It’s a loaded question: whether or not to tell your best friend she needs to lose weight. I imagine for many women the answer is a resounding “no!” But for the Express — and for me — the answer isn’t so easy. A recent study of 3,000 women discovered that one in five women secretly thinks her best friend is fat but would never say anything. And only “a mere one in four girls has ever plucked up the courage to tell a friend she should lose a bit of weight.” That quote is practically begging to be mocked, but truthfully, I think it does take courage to express concern for a friend’s health, particularly when you know that for women, especially, it’s a sensitive issue likely to be met with hurt feelings and perhaps even animosity. In fact, the study found that of the women whose friends said something about their weight, “12 percent ‘went mental,’ while one in five ended the friendship.” I suppose that may be a good enough reason to keep one’s mouth shut, but in some circumstances it’s more hurtful not to speak up.If a friend is fat and fabulous and has self-confidence to burn, more power to her. But if a friend is drowning in low self-esteem and her weight is largely to blame, anyone can placate that person and say, “But you look great!” It takes a courageous friend, on the other hand, to say, “Hey, why don’t you join my yoga class? I always feel so much better about myself when I’m working out and taking care of my body.” Or: “Well, let’s quit going out for beer and pizza and try a healthier option instead.” And let’s not forget that weight gain can be the sign of something else, like depression. I feel bad for the woman who is eating her way through depression and doesn’t have a single friend brave enough to say, “Hey, is everything OK? I’ve noticed you’ve been acting a little different lately.” I guess I’m not suggesting it’s appropriate to always bring the word “weight” into the conversation, but it’s certainly appropriate to use visual clues like recent weight gain — or, conversely, rapid weight loss — as a sign that something’s up and should maybe be addressed. Sure, people gain weight when they’re happy, too, but I’d hope a best friend would be clued in enough to know whether there’s reason to be worried.
This topic actually hits very close to home for me. I have a family member who suffers from a mental illness and a few years ago she began rapidly gaining weight — like, an enormous amount of weight. Every few months I’d see her and it looked like she’d gained 30 or 40 pounds since the last time I saw her. And so I said something. And it was really hard and she was hurt and she cried and yelled at me and I felt terrible. But then she admitted that her illness had gotten out of control and she needed help. So she changed her meds, got a new therapist and started a weight loss program. These days it’s still very much a struggle, but I like to think that, for her, knowing she has people who are concerned for her health, who notice the outward signs of her inner distress and will speak up and say something, has helped her … or at least made her feel a little less alone in her struggle. The key is to be sensitive, to approach the topic from the position of a caring, concerned person who wants her friend to be happy, healthy and confident. If your friend is already all those things and just happens to be overweight? Then keep your mouth shut. [via Express]