Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

Reader Kathryn raised a great question today. Kathryn has successfully lost a great deal of weight and knows how hard it is to make the changes, do the hard work to lose weight. She also knows how worthwhile weight loss is.

Today she works for a large organization, and regularly crosses paths with a woman who is morbidly obese, perhaps 300 pounds or more. The woman can’t or won’t or doesn’t make eye contact, so Kathryn’s having a hard time meeting her. But she’d like to extend friendship/support to this woman.

She, like many people who have succesfully lost weight — I’m among them — worry a lot about people who don’t receive sufficient support, information, counsel. We know that having a LOT of resources makes a huge difference. We know we couldn’t have lost our weight without it.

Now, I receive similar versions of this question all the time. Or people I know fully expect me to walk right up to overweight people and hand them a Skinny Daily card. But my pat answer is, of course, that I can’t do that. The other person’s weight is none of my business. I can’t assume a heavy person is miserable or ill.

So I’m opening the question for discussion to Skinny Daily readers. If and when we know we can offer support to heavy people who may (or may not) be struggling, what is our response? What is our responsibility? What is our opportunity, if any? What can or should we do to make ourselves more available, to share our experiences in a way that is helpful, never burdensome, to others?

Remember when you were at your heaviest? What would you have wanted or needed from a formerly heavy person?

Anybody want to weigh in? Er… so to speak? Post your comments below. Remember it’s fine to post anonymously.

56 thoughts on “How Can We Help?

  1. Blader says:

    I know that when I was heavier and in denial, nothing would have gotten through to me. It was a turning point I had to reach myself. So I remember that whenever I am tempted to offer unsolicited advice to another weight ‘sufferer’.

    When our experience can be valuable is when a person has reached their own turning point. When they are actively seeking to go in another direction. To recognize that search in someone else and THEN step up with support and without judgment, acknowledging that the day to day struggle continues but it can be done.

    I have a cousin who is struggling but not at her turning point. If/when she reaches her turning point she knows I am there for support and/or resources. Until then, I silently do my thing and silently bear her disdain for leaving the club.

  2. Debbie says:

    I am with you; I would never just go up to someone and offer assistance. You never know what their circumstances will be, for example:

    — maybe they actually are in the middle of losing weight, and you just haven’t known them long enough to figure it out.

    — maybe they have a medical condition that makes it very hard to lose weight.

    I hope that I help people just by being an example. I was spurred to join Weight Watchers by a new friend, in one of my clubs. She was talking, at lunch, in a matter-of-fact way about her Weight Watcher experiences. I started talking to her about it — she had lost 50 lbs (which she has kept off to this day). I resolved to join WW . . . and for me, the rest is history.

    I try to make sure that I keep a friendly, open, honest attitude. Sometimes folks don’t want me to see what they are ordering for lunch, or they apologize for it. I always tell them that it’s none of my business what they eat, that I don’t care! I know (as most of you no doubt know) that no one meal is reflective of a person’s entire diet.

    I do not feel it is my place to say something to someone. I’m not a very confrontational sort, to begin with, so I don’t “do” interventions particularly well. What I would rather do is just set a good example of “flexible restraint” and be available to weigh in with my opinions when asked (pun intended).

  3. Meghan says:

    What an interesting entry. Ok well first, I lost 120lbs over about 18 months working out and going to WW. I’m now pregnant and putting weight on and it’s killing me but that is another story.

    At the height of my weight loss, I would do everything in my power to offer up advice to those asking, but only those. This isn’t to say that when I saw someone who was morbidly obese that it didn’t take every square inch of who I am not to walk over to them and say “I’ve done it, and when you’re ready, if you’re ready, you can too”.
    Then like you say, I ask myself how I would have responded when I was heavy. Well, although I had an issue with my weight I was taught that hindrances were in the mind. I thought I looked fabulous despite my size and if someone made a comment to the contrary, not only would I donkey kick them while tearing them a new one, I would have let loose with the biggest ‘fat acceptance’ speech I could muster. I have never, nor could I ever presume that someone would want me, a stranger, to counsel them on something that I know to be among the most personal feelings I had. I would sooner talk about my BM’s over a speaker phone on a busy corner than talk about my weight.
    Our oppourtunity is to live by example I think. To be able to share with the curious and provide whatever help we can when asked.
    I suppose the reality is this. Formally heavy and presently heavy people are hyperaware of the attention around them. When I was heavy I referred to it as the focussed lack of attention.

    Before I was ready to announce my pregnancy I put on some weight and started wearing baggier clothes. The whisperings began…
    I had told those around me that after a significant and public weight loss there are people who wait with bated breath for you to put it on. Not in a malicious way, but a human curiousity way.
    When the announcement of my pregnancy was public information I was inundated with comments such as “oh, I just thought you were putting your weight back on”. You would be shocked at how many people felt it was OK to say this to me. Perhaps because I lapped up the attention while I was losing it they felt the need to let me know what they saw. Honest to goodness, people seem genuinely excited to watch me lose weight again after my pregnancy, perhaps to see if “she can actually do it”.
    And this reminded me just how personal a battle with weight is, and though I continue to preach to those that ask about health, nutrition and the benefits of excercise, I’ll never bring myself to approach a stranger.
    I knew when i was overweight, and 1,000,000 people could have tried to help, but ultimately, I sought help when I was ready and hope that my example can inspire!

    Wow, I can ramble on can’t I?!?!

  4. Contessa says:

    Juju,

    I agree with the “none of my business” part.

    However, my dear younger brother is 31 years old and morbidly obese. I am surprised that he isn’t diabetic. We have different fathers and his father had type 2 diabetes. The onset of it came as a stroke. I have gently tried to speak with my brother about losing weight, stressing the fact that it is important that he improve his health.

    My husband and I just hope and pray at this point that he will start improving his health before something traumatic happens to him. I no longer talk to my brother about his weight. I tell myself that his choices in life are his own.

