Supporting dieting friends

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Supporting dieting friends Empty Supporting dieting friends

Post by azazel on Tue Oct 21, 2014 5:25 am

So I've got overweight friends. Of course they hate themselves for it (sadly society gets to us all) and of course they try dieting.

My question is now: How to deal with this as a good friend should?

Additional information: The dieting doesn't go great. I've got to watch what I eat very carefully because I hate eating, so I know quite a lot about what foods have easy calories, what foods have the nutrients I otherwise need, and so on and so on. This friend however does everything I were to do to gain weight if I would let go of the "has to have actual nutrients in it in addition to calories" requirement, but doesn't seem to realize she's doing it.
Think: having skipped dinner, and then decide to eat two bags of ham-cheese chips as alternative dinner. Think drinking massive amounts of coke.

Because the "dieting" doesn't work out, she hates herself even more "for having no self control", making her eat more, etc. etc.

I've one time had a conversation with her about her weight (initiated by her), in which I tried making several things clear: 1) she should accept herself for who she is. Changing your lifestyle is hard, and doing it because you're an awful human being is not motivating. 2) I personally don't give a rat's ass about her weight, because it's none of my business (sad I had to mention this, but well, better safe than sorry) 3) Íf she still wants to lose weight, I have a few tips for her (drinking lots and lots of water, because other drinks have a surprising amount of hidden calories and dehydration causes hunger pangs, better figure out a mild lifestyle change that you can keep up indefinitely than a Draconian one that you can't) and 4) failing to lose weight doesn't mean you're an awful human being for having no self control. We all have addictions (mine is internet!), and eating is not something you can cut out completely making it seem to me like it's very hard to shake.

But well, she still tries to diet, and still fails, and still feels bad about it. When we meet with our friend group, she's the one who bring snacks, and she's the one who eats most of them because we don't eat a lot, making me feel like I'm being used as an excuse to "sin" (AKA, I feel like she feels like she can bring so much snacks because I feel like she mentally divides them equally over all people present, while eating most of them herself), which makes me feel like I should eat more snacks because every snack I eat she can't. But that's no solution (see the "hate eating" and the fact that I feel like she probably will bring even more snacks next time).

Can I tell her to stop all mentions of her weight/dieting/etc. etc. because it makes me feel bad? Because I really don't want to play cop and "protect" her against herself (RE: her weight is her own business), but mentioning how much she wants to lose it makes me feel like I'm being a bad friend for not doing that.

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Post by ApocalypseApple on Tue Oct 21, 2014 5:53 am

I think your friend might be better of with some professional help. I mean that in a mental way and a dieting way.

Unfortunately, random people telling her that "so and so" isn't the right way to diet might not reach her the same way a professional dietist might, because they usually have a way of explaining things really well. As far as mental help goes, well, her self-confidence is obviously getting in the way of her succeeding in any way. I dare to guess that she probably takes her failures pretty hard instead of accepting that she failed her diet *this day* and continuing the next day. A bad day doesn't mean the end of a diet and doesn't require a dramatic start-over.

Offer to bring the snacks next time you and your friends meet and bring an appropriate amount. I guess it's difficult to stop her from bringing any too, but maybe phrase it in a way that you're trying to help her and want to get at least this 'weight' off her shoulder. There's also the option for more healthy snacks that aren't any less tasty. A simply google search will give you many options, so it might be an idea to look into that!

Which brings me to your last point. Tell her you feel that she needs the kind of help that you can't offer. And that the fact that your help not working is having a bad effect on you, show her that her behaviour isn't only affecting herself, but others too.

IMO you already did a lot of good things wrt her behaviour and choices she's made. Unfortunately, there is only so much you can do and in the end it's still *her* responsibility, not yours. You can be supportive, but she can't expect you to be a dietist/cop/therapist, she's going to have to find professional help for that.
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Post by kleenestar on Wed Oct 22, 2014 10:16 am

Here's the script I use with friends who are dieting:

"Hey friend, you've mentioned a few times that you're dieting, and I know it's a big part of your life right now. I care about you and about the things that matter to you, but I need to talk to you about how I can be a good friend to you around this issue.

"If you need someone to listen to you when you are having a tough time, I can do that - but only to a limited extent. It's hard for me to hear you talk hatefully about your own body, and it's hard for me to implicitly agree with some of the things you say about weight and fat. If you want me to be your listening ear, then I need you to stick to your feelings of frustration - we all have those. It's also really helpful if you can tell me out loud that you're just looking for someone to listen to you, so that I can respond appropriately!

"If you are looking for practical help, then there are things I can do to help you eat in a healthier way. I have a lot of expertise in applied psychology techniques for behavior change, and I've successfully changed my own eating patterns using them. However, you need to understand that my goal isn't to help you lose weight; it's to help you be healthier. I'm also not interested in being your coach or enforcer. If you want to have a conversation about techniques, I'll offer you what I know, but after that it's up to you to take action. Again, you'll have to be the one to tell me that this is what you want to do.

