Yes, that is not a typo. I know you have fat friends. Maybe you are overweight yourself. As a fellow obese person, I had to share this story with you. If you have well-meaning friends who have given advice to you that made you cry or made your blood boil, you need to forward this to them. They don't know how to talk to “fat people” (hint: it's exactly how you talk to other humans!)
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Here's where this story starts
This morning I got up at 5:00 AM. I drove to the gym by myself because no one in my family wanted to go with me.
I just started keto again and am on a serious weight loss mission. I know you know how much motivation it takes to go to the gym when it's early, no one wants to go with you, and you're overweight. It's 800 times the opposite of easy.
As I got out of my car, I picked up my phone to start the audio book of Brene Brown's latest. I try to maximize my time at the gym so I listen to a lot of audio books and podcasts while I walk or workout in the pool. I even got this really cool waterproof ipod so I can listen for the hour my doctor wants me to walk in the pool every day (it's boring as hell without the ipod).
I swiped my phone open and I saw a message from a friend I haven't talked to in years. In recent months she started running and doing extreme sports meets. I've been cheering her on via Facebook.
I had to read the message four times before I understood it. Was she trying to sell me a supplement? Get me to listen to a podcast she was on? Trying to get me to try a new diet?
Then it hit me. Disappointment. Tears.
She sent me a rather long message that I'll paraphrase here with some bullet points so you'll get the gist:
- Start running
- Stop keto
- Follow her favorite running gurus
- Running is easy
If only weight loss and getting healthy were that easy. You know, all of us fat people are over here twiddling our thumbs, totally clueless about why we're overweight.
“OMG, I never thought about exercising in all of my 40 years here on earth! Thanks for telling me! Weight loss is gonna be so magically easy now!”
Did I inadvertently ask for her advice somewhere? Nope.
I directly told her this was wrong. She did not have all of the info. She made assumptions. She apologized. We are ok.
You may not be so bold with your friends. I've read a lot of articles that talk about how to be gracious when receiving unwanted advice. But why do we have to take the “high road”? I think people would not do this to us if they understood how it felt.
That's why I wrote this post. It explains how it feels to be fat-shamed via “advice” and why it's wrong.
You can copy and paste this post and send it to your friends.
Let's do this.
This is the part your well-meaning, unsolicited-weight-loss-advice-giving friends and family need to read
Do you have a “fat” friend or family member who you can't bear to see struggling with their weight? Maybe they posted on social media about a new diet or exercise regimen they are trying and you think its all wrong?
Before you open your mouth or start typing to share the advice we did not ask for, consider this:
What is your job? You know, working in your industry is really a path to nowhere. You should totally start a business. I have so much amazing success with my business. It gives me freedom! I make so much more money. I am home for my kids. I was interviewed on this podcast you should listen to. Really, starting a business is so easy. You just need to start a blog and its's so easy from there. You should follow my favorite guru, she has a great Facebook Group you can join. You need to do this for your life. I am only telling you this because I care about you. You are wasting yourself working this job.
Or maybe your spouse. Let's talk about them! You could do so much better. Why are you settling for that pile of loser? They aren't even hot.
Or your face. I mean, they have surgery for that. You could totally get that fixed so easy. They even do financing to help with that … I hear it costs less than a car payment!
If your friend came to you saying any of these things, you'd wanna punch them in the face.
“How dare they!”
All of these statements are judgmental. They make assumptions about you. They don't have all of the information. They are personal. You didn't ask for them.
They are hurtful.
This is exactly how fat people feel when you:
- tell us we're fat (no duh, Sherlock)
- tell us how to exercise (yeah, we've tried it!)
- tell us our diet plan sucks (we're trying all the things and they are hard – don't crap on it)
Being fat is visible
You can hide debt and bad financial decisions.
You can hide poor health.
You can hide abusing your kids or spouse.
You can hide substance abuse.
You can hide your sexuality.
You can't hide being overweight.
You can't escape the judgement with baggy clothes and makeup.
I have felt the judgement. “She has everything together … But her WEIGHT”.
We know we're overweight. We don't need you telling or judging us. All it does it make you look like a donkey (but the other word).
So what can you do? If it's really on your heart to support your friend, keep reading.
How can you help your fat friends?
If you truly care, there are ways to help your friends without hurting their feelings.
Don't make assumptions
Making assumptions is a bad idea 100% of the time. Don't make assumptions about your overweight friends. (Assuming they are overweight is another mistake).
You don't have the whole story
You may think you know what's going on with someone else's life but you don't.
You only have the information you observe through your own filter. You don't know what you are talking about when it comes to that individual person. At best you only know a percentage of the information.
You don't know why they are fat, if they are happy with their health and body, or what the deal is.