  5. k postmus says:

    I think the first thing that must be done is to see this woman not as someone who is overweight but as someone who probably needs a friend. I have found too that many people who are overweight shut you out, not only by not meeting your eyes but many times by being almost rude. Here’s a little poem I memorized a long time ago that fits many situations, but this one in particular: “He drew a circle that shut me out, Heretic, rebel a thing to flaut, but love and I had the wit to win; we drew a circle that drew him in.” Perhaps extending the hand of friendahip will lead in time to being able to address THE ISSUE, and introduce her to “Skinny Daily”.

  6. angie says:

    wow– this really hit home with me! i used to be morbidly obese, and have lost 135 lbs in about 2 and 1/2 years. i’m close to my goal (want to lose another 20 or so lbs to have a normal bmi.)

    i feel for the people i see who are very heavy, but i also know that when i was at my biggest, it would have made me cry to have someone tell me just how big i was and that i needed intervention from a stranger!

    that said, i would like to be available to talk to friends and coworkers who are starting their journey. just knowing that there is no secret, that it is only those repeated habits and good choices day in and day out that make the weight come off, is a scary yet helpful thing that i’d like to be able to share.

    i’m curious to see what others think– i’m on the fence on this one. by the way– i love your site– i always find inspiration here!

  7. Denise says:

    Does Kathryn want to be friends with this person? Does she have anything in common with her besides the weight issue? Does she (Kathryn) need more friends?

    The person won’t make eye contact… Does she participate in conversations? What makes Kathryn think that the morbidly obese person is even a nice person? Not all fat people are… Do we befriend all thin people because we are all a healthy weight and have that in common with them?

    Perhaps this is an analogy that works… I had someone whom I worked with who befriended me in order to convert me to Christianity and “save” me. This person really did have good intentions and really and truly was concerned for me. This person really did attempt to form a genuine friendship… but an attempt at saving someone just isn’t great foundation for a friendship. She never got that I wasn’t in need of saving. Nobody wants to be taken on as a project to be “saved” – doesn’t matter what hell you are being saved from.

    My “friend” had become a born again Christian in the previous couple of years… People recently “saved” (either new Christians or newly thin people) can real zealots… and sooooo annoying at times!

    There must be volunteer opportunities out there for Kathryn (or anyone else)… There are lots of people who have heard the “click” and are looking for support.

  8. jonquil says:

    How about some sneaky “guerrilla marketing?” Like making Skinny Daily Post your home page, where people at work can see it? Or print out a page of SDP and post it in your workspace? Or even SDP coffee mugs and T-shirts and bumper stickers? Who knows, it might get the conversation started…

  9. Chris says:

    Whenever I see a really heavy person at the gym, I tell them my story and congratulate them for their effort.

    When I was at my last gym, someone told me their story and helped me and I try to pass this on.

  10. h says:

    Denise has a really great point. What volunteer and/or outreach and/or support opportunities exist for those of us with the zealot energy of the recently thin?

  11. skngpeace says:

    Great topic! A lot of thoughts come to my mind
    I agree that perhaps the best thing we can do is to be good examples and to trust that others will act when they can, and that I can be there to support and educate when they are ready. It’s harder to do, though, when one of those “others” is my significant other, whom I selfishly want to stick around as long as possible, but I struggle to respect her own process of weight loss. I also don’t want her to distance herself from me because she thinks I’m judging her, or acting as her taskmaster, so I bite my tongue often when I wish she could make healthier choices about her diet and exercise. But I continue to search for ways that I can lovingly express concern and I make every effort to have healthier options at home.
    When I was overweight, I did have someone approach me with concern about my weight, and it only increased my shame. I silently learned the most from people I respected, who lived their lives by example.
    Particularly if the other person is someone we don’t know, I think we have to be very honest with ourselves about why we want to help him/her. For me, it’s because I sympathize so much with their pain (or what I perceive as their pain) that I want to help them to alleviate my own pain of seeing them. Are we as interested in also “helping” those people who smoke, drink, or abuse other substances; who have other eating disorders we can’t relate to; who engage in other self-destructive behaviors such as staying in an abusive relationship? I struggle with the fine line between letting others live their own lives and acting as a concerned citizen responsible for the well-being of our society and am always looking for other opinions on the subject.

  12. Midknyt says:

    I think Denise makes an excellent point.

    As someone who is a former loser and now a size acceptance advocate, I’d like to point out that not every fat person you meet wants to lose weight. At the risk of raising major debates, not every fat person you meet needs to lose weight either.

    For example, I am 4’10”, 240ish pounds, and have cholesterol, blood pressure, pulse, and blood sugar numbers all lower than anyone else I know. I’m not trying to even get that debate started, I’m just offering an example. I would be insulted if someone tried to befriend me on behalf of saving me, whether it be in regards to weight, faith, or anything.

    Maybe the woman does need support, and friendship, and that is admirable that Kathryn is willing to do that. If you truthfully think about it though, would you have noticed the lack of eye contact if she was thin? By assuming she is not making eye contact becuase she is unhappy with her weight, you are acting off of stereotypes. We must all be miserable at these massive weights, right?

    I’m not saying that she might not be; with the regular field day the media has with showing fat torsos, it’s a wonder that more people aren’t. But I don’t think that you should assume that she is sad because of the weight. What if she’s going through a divorce? Or if you have resemblances to an abusive parent? Hell, she could be gay and finds you attractive and thus is shy and that’s why she won’t meet your eyes. You never know.

    I would say just think about if she was thin, rather than fat. Would you have noticed that she didn’t look you in the eyes? Would you have thought she needed support, and thus thought about befriending her? If you can look at it objectively and say no, then you shouldn’t be doing it just because this woman is fat.

    Midknyt

  13. Midknyt says:

    Just to clarify: By loser, I meant former person losing losing weight. It doesn’t sound quite right as I’m looking at it now.

  14. anon says:

    Okay, here I am, obese and contemplating, just contemplating, mind you,committing to changing my ways forever. I carry so much shame about my weight that I can’t even talk about it to my closest friends– the ones who saw me thru my battle with breast cancer, the ones who know EVERYTHING. So would a (skinny) stranger reaching out to me be of help? No f*ing way.
    What would be of help?
    Well, this website has been very helpful. No, I haven’t taken the plunge, yet— but I am hooked and visit nearly everyday. I am thinking about it– here, in the privacy of my laptop, I am contemplating, gaining courage, starting to think, yes, I can do this.
    I find the frank, no-bullshit nature of the information here helpful– and I appreciate the quality of the writing.
    What I would love is more structure– I have these 8 steps, which are both simple and brilliant, but what else can you tell me about how to proceed? Is there a progression I can work through? Is there support somewhere in the non-cyber world for this approach?
    I acknowledge that I need some help. (A big step and I could still delete that sentence.) Where do you suggest I go from here?
    Okay, whew. Boy, am I glad I can post this anonymously.

