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Telling A Friend She's Fat: Do You Even Go There?

Illustration for article titled Telling A Friend Shes Fat: Do You Even Go There?

Today's New York Post has a delicately titled story called "Who's Your Fatty?" in which a couple of New Yorkers discuss addressing a friend's weight. Victor, 31, was friends with a clinically obese woman for 10 years. She broke his couch; he broke his silence. But he waited. "It wasn't until eight years after the couch incident that I finally had the audacity to bring up what was there all along," he says. "And even so many years later, it was very difficult to sit down and tell her that, at about 500 pounds, she wasn't healthy and had to do something about it," Jacky, 25, watched her friend gain 50 pounds. "I thought, if I'm not going to tell her, who will? I'd want her to tell me, so I sat her down and told her I've noticed her weight gain. It was a tough conversation, but ultimately for the best." A question to Jacky and Victor: Did you really need to tell your friends that they were fat?

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Do you think a 500 lb. woman doesn't know that she's obese? Do you think that a woman gains 50 lbs. without noticing? The Post's Marina Vataj writes, "While friends tell friends and loved ones to stop smoking, drinking, shopping and even sleeping around, addressing a friend's weight remains taboo." Damn straight it does. Drinking and smoking are vices you can live without. Eating is required for survival. When does overeating become a problem? When is eating an addiction? Surely everyone is different and the tipping point is different for each individual. But with all of the weight-loss ads, hyperthin celebrities and calorie-cutting segments on the news, it's hard to believe that any woman would be oblivious about being overweight. Even if framed in the "I'm doing this because I care" context, the fact remains that ones body and what one puts in it is extremely personal. So isn't choosing to "discuss" a weight problem with a friend actually choosing to announce your problem with a friend's weight? Do you even go there? What do you say?

Who's Your Fatty [NY Post]

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DISCUSSION

tiredfairy
tiredfairy

Helping a friend in need is great, but you can't actually make a person who is morbidly obese change their habits. And yes, compulsive overeating is an ED and is a psychological disorder like Anorexia or Bulimia. Which, by the way, can't be solved by friends pointing out you aren't eating or seem to throw up a lot either. It's a job for a psychologist, not a friend. The best you can do is find out if something is wrong and maybe get them to volunteer the information and seek out help...but most of the time, confronting someone about their weight will make them feel guilty and ashamed and will have the exact opposite effect of what you want. It needs to be approached from a mental health angle, not weight.

The only person who can help them is a doctor and themselves. The best thing you can do as a friend is be supportive and listen, and accept that they may always be that size. It's not a friends job to "fix" it.

Too much of what I'm seeing posted here is this idea that a "good" friend is honest. I'm not sure that what's being presented as honesty isn't just judgment and the idea that you can fix the problem by sharing diet and exercise tips. I mean, the problem isn't that someone doesn't know they should eat better or exercise more...it's a psychological disorder when we're talking about 500lbs. And going out for a walk isn't going to solve the problem.

The other thing is that people's weight can and will fluctuate during their lifetime. You shouldn't jump all over a friend who gains weight or loses weight, especially if it's around a traumatic event. In that case the depression needs treatment, not the weight. Chances are they'll revert to their healthy weight again once they've gotten through it.

My mom put on weight when her father died and was depressed for a year. My father used to insult her about it and talk about how slim she used to be when she was younger. It was callous, thoughtless, and cruel. Once she was past her mourning period my mom got back into her old routine and dropped some of the weight. She's evened out now that she's older and is at a very healthy, but not thin, weight. And she confessed to me that the "thin" weight my dad liked on her so much was accomplished by rigid food restriction, constant exercise, and speed.

I've had an ED for quite some time now that's mostly become disordered eating. I have body dysmorphia and probably some anxiety related issues as well. My father, my brother, and other people in my life have been extremely mean about the smallest weight gain...or constantly talk about how heavy I "used" to be, or that they think I've lost weight now, etc. I've been the same, completely healthy weight, for at least 6 years. It's a daily struggle. And I don't take comments like "have you lost weight?" as a compliment.

Maybe this has made me sympathetic to my truly heavy friends because, even though I've never actually been fat, I've felt fat since adolescence and been treated like I was fat just because I don't weight 90 pounds at five one. Our views on weight and health are just too skewed and problematic for people not to consider what they say to other people, especially friends, very carefully. Make sure you're actually coming from a place of concern and not embarrassment. And please, ask them how they are...not their weight.