Obese Friend

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Friend with obese child

June 2003

I have some friends who have a child who is obese. My friends don't seem to see that their child is obese and don't seem to think that it might affect her health. It seems like every time I talk to them they are taking the child out for ice cream and feeding her all sorts of junk food and desserts. She is always eating a bag of candy or chips. I have seen her eat what seems like a huge amount, and her parents still worry that she isn't eating enough. Its like they are unconsciously pushing more and more food on her. I find it odd because the parents are so health conscious. They sort of brag about how big she is and I think somehow its a source of pride. I worry because obesity in children can have serious health affects for the rest of their life, not to mention the social affects. Do I say something? They are very close friends and I love this child and worry about her health. I worry that she is going to struggle for the rest of her life overcoming the bad eating habits that her parents are inadvertently teaching her. What to do? anon

If you are concerned about childhood obesity, then you should make sure YOUR children aren't obese. However, to try to push your views on others will only push the others away. In other words, this is none of your business, and you are likely to hurt your friendship by forcing the issue. MYOB

Very concerned about obese friend with MS

June 2003

I have a very dear friend that is very obese. She has been consistently getting bigger over the years and I am starting to get very concerned about her health and well being. In addition to her weight she has Multiple Sclerosis. She is 28 years old and has never been on a date. I feel like the rest of her friends and family tip-toe around her weight issue but I am wondering if as her very close friend I should give her the opportunity to talk with someone about it, in addition to the therapist that she is seeing. I have never had to deal with weight issues so I don't want to seem to her that I know exactly what she is going through, because I really don't. I would especially like to hear from those of you that have dealt with this issue personally to hear if you would have liked to been approached from a friend. Thanks in advance! concerned friend

Your concern is laudable, but I doubt there is anything you can say or do that will really help your friend - especially because you don't have a weight problem. In fact, I think it might do more harm than good. I'm sure she is very aware that she is overweight and probably is concerned about her health Discussing these issues with a thin person may be difficult for her. If for some reason you think she is not aware of the health risks, then perhaps suggesting she talk with her doctor might help. But I don't know anyone today who is not aware of the myriad of health risks associated with being overweight. My weight has been going up and down for 20 years and I've never heard anything helpful from anyone who hasn't been there, although support from others attempting weight loss can be very helpful. If she does decide to try to loose weight of course you gently encourage her and support her efforts. I know it is frustrating to not be able to do anything for her, but weight loss motivation comes from within and not from well-meaning friends and family. anon

My question to you would be what do you want to accomplish by talking to your friend? Do you want to get her to lose weight?

You can be pretty sure that your friend knows that she is obese (and that she is gaining weight, this is apparent when you go shopping and need to go one size up) so she doesn't need you telling her that. She also doesn't need you to tell her that obesity is dangerous for her health, we hear this on the media practically every day. I'm pretty sure that she wants to lose the weight, but it's not an easy matter.

Do you want to support her emotionally with her weight issues? Then what you can do is show her that you are a fat-friendly person, that you don't judge people based on their size and that you think that those who do are wrong.

But it may very well be that her weight issues are not that complicated and there isn't much to talk about it. In my case, for example, I'm obese, I wish I wasn't, but I don't want to do what it would take (i.e. rigurous diet & exercise) to lose the weight. I don't really have much more to say about it :) anon

I've never been officially obese, but I have definitely dealt with significant weight problems in my life. I was always aware of my problems and the issues I was dealing with, and the last thing I would have wanted would have been for a friend to bring those up with me. My advice would be -- give your friend something else to enjoy besides food -- namely your friendship and the things you do together. Don't make your friendship into just another place where she has to deal with all those darn food issues! Karen

Believe me, your friend already knows she's obese. Every time she goes to the doctor, she's told. Strangers on the street (well-meaning and not so well-meaning) tell her. Coworkers are likely to be feeling helpful as well. The best thing you can do is be her friend, and if she chooses to change her eating and/or exercise habits be supportive by not interfering with her changes. If she has the strength and is interested, she might enjoy walking and talking which would promote her health. Unless she brings it up do not talk about her weight, health or habits. anon

