Let’s say we have a friend who’s seriously trying to lose some weight.
And we’ve seen her struggle with her weight in the past. We’ve seen her try and fail repeatedly, but she keeps trying.
The thing is, we think we understand her struggle, but we don’t. We think we are being supportive, but sometimes our encouragement does more damage than we realize. Simply by discussing her weight loss with her, we are making some mistakes.
Something happens when someone loses weight. We want to talk about it all the time. We see her wearing her success in public, and we want to hear the details. We want to congratulate her and discover her secret. We want her to twirl around, so we can get a good look at her progress.
When our friend is trying to lose weight, we talk about it way too much!
Believe it or not, all this talking is part of the reason why she might fail.
When we talk about it too much, a begrudging accountability to others begins to creep into her weight loss journey. As other people begin to notice, our friend will feel more scrutinized than ever. We mean well with our questions and comments. But instead, our buddy may begin to feel like we are keeping tabs on her: watching and waiting for her inevitable failure. She knows we love her, and we are rooting for her. But sometimes, because of all the talk, the pressure of weight loss becomes too much, and she might want to throw in the towel to get rid of this heavy feeling.
When someone we know is trying to lose weight, the conversation doesn’t always have to be about how she is doing it. There is much more we care about her life than her diet.
Here are four things not to say because they might unintentionally derail our dieting friend.
1. “Keep it up!”
Sounds harmless, right? It sounds like a positive cheer, but it isn’t. It undercuts her efforts by passively implying that what she has achieved so far isn’t good enough yet. If she “keeps it up” then maybe (just maybe) she will get to the magical place where her body is accepted by everyone. But, she is not there yet, and we are pointing it out.
Saying this works better:
“You’re beautiful,” or “You’re a bad ass.”
2. “How much are you trying to lose?”
This is how we “keep tabs” on her dieting goal, and it feels terrible to the person trying to achieve it. Her weight loss goal is her business, not ours. And her weight loss goal might change as her habits change. Keeping track of numbers tends to undermine progress. It’s too personal a question to ask how much because, inevitably, this leads to us responding that she’s trying to lose too much or too little. And if we’ve made the comment, then her body goals become our business instead of hers alone.
3. “This time next year you’ll look fabulous!”
Or some such nonsense. Newsflash: the person fighting for her health is just trying to get through one day at a time. Next year is way too far ahead for anyone to visualize, so let’s allow her to have her own private thoughts and keep our dreams for her body to ourselves. Again, if she doesn’t live up to our expectations of where she should be in a year, she may feel like a failure. It’s unfair to feed her our dream of how she will look.
4. “Are you allowed to eat that?”
It’s definitely not our job to question what she is putting into her mouth. We are not the food police. It’s her journey and hers alone. Asking her what she is “allowed” to eat is just plain nosy. We are not her parents. We don’t need to publicly question her choices.
The best things to say to our dieting friend.
“Wow, I love what you’re doing for yourself, and you inspire me to treat myself better.”
“Let’s go for a long walk sometime, because I love talking to you!”
“Oh my God, I love roasted Brussels sprouts too!”
When we see her success, it’s important to keep a poker face. She appears committed and is happier. She looks healthy and is taking control of her life. We feel good for her. But we really have to shut up about it. Keeping quiet doesn’t mean we’re not being supportive, but it shows that her weight loss isn’t what matters about our friendship.
We can encourage our friend by simply treating her as our friend, not someone we need to guide.
And the person trying to get healthy should remember that it’s quite alright to politely shut down invasive questions and comments. Simply saying, “Oh, thank you, but I don’t really want to talk about it,” usually does the trick when the subject is brought up.
The last thing anyone wants is to feel watched, policed, or put under a microscope when she is trying to lose weight. Not talking about it at all is the best form of support we can give, because our silence shows that her worth has nothing to do with her body.
Author: Kimberly Valzania
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock