mode" then unsolicited opinions tend to feel either neutral - or at worst mildly annoying or even amusing (haha, isn't it funny that some people are naive enough to think that "just don't eat ice cream" is going to fix my weight issues when I eat ice cream three or four times a year).

It's when my coping resources are depleted - when I'm already tired, angry, frustrated, or otherwise stressed - that an unsolicited opinion becomes annoying rather than helpful or neutral.

When I'm stressed, any offer of assistance can seem offensive.

My mother once slipped on a linoleum floor on her way into a concert. A stranger bent down to help her up, and she snapped "Leave me alone," (we were laughing about this just yesterday).

I once saw a stranger debating between two grocery store products (light mayonaise) and I smiled and told her which one I preferred (Hellman's
Canola mayo).

She shot me such an evil glare you would have thought I'd killed her puppy right in front of her.

I've made similar "unsolicited" recommendations hundreds of times and 99 times out of 100, I get very positive responses from people. I've only got the stink eye from a handful of people.

I know I am more skilled than most in terms of diplomacy, both because of my personality and because of my education and job training (my degrees are in psychology and I worked in social service and as a probation officer). I'm also very difficult to shock or annoy - for the same reason. My jobs depended on it.

I also think there are regional differences.

In the central Illinois town where I grew up, just greeting a person you didn't know well was likely to cause offense. If I smiled at someone I recognized from high school but didn't know well, I was as likely to get a scowl in response as any acknowlegement at all.

When I went away to college, it took me a while to realize that guys who smiled, made eye contact, talked to me, and were generally friendly weren't necessarily "hitting on me." In my home town, if a guy treated you like a human being, he probably was interested in you.


When I moved to northcentral Wisconsin, I got another shock. Weight wasn't the giant taboo that it was in central Illinois (nor was giving and receiving unsolicited advice on a host of normally taboo topics).

The obesity rate in Illinois and Wisconsin are virtually identical (Illinois: 27.7% and Wisconsin: 27.4%), and yet for the first time in my life I had doctors who saw beyond the obesity. I also had doctors who understood obesity and weight loss struggles to a greater degree (some because they struggled themselves).

There also didn't seem to be as much a taboo against being an active, normal (except for fatness) socially interactive person. Although the obesity rates are similar, I saw a lot more obese people in Wisconsin than I did in central Illinois - and fat people doing things I almost never had seen before - hiking, biking, walking, skiing, kayaaking, dancing, dating...

It was rather shocking to have a doctor NOT assume that I spent 16 hours in front of the television.

Even clothing has been more accessible here. I've never found so many nice pieces of clothing in the thrift stores in my sizes. In Illinois, I'd find something wearable once or twice a year. Now, I can buy most of my clothes from second hand sources.

And there even seems to be a very different attitude when it comes to the topic of weight and in general the sharing of advice and opinions. Not quite as dramatic a difference where relatives are involved (I think the annoyance factor does tend to be greater when it's comming from someone you care about), but I've had some very interesting and even fun conversations about weight loss with perfect strangers (including getting and giving advice and opinions).

I think it is easier to hear random advice from a stranger - because you have no investment in their comments. You can more easily dismiss the person as a crackpot, than, you do when you're dealing with someone you love and care about.



I do find it amazing that there are so many regional and personal differences in experience.
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Old 12-27-2011, 01:11 PM   #17
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I think that when you lose weight very quickly, people see red flags and assume you HAVE to be doing something wildly unhealthy in order to have been so successful with your weight loss. I lost 45 pounds very quickly, and I get the occasional comment about "making sure I;m not doing anything drastic..". (eyeroll) I know it is out of concern, but it irks me, b/c I have worked my butt off, literally, and done nothing but make healthy choices EVERY DAY to get where I am.
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Old 12-28-2011, 12:08 AM   #18
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@kaplods I hear you. I don't think being "on the brink" makes unsolicited advice easier to take, but I personally accept that as a time when you should put the health/safety of your loved one ahead of the possibility that they'll bite your head off. I also like to think that I'd come out of said situation and realize that the person only had my best interests in mind, but I can think of no specific situation in my life when this has happened.

I actually prefer my advice to be from a stranger! For instance, I talked to my hairdresser about this issue just today, and hearing her say, "You look totally healthy! Not too skinny! You look thin, but you're not on the verge of starvation!" meant more than hearing my mother or grandmother - who has seen me go from a size 14 to a size 8 in five months - say that I should stop where I am. Is that weird? I should probably feel the opposite. My family has an interest in my health and where I end up while a stranger doesn't care.

I can't say I've never given unsolicited advice. I don't remember doing it, but that doesn't mean much. I think it's all in the way you do it. My coworker coming up to me out of the blue and saying, "You know, all this deprivation is just going to blow up in your face," is different from a colleague telling me her opinion of my diet while I'm discussing it with her.

I wouldn't presume someone wants to hear my opinion if they don't ask for it. But my actions (or inactions) are highly influenced by the fact that recent (read: in the last two years) changes I've made for myself (adopting a minimalistic philosophy, living frugally to pay off debt quickly, and losing weight by religiously counting calories and exercising) have been harshly criticized by people whose advice I did not ask for. No, I don't need to hear that you think I'm "not living" because I'd rather pay off debt than buy a bunch of clothes. I don't need to hear that you think all of my Goodwill donations are "extreme" and "no way [am I] happy." And because of these experiences, I make it a point to not offer my advice or help unless someone specifically asks for it, and even then, I give it as diplomatically as possible.
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