Not everyone who is overweight has an eating disorder. Recently, Jennifer Kromber, PsyD, wrote an articlegiving a list of do’s and don’ts when preparing to have a serious conversation with a loved one about their weight. Below is a brief summary of her suggestions:
- Don’t use shame. Your loved one may make changes in front of you, but not lasting changes.
- Do not force the issue. Give lots of space. If your loved one doesn’t want to discuss this now, let it go. Just because they aren’t talking to you about their weight doesn’t mean they aren’t talking about it somewhere else.
- Do not frame the discussion around weight and food. Focus on health and life quality.
- Do not offer helpful weight loss hints. They know what to do or not do. If they need a checks and balances system, bow out and hire a professional. Let someone else be the bad guy.
- Do not monitor food or exercise. Do not set up to be the watchdog.
- Do not judge.
- Do remember that your loved one may already feel ashamed. Even if they joke about it, they may not be comfortable with their weight. Be sensitive and thoughtful.
- Do speak about health and feelings, not about weight and food. Comments such as “I’m so worried about your blood pressure” are helpful.
- Do speak with love and respect. Tell them you love them just the way they are. Period.
- Do use empathy. Think of your own sensitive issues. How would you want someone to approach you about them?
- Do look beyond fault. You may think this is a simple issue, but it likely is not. There may be an eating or other issue involved that requires professional help.
The talk is never easy. Ultimately, it is in your loved one’s hands; it’s all their choice about what they will do.