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Many people are fighting to lose weight, and there has never been a stronger market for those of us trying to slim down and get healthy. No one will argue that a strong support system is important to your health goals, but let’s be honest, sometimes friends can go about things the wrong way when it comes to encouraging better choices. Here are three things you really shouldn’t do to your friends who are struggling on their health journey.
1. No fat-shaming, even if it’s a motivational tool.
There is some mistaken conceit out there that fat-shaming is an effective way to motivate people to hit the gym or to modify their diet. Nope. All you will accomplish is triggering self-esteem issues which, for emotional eaters like myself, is just more cause to stuff ourselves.
The truth is, a person will only lose weight if they finally decide that they want to. Fat-shaming will do nothing to motivate someone to lose weight unless the person has already decided they want to do so.
Of course, the extreme opposite is a problem, too:
2. Do not encourage people’s negative health habits, a la “fat acceptance.”
It may have been a response to fat-shaming, but fat acceptance is simply not an acceptable movement. Being fat is not healthy. For most people, it is a choice, not a genetic issue, which means it doesn’t need to be accepted. There are people who encourage bad habits, and you don’t want to be one of them.
There is a way to support your friends without placing your moral sanction on behaviors that are literally killing them. Be there for them, cheer them on, stand up to people who mock them—but don’t just sit back and let them continue on overindulging unchecked.
3. Don’t bring up their weight every time you see them.
My family has a small gathering every February with cousins, aunts, and uncles all coming into town from around the country. For the past few years, I've noticed that a few of them kept bringing my weight up within the first few minutes of conversation. It was demoralizing. Find other things to talk about! If you don’t see each other often, talk about what’s new in your life, or ask what’s new in theirs.
Bonus Rule: Remember, there is a person in there.
Not just a person, mind you, but someone you call a friend. The best way to encourage anybody to get healthy is to encourage them to be completely healthy—body, mind, and soul. Underneath all this flab, there is me, Denny Elliot, and I’m hard to see but, I’ve got a lot to share. Your friends do, too. See them—not just their exterior, but all of them, inside and out.