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AOA

How to talk to a friend who has gained a lot of weight?

163 posts in this topic

First of all, happy new year everyone!

I recently saw a friend of mine whom I haven’t seen in over a year, and it concerned me.

A little backstory, we’ve known each other since we were little kids (12 years old) due to our parents being friends. Even though we went to different high schools and universities, we’ve always kept in touch and been very friendly. My friend has had a history of eating disorders. She used to model recreationally as she is very tall: 5’11. However, she also has a big build and puts on weight easily. Her stint in that industry caused her to become very conscious of her figure and eating habits and she had a combination of anorexia/bulimia for a while.

Anyways, I walked past her actually 2 times looking for her (we were at a bar) before I realized who she was. In less than a year, she has tripled in size. To the point where she went from being skinny-normal to completely obese. She lost her face shape, it’s now completely round whereas before she was a nice model oval. If I had to guess, I would say she’s perhaps 230-250lb.

First of all, it’s incredibly unhealthy to put on so much weight in such a short amount of time. This is around 100lb in a year. I was going to talk to her about it, but her best friend (also my good friend) told me to not say anything.

“Don’t mention her weight to her. She won’t like it.”

“Have you talked to her about it? Maybe you should?”

“No I haven’t, I know she’ll get mad!”

Here’s my problem. Some of you guys know I had an ED in university, and I sure WISHED some of my friends had spoken up when I was binge-eating and gaining weight like crazy. I thought I was the only one going through this and that I was defective, but EDs are very common in women and nothing to hide/be ashamed about. It needs to be treated like what it is, an illness that one can recover from. I understand that people can gain weight without having an ED, but given my friend's history I think she has relapsed.

Even though our friend group are all talking about how fat she has become, they have collectively decided to not say anything to said friend as it will hurt her feelings. But, shouldn't a good friend have the hard conversations that fair-weathered friends are afraid of having?

I don’t know. What do you guys think? What would you do in this situation? Or, if you're the recipient and you struggle with weight-related issues, would you be thankful or annoyed if a friend brought up your weight?

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Do you think she already knows how fat she is, or you'll be informing her for the first time?

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Good luck. People tend to be delusional when it comes to weight and health.

Goddess help you if she drank the fat acceptance kool-aid...

Edited by Arcanist

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She could be on mood stabilizing meds for the ED.

Those can make you gain a ton of weight.

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Do you think she already knows how fat she is, or you'll be informing her for the first time?
This.

Yes, also this, but it seems required to add - that question was rhetorical.

Edited by larkin

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She could be on mood stabilizing meds for the ED.

Those can make you gain a ton of weight.

False. Meds don't cause your body to break the laws of physics.

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Do you think she already knows how fat she is, or you'll be informing her for the first time?

Honestly, I doubt she knows how fat she is. I think she knows she has gained weight, but I don't think she knows how shocking it is to everyone else. She's in a new relationship. I think that's how she gained all the weight so fast as she was single for a long time before that.

New relationship tunnel vision! In her selfies and photos we took together, she only posted ones in which she looked 30-50lb lighter than she is. She's obviously insecure about her weight, and in the photos she hides behind other people.

At a get-together we went to, she barely talked and was on her phone the whole time. She used to be one of the loudest people. I'm not sure if it's an ED, or if it's another health-issue, or if it's something different altogether (just gave up due to relationship), but it's clear that she's not happy with her body image - and ... I guess it's weird for me to pretend like everything's fine when it's clearly not with her.

ALSO!

We are all going to vegas in June, and I know she will be insecure about the trip as we're going to many pool parties and nightclubs. Perhaps if we have the conversation about it now, she can lose a lot of weight in 6 months.

Edited by AOA

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False. Meds don't cause your body to break the laws of physics.

Meh. Depakote. Seroquel. Risperdal.

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Meh. Depakote. Seroquel. Risperdal.

They may alter your appetite making it more difficult to keep weight in check but I was not aware of any medication that causes your body to create energy out of nothing. I don't like seeing this kind of misinformation posted.

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How is it your business?

It's not my business, but if I think about it from my own POV, I would want a good friend to talk to me about it. She's ISFJ, so maybe she is different.

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They may alter your appetite making it more difficult to keep weight in check but I was not aware of any medication that causes your body to create energy out of nothing. I don't like seeing this kind of misinformation posted.

Suit yourself. Having worked with inpatient people before it is a possibility, especially if it messes with thyroid. Thyroid effects will cause you to gain.

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She knows how much weight she's gained. Acutely aware, I'd say. Particularly if you're warned beforehand not to talk about her size.

You can say something. Be prepared for a less-than-favorable outcome of such a discussion.

You cannot, however, force someone to change, not even when their life is at stake. Forced.change.does.not.work. EVAH. When she's staring down stretch marks and Type II diabetes, she'll either figure it out or slowly kill herself with food.

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It's not my business, but if I think about it from my own POV, I would want a good friend to talk to me about it. She's ISFJ, so maybe she is different.

I hear about my weight DAILY. When I was fit people commented about how skinny I was AND how much I needed to eat. When I gained weight, the same people let me know about it.

I know what I look like. I'm not dumb. Nothing and I mean NOTHING irritates me more than someone bringing it up.

It is totally inappropriate and none of your damn business. I'd drop it.

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Number of times someone mentioning my weight helped me: Zero

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Her weight is not/should not be your issue unless she asks you for assistance or an opinion regarding the same. Will you be less of a friend because she weighs more.

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Number of times someone mentioning my weight helped me: Zero

Amen.

She'll probably figure it out by herself....

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False. Meds don't cause your body to break the laws of physics.

:rolleyes:

She's obviously insecure about her weight [...] Honestly, I doubt she knows how fat she is. I think she knows she has gained weight, but I don't think she knows how shocking it is to everyone else.

So she knows she's gained weight for herself, she just doesn't know how horrified everyone else is about it? How thoughtful a reminder.

Either she loses weight for herself or she loses it for other people. Only one of those ways works. Pressure and shame from other people often makes people only more resistant.

I'm not sure if it's an ED, or if it's another health-issue, or if it's something different altogether [...] Perhaps if we have the conversation about it now, she can lose a lot of weight in 6 months.
Here’s my problem. Some of you guys know I had an ED in university, and I sure WISHED some of my friends had spoken up when I was binge-eating and gaining weight like crazy. I thought I was the only one going through this and that I was defective, but EDs are very common in women and nothing to hide/be ashamed about. It needs to be treated like what it is, an illness that one can recover from. I understand that people can gain weight without having an ED, but given my friend's history I think she has relapsed.

A weird tendency to frame eating disorders as only gaining weight, when you already acknowledged she has also had anorexia and bulimia...are they only to be recovered from when she gains weight, not when she was losing it?

Binge eating and anorexia/ bulimia are two sides of the same coin. They're about control, and most specifically, about how no one else can tell you how much or how little you can eat. You may not have control in other areas of your life, but you have control there.

So even if it is an eating disorder, the likelihood that a friend could make a comment on it in a way that seemed non-judgmental and non-controlling enough to communicate genuine care about someone's health (much less change their behavior), rather than communicating shock and often thinly-veiled disgust at their appearance, seems vanishingly small. Especially if you're commenting now, when you didn't when she was anorexic. That kind of selective commentary alone would make priorities clear enough.

Not saying that's what you're doing, necessarily; I have no idea if you shared some of your experiences with her when she was anorexic as well, maybe you did. Then, maybe, you'd be in a much better position to discuss this now. But otherwise, it seems like far too loaded an issue for you to raise.

Edited by larkin

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So even if it is an eating disorder, the likelihood that a friend could make a comment on it in a way that seemed non-judgmental and non-controlling enough to communicate genuine care about someone's health (much less change their behavior), rather than communicating shock and often thinly-veiled disgust at their appearance, seems vanishingly small. Especially if you're commenting now, when you didn't when she was anorexic. That kind of selective commentary alone would make priorities clear enough.

I didn't know about her anorexia until after. She only confided in me when I told her about my ED, during the time I had it. We had that in common, so I think we understand each other better than someone who perhaps never had experienced it.

All I want to tell her is that I've been there, I've been the fat one and been the one that others talked about behind their backs but not to their face, and I understand and that if she needs someone to talk to about weight related issues/emotions or to root for her I'm there for her.

I hear about my weight DAILY. When I was fit people commented about how skinny I was AND how much I needed to eat. When I gained weight, the same people let me know about it.

I know what I look like. I'm not dumb. Nothing and I mean NOTHING irritates me more than someone bringing it up.

It is totally inappropriate and none of your damn business. I'd drop it.

But if you gained 100lb in one year and no one talked to you about it, then are they really your friends? I'm not saying, oh I think she's getting a little chubs so she better cut back on her carb intake, I'm actually saying that I think this is pretty serious ...

You cannot, however, force someone to change, not even when their life is at stake. Forced.change.does.not.work. EVAH. When she's staring down stretch marks and Type II diabetes, she'll either figure it out or slowly kill herself with food.

That's hard to hear! It shouldn't have to get to that point.

Edited by AOA

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I didn't know about her anorexia until after. She only confided in me when I told her about my ED, during the time I had it. We had that in common, so I think we understand each other better than someone who perhaps never had experienced it.

All I want to tell her is that I've been there, I've been the fat one and been the one that others talked about behind their backs but not to their face, and I understand and that if she needs someone to talk to about weight related issues/emotions or to root for her I'm there for her.

But if you gained 100lb in one year and no one talked to you about it, then are they really your friends? I'm not saying, oh I think she's getting a little chubs so she better cut back on her carb intake, I'm actually saying that I think this is pretty serious ...

That's hard to hear! It shouldn't have to get to that point.

I think if you talked to her in this context and let her know that you understand AND left it at that, it would be ok. BUT do not go to her with any type of plan of action unless she asks for it. I know you want the best for her but it could come across as meddling.

