Saturday, August 18, 2007

should I talk to her about weight?

That's one of the teaser lines on Weight Watchers Magazine this month. They have a helpful guide to talking to your partner, your parent, your friend, your sibling, and your adult child about weight issues. Not your weight issues. Their weight issues. Do this, and I can guarantee that Christmas will be a little awkward this year.

Seriously, though, I struggle with this a little. Though I think the health risks of being a little bit overweight are probably overstated, there are people in my life whose lack of attention to their weight may be putting them at risk for serious problems. I think, though, that there is very little that I could say that might do any good, so I try not to meddle.

I have my own experience to inform my actions. I used to dread seeing my family, because on every visit I would hear well-intentioned comments that just tore my heart out. My sister would say, "What I really like about Weight Watchers is that you can eat anything." My father would tell me, "You know, I was overweight at your age and I know that it's no fun." I knew they were right, but I wasn't able to magically make the weight disappear. Whether or not what I was doing was working, natalie deeI wanted them to respect the fact that I was aware of the issue and didn't need further commentary. I finally told them that I didn't want to talk about it anymore, and ironically, started my first effective weight-loss efforts.

There were a few people whose suggestions probably did do some good. My doctor, for example, was hard to ignore. Though I did avoid him for a few years, I remembered his suggestion that I try Weight Watchers when I was ready to do something. Before I tried it, I posted questions on message boards and talked to people who had been successful losing 50 pounds or more. Talking to relative strangers was much easier than talking with close friends or relatives, whose concern was too easy to take as criticism.

I guess what I'm saying is that, though the scripts in WWM are thoughtfully and tactfully written, they are probably going to be helpful only to the people who who are already planning to make a change. We've all heard about the "Stages of Change" model. The readiness is all.

I think that the best thing that we can do for others is to be an example of success. When I was looking for weight-loss advice, the people I turned to weren't the ones who were looking for converts to a diet they just started -- they were the ones who had already done the work and really knew what it took.

I think that it's no coincidence that this article appeared at a time when Weight Watchers is trying to market itself more effectively to men (with the help of superhero spokesperson Greg Gurnberg). If you are a woman who is considering getting your husband to join Weight Watchers with you, I would warn you to reconsider. Weight loss is so much easier for men that it should be illegal. Think about how you will feel as you struggle to lose week after week, while he gets to goal in a month. Give yourself a head start, at least. Maybe you can let him join when you're five pounds away.


  1. Great post, Jen :) This issue is such a tough one and I know how I've always felt when someone well-intentioned would raise the "have you considered doing something about your weight?" thing. Mostly that just caused me to put my hands over my ears and say "la la la la" to make it go away. And to avoid them at all costs.

    One of my good friends began WW with me 5 years ago, got off track and regained everything + 50 lbs. I've been very very careful talking with her about it. Now that she is already prepared to make changes, I can offer ideas and support in ways that she will actually hear. You're totally right about that part.

    As always, good food for thought.

  2. I don’t say anything and wait for them to come to me. I know that weight can have serious health consequences, but for me the mental repercussions are far worst.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07