How to talk with someone you love who has gained weight

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I’ve been on both ends of this topic. I am going to outline how you can ACTUALLY help someone who has gained weight. I don’t apologize for if I might offend you in this article… that’s not might intention. However, I feel this topic needs some straight talking :)!

Before we get started, lets get something straight: Size does not indicate health. I know a lot of very skinny people who are not healthy and I know a lot of bigger than ideal people who could run circles around most of us. While weight can certainly get in the way of health aspirations, it is on the low end of indicators when determining how “healthy” you are.

So, let’s dive in…

  1. Maybe your loved one doesn’t want to lose weight, so back off. 

The reality is that they might not currently feel the need for change. AND, the other reality is just because they gained weight doesn’t mean they are unhealthy. For example, I gain about 15-20 pounds in the winter. My nutrition doesn’t change, but I don’t train for ultra-marathons as much so my body is different. Furthermore, in the winter I focus more on working more core and gaining muscle. Weight isn’t synonymous with health.

Maybe they have gained a lot of weight but they don’t want to focus on health goals. It’s possible that they have lost all trust in the diet industry. It’s also possible that they don’t feel the need to focus on weight or health.

—> You must acknowledge that it is not your job to introduce the idea of making health changes. They are aware that physical change has occurred. Don’t treat them any differently! I will touch on what you can do if they ask for help later in this article.

  1. Telling someone to change doesn’t motivate. 

Sometimes out of the goodness of intentions you want to suggest or tell them of ways they can be more healthy. This doesn’t help. Telling someone they should sign up for a 5k when they haven’t mentioned any desire to do so won’t help them.

What actually does motivate people who you love is living your life in a positive and kind manner. People are more often motivated when they feel positive emotion. They are also more likely to be motivated when you notice they are making some strides of progress and you are there for a fist bump, high five, or hug! And when they do make progress STILL don’t give advice… just get excited with them!

3.Struggles with weight are much more than eating habits. They could be eating well but feeling overwhelmed, or excessive stress. 

It sounds crazy but it’s just science. When you are feeling excessive amounts of stress day-after-day your body begins to physiologically and biologically go into survival mode. Consequently, your body will store food as fat- even the good stuff.

Feelings of being overwhelmed can also effect people’s ability to feel sufficient energy. When your body is flooded with cortisol (stress hormone) the body’s ability to produce energy on a cellular level suffers. Your friend is not just being “lazy” it is 2-3x harder fom them to muster the energy for tasks.

—>So, what in the world can you do about this? Pull them close to you! Most importantly, listen and look for opportunities to love them. Don’t make them feel like a “sympathy case” but do open that door for active listening opportunities. You might even want to set up time to get out and spend some leisure time together. AND, if they want to go eat crappy food for that leisure time DO NOT suggest a healthy option…. just go with it!

4.What if your friend does ask you for help?  

Ah, the day has come when your best friend says, “Hey, I want to get rid of this extra weight. Can you help me?” How can you respond in a helpful manner?

—> Understand what they really want, and don’t assume that just because something works for you it will work for them. 

Identifying what someone really wants, or their “why” for better health is important. You will want to ask them what losing weight would do for them? What do you really want to see by losing weight? Remember, not is not a goal. In other words, don’t focus on what they don’t want (extra weight), instead focus on what they do want (ability to feel more energy). Let their why be their own why.

If they say they just want to lose weight and that’s all they can think of then just go with it. Don’t make a big deal of it at this point.

—> Don’t overwhelm. 

They aren’t going to know exactly where to start. Or, they might feel like they need to start off with 50 different things. Don’t add to the pressure they are likely already feelings. Instead, ask them what process they want to take to achieve their desire. AGAIN, just because something worked for you doesn’t mean it will automatically work for them. Furthermore, its much more important that they find what process they would like to follow.

—> Keep it simple.

If they ask you for a specific suggestion then only suggest 1-2 small things. It’s important you don’t add to the overwhelm. You want to share with them a couple small things that will help them feel more confident in their ability to reach health goals.

I understand that this subject can be one of the hardest when it comes to someone you love. I get it that we want our loved ones to be healthy. But if you passively and/or directly try to tell them they need to fix their weight it will not help. The big idea here is to always demonstrate love and kindness and when they have a desire to do something about it you can then be there, AND they will trust you because they know you love them as they are.

Frankly, friends and family contact me often with the question of, “Drew, will you help me lose weight?” My typical response is, “Why in the world are you wanting to lose weight?” It fits my personality because I genuinely am curious about why they want to lose weight. If someone is trying to do it for unhealthy reasons I encourage them to search deeper.

Alright my friends… keep at it!

All the best,

Dr. Drew

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