  15. Greta says:

    When I was at my heaviest I thought that weight loss for me was impossible because I had tried and failed several times in a row. Then I quit dieting and bought pretty clothing that fit me and set about accepting myself as I was. About that time my next door neighbor came over and asked me if I wanted to join Weight Watchers with her. I remember looking at her as though she was from Mars. I did not even CONSIDER joining with her. It was impossible for me. I had tried. i had failed. I was fat. Period. The end. In due time…another 3-4 years I was “ready” to try again. I then set about researching how to lose weight FOR LIFE and came across the “Eat more, Weigh less” concept of Dr. Dean Ornish and the similar plans of John McDougall and Robert and Nathan Pritikin. I then changed WHAT I was eating and did NOT change how much I was eating and lose the first 30 pounds easily and rapidly. Now I am 65 pounds down and nearly at goal. I never would have dreamed it back when my neighbor approached me. When I was overweight a professional aquaintance asked me when my baby was due and I was not pregnant. My jaw dropped. I don’t remember what I muttered in response. I think we weight loss enthusiasts need to talk to each other and to others only when approached. Everyone knows about dieting. It’s not like it’s a secret. You can go online and Google “weight loss diet” or something like that and find lots to read. Anyone can find information when they are ready to hear it.

  16. JuJu says:

    A quick note for “anon,” who’s thinking about it.

    First, take your time with your decision. I wouldn’t suggest any program to anyone who isn’t prepared to work on this forever. Keeping the weight off takes as much work as losing it. At the same time, because my weight was compromising my health (hypertension, pre-diabetes, arthritis, etc.), I find every bit of effort pays off in profound ways. Think carefully about whether the rewards will overtake the losses.

    To answer your question about whether the SDP has an offline manifestation, the answer is yes and no. There is no organized program, but there are plenty of groups who meet — in a few counries, actually — who use SDP essays and the 8 Habits in their support groups, whether the groups are self-formed or part of some other, more organized group. In particular Tops, Overeaters Anonymous groups and WeightWatchers groups tend to use both our essays and forums to talk.

    I had great luck working with a medical practice near me with a weight loss program. Their support system included a behaviorist who used marvelous tools to help us think through our own behavior patterns.

    My advice to you would be to shop around, visit support groups to see whether they feel right to you or not. Take your time. And if one support group doesn’t do it for you, there is always another, and always the option to grow your own. I do believe we wrote something awhile back on forming your own group… use that search engine to find it.

    Thanks for your kind words about SDP. And whether you decide to lose weight or not, I hope you’ll take good care of yourself.

    JuJu

  17. JuJu says:

    Found the post, “Support 101,” written December 3, 2003. Still looks good. Lots of links to learn more… Can’t post the link here, sorry, but use the calendar or search engine to find it easily…

    This site could use some weeding… sheesh!

    JuJu

  18. Mary Jo says:

    Just knowing how I felt inside when I wasn’t mentally ready to live a healthier lifestyle, I’d never just approach someone about weight loss. If someone asks you what you are doing to lose, or maintain…I’m all over that. I didn’t start seriously losing until I gave up diets forever and decided that life is nothing but choices. I can choose to be healthy or not. I can choose to move and do exercise or not. I can choose healthy foods for myself or not. As soon as I decided I was in control, I was on my way to success. I’ve now lost 45.5 pounds and have a ways to go…but there is no ‘diet’ — so no end point. I would have never been ready to hear any of that before — especially unsolicited!

  19. judes says:

    I think, like most people from what I can read, that you have to hit your own personal “wall.” If you haven’t hit that wall, you aren’t going to change the way you want your life to be. Each person has a decision to make every day on what their life is going to consist of. Each action has a consequence. It’s that simple (and that hard).

    I lost 90 lbs. in Jan 2001 – Jan 2002. Found love (and that’s an excuse not a real reason) and gained it all back, PLUS MORE. Now, I’m starting over again. I have lost 25 lbs. in three months thanks to the help of WW, BUT MOST ESPECIALLY…..ME. I hit the wall again. I want to do better. For me. For my life. For my husband. For future children.

    When/if a person hits that wall, than I say talk about a life change with them till the cows come home if you both want to. But until you hit the wall, until you decide, it won’t factor into any person’s life.

    My humble opinion. I liked this topic.

  20. Cheri says:

    Friendship and acceptance would be the kindest way to establish a relationship with this woman. It seems that by not making eye contact, self esteem could be an issue, which, again, might go along with being overweight – never mind the degree of being overweight – we all seem to have been there. You seem to have her on your mind and I would guess that she will eventually make eye contact and hopefully that will be the start of something good. She may already know that you exist – in your former overweight self – and now with your weight loss -hopefully she will bring up the subject herself once she feel comfortable with you – anything else would seem rude and mean-spirited.

  21. Autumnseer says:

    Well, I’m one of those who is still overweight and who feels like they’ve tried hard with anything and everything but nothing has worked long term, the switch in my mind/body has not been flipped though I feel nearly desperate to find it.

    To have someone come up to me, obviously because I’m fat, and start giving advice (as if I haven’t been trying for years) or who wants to pity and save me would be mortifying. This is so personal, shameful and frustrating. As it is it takes everything I have to go in to the gym every day because I’m still the same weight as when I joined a year ago. I feel like everyone assumes I’m not doing anything or stuffing my face with potato chips when I leave the gym and I don’t!

    What DOES help is when someone is encouraging. A little comment like “you work out so hard – keep it up you’re doing great”. Then, perhaps, a little at a time a friendship and trust and understanding may or may not be established.