I am sad to read that as your friend is facing this life altering disease that you are focusing on a shallow physical thing. Perhaps people are not tip toeing around, but do not share your concerns. It would be a different thing if she came to you asking for help to lose weight. I also think that you should educate yourself about the medications that your friend may be taking and their side effects. As a person who has no choice but to take meds that causes me to gain weight, I would never talk to my friends again if they focused on my weight instead of what it meant to suffer from the illness that I have no control over. Lastly, please look at how brainwashed you are by society that you have negative feelings about being over weight. Again, please take the time to ask your friend what her true feelings are, and give her support in what she really needs. sad

I empathize with your problem as I have had a friend for almost 40 years who gradually became more and more obese as the years went by. I made a decision not to discuss her weight unless she brought it up. I think when people are overweight they are acutely aware of it and may or may not want to have it be a part of a relationship. I realized that there was nothing I could do about it, that it was an issue that only she had any control over. I have expressed concern about her health from time to time as I would with any friend, but just let her share the issues that she wanted to and have been supportive with the problems she has faced. She now has diabetes and other weight related problems, but here again, she is responsible for own health and I see my role as friend to just love her for who she is, regardless of what problems arise. I appreciate that it is a tough call because you care for your friend and want her to be well and healthy. I will also be interested in hearing from others about how they feel about this issue. Good luck with this situation

I am quite overweight. I think most people who are overweight know that they are overweight. I think that they know that they should lose some weight for their health. I don't think that unless I brought up the topic with someone I would like it at all to have someone bring it up with me. In fact, I think I would be pretty offended. I would not assume that your friend's weight necessarily had anything to do with her social life. I am married, had a fairly active social life before marriage and I have always been fat. anon

I am following up on the person who is concerned about her obese friend. After reading what others wrote to you, I had to speak up. I don't really consider myself as having been obese, but I was 40 pounds overweight. People didn't say anything to me, and honestly, I am not sure if I would've done anything about my weight if they had. But, I did seriously think it was strange that no one, most of all my best friend or my boyfriend, said anything. It made me feel like they were tip-toeing around the topic. I wanted to do something about it, and of course, the desire had to come from me; but all the same, I think if a close friend or relative said something, it would've made me feel like it was OK to discuss it or face it. Ultimately, I lost the weight and when I started losing it, that's when people started commenting on how great I looked. I'm not sure if that's any better - while I felt good about it, I also felt like ''boy, i must've looked bad before and no one even told me or tried to help!''. So, I'm coming from another perspective. I think if you are sensitive to her feelings and are bringing up the subject to give her emotional support and whatever other kind of support you can give her (maybe she can tell you what kinds of foods she'd rather not see in your house or when you go out to eat, etc. or maybe she or you can suggest taking walks), then I think it's a good thing. After all, what are friends and family for? If they're not going to tell you, then who would? And, I have to disagree with some of the other posts. I think obesity, just as being underweight, is dangerous. You can be ''fat-friendly'' and understand that obesity is not a healthy thing. It's not a brainwash thing. I feel much better physically after having lost the weight! And yes, feeling better physically will make you feel better mentally, too. If, in the end, you talk to her and she tells you she's perfectly happy where she's at, then that's fine too. But, I don't see your wanting to confront her is offensive at all. Good luck anonymous

I can not offer advice on your friend's weight problem, but I highly encourage you to help her deal with her MS. I was diagnosed with MS 7 years ago, and thought my life was over. Without terrific support from family and friends, I would not be where I am today. This support allowed me to get on with my life and live my life to the fullest despite this nasty disease. I encourage you to make sure she is getting both the medical and mental support she needs to deal with this disease. There are options available today and having good medical support is vital to make sure this disease does not progress (check out the MS center at UCSF www.mscenter.ucsf.edu) Being physically active is also important. Just walking everyday has helped keep me strong and deal with the physical symptoms of MS. Perhaps dealing with MS will help your friend deal with her weight problem. She is lucky to have you as a friend! Good luck!