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What's her family and SO's role in this? As a friend, just be supportive as best as you can. By directly discussing it with her, you put her in a position of feeling confronted and she may get defensive. You should only help her directly if she directly asks for your opinion.

For now, you could indirectly help her by asking more open-ended questions to gage how sensitive she might be. I often do that when I want to talk about something sensitive to someone. Ask a few questions and based on their answer you can feel if they're asking for help. Be delicate and let her bring it up. She needs to get it out first.

She needs a listener, not someone with advice or opinions to share.

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I didn't know about her anorexia until after. She only confided in me when I told her about my ED, during the time I had it. We had that in common, so I think we understand each other better than someone who perhaps never had experienced it.

All I want to tell her is that I've been there, I've been the fat one and been the one that others talked about behind their backs but not to their face, and I understand and that if she needs someone to talk to about weight related issues/emotions or to root for her I'm there for her.

Fair enough - again, at least you have more of a history of talking about difficult subjects with her - but if it is an eating disorder, then you know she's been struggling with it for quite some time. Off and on, potentially her whole life. She's aware of the silence that tends to accompany eating disorders; it's probable that few people said anything to her when she was anorexic, and many may have commented approvingly. But gain weight, and there's such a sudden influx of concern? Why, it's almost like the only thing people care about is how much you weigh.

On top of the frustration she likely has with overcontrol in her life, generally - demanding parents, high levels of judgment about appearance, etc. As you probably know, people with eating disorders come from a background where the people around them - people who are supposed to love them - often can't go a single goddamned day without commenting critically on their weight or appearance. They're highly attuned to the judgment.

Again, I'm not saying that's what you're trying to communicate. Rather, just that there's serious potential that she'll see it as judgment, overconcern or selective concern about appearance alone. If you did decide to talk to her, you'd need to mitigate for that. Given your perspective, that might be difficult.

But if you gained 100lb in one year and no one talked to you about it, then are they really your friends?

If you genuinely care and want to convey that, then ask about her and how she's doing. Ask about more than just her weight, and do more listening than talking.

Edited by larkin

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BUT do not go to her with any type of plan of action unless she asks for it.
She needs a listener, not someone with advice or opinions to share.

If you genuinely care and want to convey that, then ask about her and how she's doing. Ask about more than just her weight, and do more listening than talking.

Uggggghhhhh this is so hard for me but I will try. :cry:

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Uggggghhhhh this is so hard for me but I will try. :cry:
Nice. Must admit that this response surprises me.

A way that might help is to remember that it's not about your concerns since they're coloured by your experiences/past issues, it's about what makes her happy and if she's happy being her size, it's her life.

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As someone who struggles with weight, the best thing that someone can do for me is to accept me as I am, listen without judgment, and be supportive of what I choose for my life. They don't have to agree with my choices, or make the same choices for their life, but they should allow me to make my own decisions when it comes to my body. I am the owner of myself.

My mom used to try to bribe me to lose weight. $100 for every 10 pounds. If I lost "X" amount, she'd buy me a motorcycle. Constant comments and pressure. Never did she consider or listen when I told her that her comments are more destructive than her desire to help. When I was/am ready to lose weight, I will. It took me a long time to decide to lose 115lbs and where I was at a normal weight for the first time in my adult life (at 28). No one influenced that but me. No one's attempts to point out that I was fat (no shit), that I should diet (no shit), that I should exercise (no shit) helped in any way ... only to make it apparent that I was surrounded by people who were judging me and watching my every move. "Oh, gonna eat that, are you? You sure that's a good idea?"

To this day I struggle not with my depression, which caused me to gain weight in the first place (also a mixture of PCOS/Insulin Resistance), but with being watched/monitored/judged by people who can't understand the concept of perspective taking and personal freedom. I've been in THERAPY to try to erase the years of criticism and judgment when it came to my weight, which only served to contribute to the control issues I have when it comes to eating.

I'm not sensitive to my weight. I accept the reality of what I look like and I'm NOT okay with it. But it's no one else's business what I eat or when I choose to finally say "I've had enough". That's all on me. And my friends being overweight is not my business, either. They may talk to me about their weight issues, and I listen, but I don't make them feel bad for it ... because feeling bad is often why people are overweight in the first place. My previous weight loss inspired others to lose weight. Making people feel valued, and worthy, makes them want to care about themselves. Making them feel ashamed and "less than" because of their appearance only serves to make them want to eat more.

Non-judgmental listening helps. Genuine concern comes in forms of help like giving them the opportunity to help themselves, if they choose ... inviting them to go to the gym with you because you want a workout partner. Or asking them to take a dance class with you. Things that aren't a blatant "I'm, personally, not okay with your weight". If my boyfriend wanted to go hiking, or walking, or to the gym every day as a way to help me ... I'd go with him. That's a lot more helpful than things like, "No, you can't eat that, you're supposed to be dieting".

Edited by Holli

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