    Sometimes a reformed fatty is like a reformed smoker. Need I say more? Zeal does not help a fat person. The lack of understanding and patience for a fat person to “get it” is appalling considering they may have tried for years to get all the pieces in place to lose. Even Oprah, though I envy she has found what works for her and she’s worked hard at her loss and now looks great, is a just a little holier then thou these days which I find rather irritating.

    JuJu I do love the idea that someone wrote about earlier to get mugs or hats or something that might prompt someone to ask a question and then a dialogue could be started. But please don’t go up to someone as if you’re on a mission. That would be enough for me to never go to the gym again!

    I hope I’m not sounding too negative. I am ever hopeful and DO find some of the weight loss experiences very inspiring. Possibly if I knew one of the tiny personal trainers at the gym had lost 50-100 lbs. I might shyly venture over and talk to her. In any case, I hope I find my way.

    Now, off to the shower as I just had a good workout, sweaty workout at the gym!

  22. Elizabeth S. says:

    I wouldn’t possibly have the gall to approach someone first about whether or not they should make the decision to lose weight. I have had people approach me, and I have given them the best advice I could. One lady was concerned about her puberty-aged daughter gaining weight. I tried to tell her not to make an issue out of it, but just to do family health-related activities such as biking, walking, etc.

    Losing weight is sooooooo personal. I felt like hell when I was overweight, but was adverse to anyone (especially my mother, lol) making comments to me.

    Lukily, I finally decided to make the decision myself (after a very scary TIA at the age of 40). I decided I didn’t want to be a 40-year old stroke victim and that small TIA was enough of a health issue to scare me into losing weight. All of the bonus health issues that came with it were a plus+. Getting up without holding on to anything is the main thing that still amazes me.

    Anyhow, back to the main question. No, I wouldn’t approach anybody. It’s not in me to hurt someone’s feelings (whether intentional or not), and I belive speaking up without first being approached would do this.

  23. Kamille says:

    We all want to pass on knowledge that we have gained whether it be to people we meet, our children, etc. However, the person has to be open and ready to accept it. How do you know? If you come along side someone and get to know them, you will know. Now uless they ask, they are not ready and open to listen. But if you come along side someone, do life with them…the opportunity will present itself. It might be your testimony once they get to know you better or maybe just topic brought up in conversation. What ever it is, the presence of a relationship makes sharing sucessfully much easier.

  24. Terasee says:

    I am still in that Obese state but I have lost 32 pounds in 4 1/2 months. I know that for me to even think about losing weight there had to be a trigger that set me off. For me it was my 50th birthday.

    Up until that time, I watched my dad lose 50+ pounds and my sister would gingerly slip in the fact that she was walking for a hour every day. But none of that really had an impact…I say…but I wanted to be like them. I just didn’t believe I could.

    Then my birthday came around…I began to take inventory and I didn’t like what I saw in my future if I didn’t do something! So I decided. Then I told my husband what I had decided. He decided to come along on the ride with me.

    That has been the best part. He is eating the same things as I am. I don’t have to make separate meals. And we both encourage the other to get on the exercise equipment.

    But now I see my sister, and my friends, and think…how can I encourage them to do the same thing?

    The best thing I think I have done is be an example that, even at 50, the pounds will come off! I give them my stats at least once a month. I share my triumphs and my hardships…because no one wants to hear how easy it is…we all know better. But the struggle is part of the growing into this new lifestyle.

    Change is never easy; especially when it comes to a total lifestyle.

  25. Jeanne says:

    I agree with most of what was said above. I am in WW, have lost 15 pounds over 2 1/2 months, and need to lose about 100 more. If someone had approached me, or approached me now, I would just find it offensive, and none of their business. I think you just have to feel that “click”, and until you are there, it is not going to happen. And I also don’t believe that encouragement (pressure!) from others is going to help one to get to the “click”. In fact, it may even have the opposite effect. Just let people live their own lives, be their friend if you have things in common, and work on yourself. If I know someone has lost weight, or maintained a weight loss, I am always willing to ask on my own how they did it.

  26. SLM says:

    I have lost 70 lbs in the past 9 months. What I have begun to realize is that I need to be the friendly one when encountering someone who is overweight and shy (avoids eye contact). I’m so used to being the shy, no eye-contact person, but now I feel it is my responsibility to make a point to looke someone in the eye and smile brightly. I forget that in my new body my old ways come accross as possibly stuck-up or rude rather than shy. I think reaching out is about seeing people in need and acknowledging them. If a conversation should arise and there’s some way to gently mention my weightloss success, then that could open a door for helping. For those who know me, if they want to ask about my weightloss I am more than happy to share anything and everything I’ve found helpful. But I leave it up to them to ask.

    SLM

  27. chum says:

    Absolutely do not go up to a perfect stranger and offer weight loss advice or even sympathy/empathy. God, as a recipient of such “helpfulness,” I can tell you it is awful. Gah. While the person’s intentions may be good, no one wants to know that others are sort of appraising (?) them from afar.

    If you want to be helpful to others who are losing weight and who are well-known to you, show by example and let them know through your actions that losing weight can be done. Never presume the other person wants to lose weight if you’ve not been told. Just be there, talk about your experiences if you want (as you would to a friend), and if she wants advice, she’ll feel comfortable enough asking.

    Actually, my friends really helped me start on my weight loss journey by picking healthy restaurants or choosing to do something non-food related when we got together. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were trying to help me make the decision to get healthier without telling me. I was receptive to it, not only out embarrassment (who wants to be the only one ordering cheese fries if everyone else has soup and fish?) but also b/c they played on my respect for them and for their lifestyles and knew I would follow along when with them. Eventually, I asked questions and chose on my own to change (still trying, actually).

    If you want to be helpful to a total stranger who you see needs to lose weight, perhaps just be friendly to them without mentioning weight, for god’s sake. If you eventually become a friend, then you can approach it otherwise. For example, if I am on the subway and see someone very overweight (more than me now), I always either make room on the seat for them or even get up and stand (without saying anything of course, this IS NY) — I remember how tiring it was to drag all that weight around. Smile, then move on. People are so grateful for that small gesture, you would be surprised.

    Well, you get the drift….

    Thanks for bring up this topic, Juju. Great job, as usual.

