Yikes. Weight loss is a tricky subject, and it's far, far trickier when it's not your own weight you're worried about. Is there a polite, proper method for how to tell someone to lose weight, especially when it's for their own health and wellness? Furthermore, is it any of your business?
We weren't really sure — and we quickly realized we weren't the only ones to have doubts about the issue.
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A woman wrote in to Dear Abby recently because she was worried about her stepmother's expanding waistline and poor eating habits. "She eats lots of fatty foods, uses lots of salt and eats almost no fruit and vegetables," she wrote. "He, on the other hand, eats very healthy — almost the opposite of what she does. He rarely eats anything fatty and uses salt sparingly. He also eats fruits and vegetables every day," she said of her father.
While she then went on to say that she was mostly concerned about her stepmom's health issues — and felt that many were being made worse by the woman's weight problems — she was also worried about the potential minefield that lay ahead if she decided to go forward and say something to her stepmom about her weight. "I know she would take it personally," the letter-writer said — and we have a feeling she's right.
So, is someone's weight a topic worth mentioning to them? And if so, how should the conversation go?
Dear Abby's advice was interesting: She encouraged the woman to talk not to her stepmom, but to her own father— and let him decide whether he wanted to address such a sensitive topic with his wife. Abby seemed to feel the woman would take the conversation better if it came from her own husband, whom she's presumably closer to and feels more comfortable with. After all, shouldn't spouses be able to communicate openly and honestly?
But that answer — passing the dirty work to someone else who's closer to the person, essentially — didn't satisfy us. After all, what do you say to someone if you're very concerned about their health and weight gain — and if the best person to have the conversation is you?
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We say, follow these three tips: One, choose the right time and place. (Hint: Over a nice meal at a fancy restaurant you've both been looking forward to is not it.) Two, lead with "I" statements, as in, "I'm a little nervous about saying this because I don't want to hurt you, but I've been worried about how tired you seem lately/how much medication you're taking/how unhappy you seem with your size." That will come across more kindly as a "You" statement, which can come across as accusatory (such as "You look like you're getting bigger and/or are unhappy."
And three, don't go in with unreasonable expectations. If you expect this person to suddenly overhaul their lifestyle, or even thank you for your concern, you might be hoping for way too much. Instead, give your friend or loved one time to process what you're saying — and gently let them know that they have your support if they ever do want to make changes on a timeline that works for them.
What do you think? Would you tell someone she needed to lose weight — and how would you go about it?
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