Helping a friend lose weight...

Have a friend with weight issues?

Maybe you have a co-worker, friend, or family member that really needs a boost in dealing with their weight. What can you do that is not counter-productive? Where to begin? How can you make them want to make a change?

Sometimes even bringing up the topic backfires right from the get-go. Emotion and frustration jump to the foreground. Whoa. What to do…

What you can do for starters is to set a positive example for them, and try to make a few “even-healthier” changes in your own routine yourself. If you are not perfect in some of your own habits, this shifting of your own lifestyle to even better habits will show you some of the difficulties they may face. They will appreciate the empathy.
Support (verbally and with your actions), any efforts your obese friend may be initiating on their own. This may manifest as encouraging comments on their food or shopping choices, fitness goals, lifestyle changes, and so on.

Know some obesity facts

Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more, and you are obese, technically speaking. BMI is defined as weight (kg) / height (metres) x height (metres). You can figure out your own BMI now, to get you on the fact trail. Knowledge is power.

Some other facts: Obesity increases your likelihood that you will get one or many of the following diseases:

heart disease, some cancers, stroke, high cholesterol, hypertension, osteoarthritis, gallstones, infertility, and diabetes.

Healthy weight loss (as opposed to yoyo dieting) will mean cutting 1 to 2 pounds per week. That transfers into 500 to 1000 calories LESS each day. Women actually need 1200 calories per day as a minimum, and men 1600…if they restrict themselves to less than this, that is unhealthy and unsustainable, according to the research.

Understand your relationship with them…

Think first about how you want to approach your friend. Are you, in fact, the right person to broach the subject?

If you do decide to plunge into the conversation, you don’t need to state the obvious that her size is unhealthy. Express your real concern (you may jot some notes down beforehand, and even rehearse a few lines), but try not to come across as patronizing or “judgey” (‘You are doing the wrong thing here, health-wise’, etc. Avoid these words: right, wrong, best, worst, ‘you should’ or ‘you need to’…)

Does your friend push back right away with some discomfort or anger? If so, then pause for a bit. Be patient, and return to the subject in a few hours, days, or weeks. Even if you care a lot, you cannot force them to change.

Be a source of support…

Start simple and easy. Be a friend before becoming a coach.

  • Follow through on your offers to help, so that means practical steps like joining her in doctor’s visits or club meetings or memberships.
  • Avoid the foods that you recommend that she avoids, especially if you live together!
  • Create meals and snacks that support her a good weight-loss strategy: healthy protein, vegetable, whole grain and dairy choices.
  • Clear your pantry and/or fridge of processed meats, any vegetable oils except coconut and olive oil, all lard, chips, snack mixes, baked pastries, candy…Take a look at the ingredients list of every item there, and if it comes in a box and there are more than 3 or 4 ingredients, TOSS IT! Encourage your friend to do a pantry/fridge detox as well.

Weight loss magic formula: move!

On the other side of the equation, boost your friend’s desire to move more. Invite her to a walk (not an exercise walk, just a chance to reconnect and talk.) Remember, your obese friend may have some limitations at this point in his journey on just how much exercise they he can handle.

A gym visit together could also be a wonderful eye-opener, and could get you both started on the chemistry of brain happiness, not to mention the weight loss assistance! Enlist the help of a personal trainer at the gym–they are usually quite aware of issues relating to obesity. You can do a lot of the homework around a gym visit ahead of time, so do some sleuthing on your own beforehand! Strength exercises can be done by just about anyone…they do not involve much higher heart rate or breath rate increases, and they offer the prospect of boosting metabolism for 24-hour calorie burning. The best scenario is for the both of you to visit the gym together in 20-minute sessions. Keep it fun, and ensure that the personal stereo songs or conversations are upbeat.

Back them up!

Recommending specific plans (exercise regimen, diet etc.) can often backfire: be forewarned! Instead, defer to your friend’s healthcare provider recommendations. But do remember that your input in encouragement is vital: study after study shows that obese people who had support from friends, family, or co-workers had much better outcomes.

Kudo’s to you for having an empathetic concern for your friend. Managing the journey with compassion will ensure a healthier and more enlightened outcome for you both!

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