You may care about them
There's a better way to show you care than jumping in with all kinds of advice when you don't have the full story.
Your fat friend may not be posting all the details online
I posted that I am doing keto. But that is literally the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more underneath those posts we “fat people” do on social media.
This friend who gave me unsolicited advice about my exercise and diet did not know that I am working with a diet coach and my doctor. We've done a full panel of labs and will do labs every 90 days to track my progress and health. I have professionals helping me.
Don't assume a social media post shares the whole story.
Your fat friend might have a physical limitation
I am a disabled veteran. I don't “look disabled”.
Yes, I would love to run. I LOVED running in the Army. That runners high was the best feeling. But I can't do it. I haven't been able to run for 20 years. Believe me, it sucks.
I wish I could run. I will be back on a cane or in a wheelchair if I push myself too far. I will be in excruciating pain all day and unable to work if I push myself too much.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, who is stingy as a mofo, consider my knee injuries from the military so bad that they have granted me a disability rating and healthcare because of it.
I have a handicapped placard which was ordered for me by two different physicians.
I don't talk about it all the time because I don't want it to define me.
Don't make assumptions about our physical ability based on your observations.
Don't add context that isn't there
Us fat people should be able to share that we are on keto and not have to put it in context with our whole life story.
It would be like you saying you got a new job. Everyone would post congrats! But that one friend, who “cares about you” messages you that you shouldn't take that job because it is a dead end. WTH. Maybe they don't know that you've always wanted to work at that place. That you didn't finish college and this is the best you're gonna get with your skills, and you are happy with that because it gives you extra spending money and allows you to still get your kids to soccer practice. You are happy for what this does for your life. And they just crapped on it.
Stop making assumptions. Because you don't know the whole story.
Don't give unsolicited advice
No one wants to hear unsolicited advice.
It comes out of the blue. Hits you upside the head. And it feels like an attack.
We all have opinions. We all have unique experiences. We all have successes. And we all have failures. But your journey is different from mine. Your journey is different from your friend's journey. It's one of the things that makes humans and life so beautiful.
Unless someone opens the door and specifically asks for advice, don't give it. If you feel totally compelled to say something, start a conversation with them.
Let them know:
- you saw what they are doing
- you are so excited for them on their journey
- you have some questions
Then ask if you can give them your advice or share your experience. Respect them if they say “no”.
If someone is giving you unsolicited advice, check out this article for 6 ways to respond.
A lot of these sound like the same thing … there is overlap between judging, giving unsolicited advice, and making assumptions.
When you tell your fat friend their weight loss plan is wrong or they made the wrong choice, you are judging them. No one wants to be judged. It feels crappy. Just stop it.
How to talk to your fat friends
I've told you about a lot of don'ts but now is the time for the dos. These are the things that I love my friends doing.
Do ask questions
Learn by asking questions
Ask your friends questions about what they are doing. Find out more information. Let them be excited to share this new diet, weight loss plan, or work out with you. Maybe you'll learn something! Or maybe this conversation will put everything in context.
For example, if you find out in conversation that they have seen a doctor about this plan before starting it and they have the doctor's blessing and supervision, who are you to argue with the doctor?
If you have experience or advice, ask them if it is okay to share it with them. Respect their answer if it is “no”.
Don't tell your friend what to do
Focus on letting your friend share their experience.
If they ask, share your experience. It is very easy to start saying “you should” statements when giving advice. Instead, say “I tried …” or “I know someone who did …”. It's more like offering up another perspective or experience rather than telling them what to do. If they aren't responsive to that, it means they don't want to hear it.
Do try to understand
Try putting yourself in your friend's shoes. If they wanted to be thin and it was easy, they would have done it.
Try to empathize with them and what they are going through. Many times there are factors beyond someone's control that are contributing to their weight gain, such as injuries, genes, and hormonal imbalances.
Don't assume that everyone who is overweight in your eyes wants to or needs to lose weight. Many people are happy with their weight and health. Be happy for them!
Empathy is the best thing you can do for your friend if they are trying to lose weight. And if they are not trying to lose weight and they are happy, stop bringing it up.
Just remember what it felt like when I said your face was ugly. That's what it feels like when you keep bringing up that your friend is fat. We don't wanna hear it.
Ask your friends how to support them. They can best tell you what they need in order to make this journey a success. If you truly care about them, you can do this.
This post about understanding can be helpful for both sides in this situation.
In conclusion …
Your fat friends know they're fat. They don't need you to tell them what to do. It's like them telling you you're poor so you should get a better career. It just rude all the way around.
Be a friend and talk to them. If they want your advice, they'll ask. Be the friend they're grateful for. Not the friend who makes them cry.