  28. Sheryl says:

    I think it is safe to assume that a morbidly obese person is miserable or ill– or in denial. I agree though, that it is none of my buisness. All I can do is hope that person gets the help they need– there’s plenty of info out there. If the subject comes up, that’s an invitation– not neccesarily to advise but at least to listen and encourage.

  29. peggy says:

    i think i would just say to the overweight person, morning, nice one isnt it, in passing, and just keep on walking. if she sees her enough i think that person will responde if she needs new contacts. i know when i was overweight, i was so ashamed of me and didnt want anyone to see me. thought everyone who looked at my fat thought i was not a person of worth, that i did not count for anything. then one day, i said when i have a stroke and die, who will take care of my kids. that was the wake up call for me, i started eating healthier, it has taken me 35 years to lose 100 lbs, i joined tops, a non profit weight loss support group, so i could get out of the house and see that i could function in the skinny world. as of this post i am 2.50 lbs from my goal weight. i work hard every day to stay on my plan, and if i fall off, i just begin again another day. losing or gaining weight is a personal choice, we have to all make a decision to be overweight or a normal person. thanks for this site. just love it.

  30. EstherBelle says:

    So many great responses! This has been fascinating to read. I deal with people talking to me about my weight everyday. I work in the public, and at least once a day someone “offers” me advice about how I can lose weight. I have about 60 pounds to lose. Actually, I have about 60 more pounds to lose, having lost 165 pounds in the last 2 years.I eagerly talk about my weight loss struggles with anyone who asks, but I would be greatly offended by someone who wanted to get to know me in order to ‘help’ me. I may or may not lose the other 60 pounds. I am quite happy right now with the way my body is working.One of the things I hate the most is seeing a ‘formerly’ overweight person saying “If I can do it, anyone can do it.” I think that is the height of arrogance. Please don’t assume to know what my battles are and what I can or can not accomplish.

  31. Nikhila Pai says:

    At my heaviest, I was 230-odd pounds (at that weight, I tried not to step on a scale, so I’m not sure) at 5’1″. I was a wide, short woman, but I considered myself beautiful and healthy enough.

    But, I’d also given up. I assumed there was no way I could lose weight. If someone had approached me with the skinny daily post, weight watchers, atkins, or some other random helpful suggestion, I would have felt bad. Of course I knew it was possible to lose weight–but I had given up on it and was working hard on accepting who I was. I spent a lot of time and energy accepting my body, loving myself, and being OK with no fitting the norms of beauty.

    But, somewhere down the line, a painful break-up kick started some weight loss and made me realize I could lose weight if I wanted to try. So I tried, and tried, and tried some more. Three years later, I’m down to 150-ish. I’d still like to drop another 15 pounds, but I train for triathalons, ride 40 miles on my bike, swim, run, and dance till the wee hours on the weekends. At 31 I am a little ball of energy–way more energy than at 25.

    However, the lessons I learned at 230–of self-love and acceptance–still help me today. I know I can’t lose weight if I think I’m ugly or fat or useless. Weight loss only comes when I love myself and feel good about myself. I know that no matter how much I lose, I can easily continue to find fault in myself–unless I choose not to.

    Which brings me to how I support other fat women. I don’t dwell on my successes when I talk with someone who is heavy because I know, when I heard such success stories, I felt terrible about failing every time I tried because it was clearly possible to succeed. Instead, I dwell on how, for 2 years, I walked with pride at 230–how I picked up my (now ex) fiance, how I was a sexy little thing. How I loved myself. I encourage them to love and accept themselves, rolls and all. I also stress that a perfect storm of events helped spark my weight loss. That weight loss flows when you’re committed and ready with the time and energy to focus on it.

    Then I tell them it wasn’t till I completely adored who I was that I was able to change myself–both physically, mentally and emotionally as weight loss takes a change from all three levels.

    Now, I don’t offer this advice unsolicited. I say these things only when I feel like my friends or acquaintances are open to hearing it. If they are not, I merely tell them they are beautiful and that beauty and fat are NOT mutually exclusive. I also offer to go on walks and hikes at any pace they set. I offer myself as workout partner to all–because it was this type of generous support that kept me moving and shaking and eventually training for triathalons. I also say, sometimes it’s not about focusing on losing weight, it’s about just moving ones body around and seeing how nice it feels to just get off the couch. And that’s when I yank them off the couch.

  32. peg says:

    When I was at my absolute heaviest, no one could have said anything to me. The decision to start losing had to come from within. Lucky for me, it did. As it happens, a close friend of mine was losing weight when I was at my heaviest. I saw her doing it naturally and in a healthy fashion and realized that I could do it too.

    Once I started losing, folks would ask me “how I did it?” I’d tell them (still will) but wouldn’t offer the information unless I was approached. I remember how I would have felt if someone had just walked up to me and said, “I know how you can lose weight!” I would have wanted the floor to swallow me up and I would never want to make anyone else feel like that.

  33. Heather says:

    This is a tough question. I remember when I was 50 lbs. heavier. I didn’t want anyone commenting on my weight and I would have been offended if they did. On the other hand, now that I have a way of losing weight that appears to be both healthy and sticking, I want to share it.

    This is one of the biggest struggles I have with my father, in fact. He’s morbidly obese–close to 400 lbs.–and I’d like to share my resources with him. And I’ve tried. I’m in a 12-step program for weight loss, and I’ve tried to “12 step him” into Overeaters Anonymous. But the more I try to make him, the less he’s interested. So what I’ve come to do, with him and with everyone else, is simply tell my story.

    I just say that I’ve lost 50 lbs. in the past year by refraining from eating sugar, fried foods, fast foods and snack foods. I still eat plenty. I feel healthy, and I love myself more than I ever have. I have a successful relationship and professional life. And more than that, I am not as anxious as I used to be. I rely on the support and counsel I get in OA, as well as working the steps, to make it through.

    With someone who is a stranger and morbidly obese, I probably wouldn’t say anything. If they asked, or if we got into a conversation, I may mention my weight loss and leave it at that. I know from my own experience that it takes willingness to change anything about myself. And I don’t expect someone else to be willing to follow my path immediately, or at all. But if we keep seeing each other, and she works up the interest, she can ask me about it, and I’m happy to share.