"If there's something else you need from me as a friend in this area, please let me know and we can talk about how to make it work!"
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Post by eselle28 on Wed Oct 22, 2014 12:21 pm

I have an eating disorder, so I choose not to discuss dieting with my friends at all. This is an okay choice for me to make, and it's an okay one for you to make as well. I would particularly say that the fact that you have a lot of knowledge about nutrition doesn't put you in a position of responsibility. Your friend is presumably an adult and presumably has access to many of the same sources of information that you do and is aware that soda and chips aren't healthy foods. It sounds like she's struggling more with the emotional and psychological aspects of weight loss. I'd also note that binge and starve is a pattern that's associated with some forms of disordered eating, though it's also used by other dieters. In any case? This is a problem that's beyond your expertise, and you shouldn't feel you have any obligation to behave as an expert.

My script for cases like this is a very short, simple one: "I support you as a friend, but this subject makes me really uncomfortable and I don't think I'm the best person to come to about it. Could we talk about [other thing] instead?" I find that short statements work better than a longer discussion about exactly how it's affecting me (which is frustrating to the listener because I'm talking about my own problem in the course of declining to hear about theirs) or parsing what I am and am not able to do (which can give the impression I'm willing to be more involved in the diet than I really am).
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Post by azazel on Thu Oct 23, 2014 2:19 pm

Thanks for your advice guys!

Do you have any advice what to do about other friends who use... less friendly tactics to "help" her?
As in, are playing cop with what she should and shouldn't eat?

They're doing it because they're also concerned about her (she already suffered from thrombosis once, "legitimizing" our concern), but don't listen when I tell them A) Ultimately it's her call, if she doesn't ask people to play cop they shouldn't, B) playing cop and making her feel even worse when she "sins" will do the exact opposite of helping C) Playing cop doesn't even help even in the best case since you can't play cop 24/7.

AAAarrgh I hate the current social mores where bodies of overweight people are suddenly not their own property anymore.

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Post by InkAndComb on Sun Dec 07, 2014 6:15 pm

I might have some advice on the 'playing cop' situation, but what are they doing specifically? Are they taking her snacks if they feel she's 'eaten enough'? Are they reprimanding her/scolding her when they see her or hear about her eating certain things? Are they having discussions that just get too critical about her body/habits?

Mostly, this sort of thing tends to get out of hand in friend groups (imho) where you have fixers. People who think if they just remind/nag/suggest things then you will follow their advice and everything will be cool.
You might want to take a few of the more aggressive 'cops' aside and say it's making you uncomfortable. You can also point out that it isn't helping, and it seems a little harsh/detrimental to your mutual friend. Or you could just say, up front, "hey I think this is getting a little tense, lets change topics and do something else". If you can find ways to not involve food when you gather (easier said than done, but I've done the whole 'let's all eat before we hang because I am brokeee' excuse when things got too weird).
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Post by Jayce on Sun Dec 07, 2014 8:38 pm

Maybe you can suggest to her to go see a personal trainer. They are professionals that are supposed to help individuals achieve various fitness goals after all. Tell her she should talk to someone who is extremely well informed in this area rather than you. I know this advice might not make her feel better about herself but it might get her off your back.

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Post by azazel on Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:54 am

Update: She's super duper going to try dieting again (she said while having bought food around 11 PM), and I asked her if she wanted to go to a dietist to find out a lifestyle change that wasn't horribly optimistic and punishing at the same time.

She explained that she already went, but that the dietist only told her to eat less sweets and eat more bread, but that she already knew about the candy and that she didn't like bread. I suggested she would visit another dietist, but then try to discuss some reasonable options.

I also asked when she said she had a problem with calories via drinking, but didn't like water whether she liked tea without sugar, and she was grateful for that suggestion, so score!

Finally I suggested that to keep her willpower she had to link eating less with another reward, so if she managed to keep her diet for a day she earned [X] that day, and she's going to try that out too.

I was extremely glad to hear that she's now swimming once a week, because personally I worry more about people not getting their exercise than having a few pounds too much.

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Post by InkAndComb on Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:01 pm

Azazel, that's awesome! Exercising will help with her mood too; I find that people who diet on and off tend to really beat themselves up about that, and when you're exercising it's harder to do ("well at least I worked out" versus "I suck, might as well quit").

You know, rereading this I forgot something that helped one of my friends; having a dinner party with a set recipe that is diet friendly. Like, you all cook together and have a healthy ingredient and share. For my friend it was 'stone soup'; we all brought the veg and she had the chicken stock. Each serving was around 115 calories (if I remember) and nobody had to worry about if they were eating what a dieter couldn't, since it was healthy.

Sorry if that's off topic, just a suggestion if ya'll end up eating together again.
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