    Does that make sense? Thanks for asking!

  34. kathy says:

    Because I consider morbid obesity usually the result of an eating disorder, I would approach this person only if she were responsive to an offer of friendliness. The person practicing disordered thinking and disordered behavior is probably in denial may not be ready to think about changing or getting help. The most important thing is friendship, not evangelizing.

  35. anon says:

    I hate this question. Every time we look at a magazine, TV or the like we become painfully aware that our body types are far from desirable. usually the fat person is the buffoon taking the prat falls or the butt of the joke. If you can remember how you felt when people just strangers would just walk over to you as if it were their God given right and offer you weight loss advise or inform you about what you already are painfully aware of …that you are overweight . I have had this conflict time and time again and you know I say please leave us alone. We know we are heavy and one breath away from a heart attack. We smell the gyms and hear the aerobics classes. Please allow us the chance to get motivated in our hearts and make that move. People sometimes fail to see that unless we are motivated on the inside all the aggravation(under the guise of helpful weight loss advice) from others is not going to help unless we are ready in our hearts to kick the poor eating habit in exchange for healthy ones. We are capable of asking for help if we need so until we have our “Ah ha” moment let us find our own path to that new life.

  36. Glumlot says:

    I was in a grocery checkout line once when a well-meaning person looked in my basket and offered that there were healthier alternative to the foods I was purchasing. I was so embarrassed and offended. On the inside I wanted to just wilt away and die. On the outside I flashed her hateful look and turned away. I let the incident ruin my whole day.

    When I was severely obese (450 pounds) I had a lot of psychological defenses in place to protect myself from further hurt. Most of these defense mechanisms were not rational, but they pretty much drove my emotional reactions to people and a lot of my personal behavior. They were part of the dynamics of my binge eating disorder.

    Like the overweight women described in the newsletter, I avoided eye contact when I was out in public. I avoided contact of any kind if it was possible. Certainly low self-esteem and feelings of shame were part of the reason. I also felt like I was constantly being judged about my weight, looks, eating habits, and even intelligence. I didn’t want to see people looking at me. Eye contact was painful. It was as if the other person’s eyes became a mirror that reflected all the truths about me that I didn’t want to see.

    I wouldn’t have cared what the other person’s intentions were or how much I really needed to hear what they had to say; I would have felt hurt and offended. Any mention of my weight or health issues by another person, stranger or not, would send me off to find solace in food and drive me deeper into my isolation and depression. If I sensed that someone had befriended me in an effort to help me, I would have felt manipulated and betrayed on an exaggerated scale.

    Just because I’ve turned my life around doesn’t mean someone else is ready to hear anything I’ve got to say. I don’t have the right to directly offer unsolicited help or advice to friend or stranger. What I can do is be open about and share my recovery in a more global way by not hiding it. I can share my experience through a personal web site, newsletter, or a weight loss support group.

  37. Shelly says:

    Personally, I’m trying to lose weight right now. I started WW (again) about 2 weeks ago, and so far have succesfully lost almost 5 pounds.

    However, if a stranger came up to me – especially a skinny one – and started dishing out weight-loss advice to me, I’d probably smack her upside the head and lash out with a few choice words. I would find it extremely offensive.

    That being said, the first time I was on WW (actually, just prior to going on WW) I was talking to a recently-made friend – a girl I had known for about 5 months. She was going to work out, and I made an offhand comment about the fact that she didn’t need to, she was so skinny. She laughed and pulled a pic out of her purse – a year before she was a whopping 325 pounds.

    I ended up talking to her for hours on it, and it made me join WW. I lost 70 pounds in 6 months on the first go-round…gained it all back when I got pregnant, and now that I’ve had my son, I’m on it again to get rid of this baby weight and somehow (finally!) make goal.

    So, in your friend’s situation, I’d say try to talk to her – but not about weight. Just talk to her, introduce yourself, say “hi”. Maybe they’d hit it off. And eventually, the subject would come up. But it’s a situation that the overweight one needs to bring up. Weight issues are totally off-limits to bring up out of the blue, IMO. No matter how much you weigh.

  38. Karyn says:

    I have a lap-band, and I found out about it nearly three years ago when I heard that Sharon Osbourne had one. I wish that there was more information in the media about this, because it seems to me that the gastric bypass gets a lot of press but a lot of people are probably like me and see that as a very drastic procedure. The lap band is much less risky and is completely reversible, and I can still have children with no problem at all. I love my band and yes, sometimes I fight the urge to approach an obese person and tell them about it, but I could never, ever do that.

  39. MaryK says:

    I have to agree with the majority — for God’s sake, leave the poor woman alone! It is None. Of. Your. Business. If she wanted your help, she’d have asked for it.

  40. Mary says:

    If someone was to find common ground with me and then add their weight loss testimony – I would be delighted to have someone offer support to me… that’s why I go to this site..perhaps it’s just me, but I like support and like people to interact with me. I wouldn’t have gone near that lady without some kind of bridge though – she doesn’t want this support.. but there are people, like myself who would delight in it..
    I had a friend who was in the Army who nagged and pushed me to run all the time with her – guess what – I LOST THREE SIZES. She never let up on me, she was NOT Pleasant with me… my gosh I thrived on that..I’ve searched for that again… but then that’s just me..
    MM

  41. Midknyt says:

    I am glad that most people seem to be on the same page about random advice-giving, but there are some comments that I find alarming.

    For starters, Sheryl, I think it is not even remotely safe to say that a morbidly obese person is ill, miserable, or in denial; I myself am none of those things. I haven’t had even a cold in over a year, whereas my skinny 180 pound fiance has had numerous colds, as well as the flu that was bad enough they were worried about him getting pnemonia. I don’t have any chronic illnesses, if that’s what you mean by being ill – low cholestrol, no hypertension, no diabetes or even pre-diabetes, nothing. I am not miserable, nor am I in denial. I’m fat and I’m fine with that.

    By thinking things negative like that, you are no different than the kids who tease the fat kid in school, than the people who make you feel like you can’t give them eye contact because they are judging how fat you are. Yes, a lot of obese people do fall into the categories you mentioned, but I do not think it is safe to assume everyone feels that way. What about the people, who have even posted ahead of this post, who have lost a significant amount of weight, but are still considered morbidly obese? Are you telling me that a woman who has lost 100 pounds and still has 100 pounds to go is in denial? I doubt that anyone who had lost that weight would be miserable, as they have already come so far.

    Just because you couldn’t stand yourself when you were (or if you still are) obese, doesn’t mean everyone in the world who is is self loathing.

    On an entirely different note, Kathy, why do you find morbid obesity usually the result of an eating disorder? I used to be bulimic, and I was just as big beforehand. If anything, it was the people making me feel bad about my weight that lead me to the eating disorder, not the eating disorder leading to my weight. I’m not trying to attack you or anything, I’m actually really curious as to why you have drawn these conclusions.

    Midknyt

  42. Carolyn says:

    I lost 22 lbs with WW at 51 and have maintained my weight loss for 1 year. I was not morbidly obese but lost the weight to ease the pain of severe arthritis in my knee. I was so amazed at all the positive side effects, sleeping well, no acid reflux, etc. I became a zealot. But only with my sister or people who asked me about the loss. I was able to share how I felt and my experience with my At Work WW group and so never got the urge to go up to a perfect stranger to offer advice. But after a couple of months, I finally got the message from my sister that she didn’t want to hear any more about weight loss. Two months ago, she proudly told me she had lost 14 pounds through WW and my example had been what motivated her. She was so afraid that it would work and then what would she do? Being a very intelligent person, she finally figured out that she wouldn’t lose the weight if she didn’t try. She has 15 pounds to go and knows that she will make it. I do feel that it is okay to gently push a family member or very good friend but I wouldn’t consider offering advice or help to anyone who didn’t ask for it. We make our own choices and unless our choice is to do what it takes to lose and keep off the weight, nothing anyone says is going to make a difference.

  43. Kathleen says:

    I would never have wanted someone to come up to me. I think when she is ready, she will ask for the help she needs. We can’t have someone else make us be ready. Seeing someone else’s success at losing weight is inspiration enough, if one is going to be inspired (at all) that is. So I say, say NOTHING. She’ll come to you (as will anyone else) if they want you to help.

  44. Kris H says:

    I definitely agree that Kathryn should not approach the woman about weight loss!

    When I weighed 325 lbs three years ago, I would not have tolerated any such approach.

    A person has to come to their own decisions about their body and their health themselves.

    However, if someone asks, I am happy to tell them my story, talk about what has and hasn’t worked for me, and describe my ongoing journey!

    Not “skinny” and probably never will be, just a whole lot healthier and happier now…

  45. steph says:

    I think it’s important to remember that lots of fat people know EXACTLY what it is that they should be doing. I know way more about nutrition than my 120 lb friends. I know how many calories I should be eating per day. I know about emotional eating and binge eating and habit breaking and journal writing and low carbing and cardio/resistance exercises and metabolism and taking small steps and the no diet philosophy and diet fads and self talk aaaaaannnnnnd…. the list goes on. Hell, I know so much I could write a diet book, even though I’ve never successfully lost more than 20 lbs without gaining it all back (and I have A LOT to lose). My point is that I don’t think that any person, no matter how much weight they’ve lost, is going to be able to solve this puzzle for me. The fact is that I need to figure out how to apply all of the things that I know, to my life. It may just be possible that the last thing I need, is more advice. And yet I still look for it.

    I agree with the person who pointed out that diet advice is everywhere, but it’s also true that most of it is inaccurate. I appreciate that you are trying to share your accumulated wisdom, but I don’t know how you would go about it. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to help this woman Juju, but proceed with caution.

  46. steph says:

    Correction–I mean, proceed with caution *Kathryn*!

  47. JuJu says:

    Tee hee. Yes, Stephanie, there really is a Kathryn.

    Thanks, everybody for all of your comments. I think our consensus is our bodies are our own business. We each need to find our own paths. We can be helpful if approached, but can never assume we can know whether someone a.) actually HAS a weight problem; b.) isn’t already losing weight; c.) wants to lose weight, ever; and of course, d.) is ready.

    And then, on the other hand, we should be ready to help if we are ever approached, but our help should be respectful, gentle, understanding that each of us finds a different way to get this work done.

    This was an important discussion, folks. Thanks for participating!

  48. Sheri says:

    Denise, I SO relate to your zealot comment. I had a real problem with this when I first lost weight. Not that I would approach people but that I suddenly found myself noticing what everyone else was ordering in restaurants and buying at the store and such. I felt myself compelled to say something…and at the same time knew that my comments would be completely inappropriate and unwelcome. Knew this because, had someone said it to me several sizes ago, I would have been horribly offended. NOT to say a person may not have the very best of intentions, but there are just some things we have to let go. And letting people come to the light of healthy eating and weight loss in their own way, and in their own time, is one of them (should they even choose to do so).

  49. ivorygorgon says:

    Wow, this entry hit a nerve! Look at all of this fantastic discussion.

    I just have to throw in my own 2 cents. I understand the desire to help people – BUT! Other people’s fat is nobody’s business but their own. Unfortuntately, obesity is a problem that can’t be hidden, like other problems, so somehow people think it is public domain. It isn’t. I read the post above by the formerly obese woman who went up to the obese woman in the gym and made some comments. I’m offended just thinking about it! And it didn’t even happen to me. I also think that other’s perceptions of how obese we are changes from person to person. I still think I have a long way to go on my fat loss journey, yet others could think I am fine, or that I am severely overweight! I have enough of my own baggage without having to deal with other people nosing into my body and my business. If I want someone’s help I will ask for it.

    I tend to keep very quiet about my fat loss efforts as it is very personal and private to me. I also don’t want people watching every morsel that goes into my mouth, or making comments if I miss a day at the gym. Overall I think folks aren’t that helpful. Mostly if want someone’s opinion I will ask for it, until then, leave me alone. And boy don’t I just sound belligerent.

  50. Dawnyal says:

    I have several friends in the same boat. I lead by example. I can talk until I’m blue in the face and it won’t help them unless they are ready to be helped. If I find something new or interesting on the weight loss/exercise front I be sure and pass it along their way but I do not push it upon them. I can only hope that as I start having more successes they will want the same for themselves and find something that works for them.

    If they approach me and ask questions, then I’m more than willing to share what I know and point out a few resources to help too.

  51. Misa says:

    People aren’t ready until they’re ready. A lot of times, people know they need to do something and are in the I-need-to-do-something-but-I-don’t-want-to stage. Oftentimes, these people get very angry when people talk to them about weight loss.

    Think of it this way: If you were 300 pounds, probably uncomfortable just living/moving around/etc, and a complete stranger walked up to you and said something like “I’d like to help you lose some weight” … how would you feel? A lot of people would translate that as “You’re fat, I’m not, and I feel like I’m more knowledgeable than you, and I want to make you my ’cause'” … whether the person saying that meant it that way or not.

    I say don’t offer the advice unless she asks.

  52. Kathryn says:

    Wow… so many responses … clearly this is an issue we’ve all thought about from time to time.

    No, I won’t approach this woman. And, yes, if someone had done so to me when I weighed 213, I would have dissolved in shame.

    But … and this is important… carrying more than 100 lbs. of excess weight is a huge health problem. For this woman and for so many others.

    I just wish there were more I could do.

    Peace.

    Kathry

  53. Cassey says:

    NEVER offer unsolicited advice. This is the type of thing that heartbreaks are made of.

    You might as well walk up to her and call her a big fat loser.

    I used to weigh 390 lbs. I was beyond morbidly obese. I was in a very bad place.

    Now… 215 lbs gone. I still have struggles and food issues and I still fight my food demons on a daily basis, even though I’ve been at my goal weight for almost a year.

    The thing is – this person KNOWS how big they are, they don’t need to have it pointed out again. They also probably know that if they changed their lifestyle, that they would be changing their lives. They don’t need to be told that either.

    However… if I am in a conversation with someone, whether they are big or small, and the topic of eating, losing weight or size or whatever comes up – I own up to my loss of 215 lbs, and tell them… “The weight is gone, but the struggle remains.”

    The thing of it is knowledge is power. It wasn’t until I took a genuine interest in my own health, that I made the changes. No amount of “advice” from anyone, could have made me change any faster. If someone who is my current size, came up to the old me… to give me advice… I would have cried myself to sleep every night for at least a month.

    IMHO, the only thing a person can do, is establish a friendship and be a friend. If there is a time in the future when that person wants advice or help – there will be a clear sign of that. They might talk about food more, or maybe they will pick up a conversation on your food struggles etc. Whatever it is – let that person reach for you – not the other way around.

    A person can only change if they want to.

    And shame is not ever going to change a person.

    If your advice is wanted or needed, you will know it. Trust me. 🙂

    I make no secret of how much weight I have lost now… some people want to talk about it, some people don’t. I don’t bring it up in the conversation unless that is where the conversation goes all on it’s own. I answer questions and if I see someone reaching for something – I will always give them a hand to reach for.

    Great topic JuJu.

  54. Michelle says:

    My 2 cents: I, personally, would not appreciate a stranger or mere acquaintance inquiring about my weight. I would feel shame, self-consciousness, and humiliation. If a close friend brought up the issue in a non-judgemental, caring way I would be more willing to discuss it. My parents – forget about it!! Too many old issues there!

    JuJu, please don’t “weed out” the site as you mentioned upstream. I’m a relative newcomer to SDP and I want to go back and read each and every post that I missed. I love this site so much!

  55. Julie says:

    I just read everyones opinion and I seem to be coming at things from another direction. Although I would not appreciate a total stranger giving me advice out of the blue if one person would extend their hand in friendship and offer help though this it would mean everything. I feel like I am drowning in 100 pounds of fat. Between being menopausal and terribly out of shape every ounce is a constant struggle. I enjoy going to the gym but hate to go alone. The same with walking. Where to find friends in my area with my problems or who are success stories?? I avidly read SDP and look forward to seeing it in my mailbox. Julie

  56. Debbi says:

    Wow! This is really difficult. I have lost and regained and been on both ends of this argument. Reality is no one wants to be told they so obviously overweight. It implies that we are unattractive, unloved, unhappy, and worst of all unaware. I always kept in mind that regardless of my personal opinion of a person’s size or health problems they may be hurling upon themselves that the thing they need more than anything is a smile. What I always do when I see someone coming toward me who is very overweight I look them in the eye and smile as brightly as possible and say “hello”, “good Morning” or “I love your blouse. What a flattering color for you.” You would be surprised how this can do more good than anything to those walking around feeling miserable about their struggle and plight.

    What all of us “who just want to help” forget is that within our own families there are often several truly helpful people all ready hard at work and your “help” is really not only not needed but is much more likely to invoke guilt and self loathing on a much grander scale because now a stranger is telling me how fat I am. Leading to even more self destructive behavior.

    In my family I have a grandmother who has for most of my life told me “you have a such a beautiful face, if only you’d lose weight.” My aunt (whom I loved dearly) was much more blunt. She would just say “you’re getting fat.” My mother in law sends me sweeter but nonetheless annoying hints. The latest e-mail mentioned how a lady at her pool had lost 30 lbs in 3 months “she only eats salad for her meals and drizzles them with vinegar or lemon juice. You should try this.” HELLO!!! If I could eat lettuce and lemon juice for my meals does she actually think I would be overweight to begin with????

    So, as you can see we are already getting tons of “help”. What we really need is a kind word and encouragement when we seek it. I’m here and reading and learning and working of fixing whatever is broken within me so I can beat the eating problem for good. It’s not easy to undo years of damage. The key for those who found the key is not to cause more damage by dangling it in front of us just beyond our reach. Even if it is with the best of intentions, there is no delicate way to say “Hey I noticed you are overweight and I thought I’d tell you I lost 150 lbs.” No matter what, it just isn’t going to sound helpful.

    Just smile, and say something nice. If you see the person each day they may warm up to you and at some point in conversation it might come up and you could share. In this atmosphere “I lost 150 lbs” is more likely to be met with “Wow, how’d you do it? I wish I could do that.” than any of the defensive remarks you would get as a complete stranger.

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