How to Help a Loved One Who Is Obese

Reviewed Dec 31, 2016

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Summary

You can help a loved one deal with obesity by:

  • Offering support
  • Showing you care
  • Helping him build a healthy lifestyle

You have a friend and she is obese. She has not always been this heavy, but little by little, over the years, she has gained so much weight that you are worried about her health.

You should be. Obesity is a chronic medical condition that puts a person at risk for many serious problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. Just carrying the extra weight puts a person at risk for arthritis and joint injuries. But there are many biological reasons why your friend could go through other health, emotional, social, and work-related problems, as long as she is heavy.

As a friend, you want to help, but what can you do?

You have to learn that obesity is not a sign of more weakness or immorality, but the sign of a life out of control. Our body, by nature, works toward keeping itself healthy, but sometimes we do things that upset the balance.

We get overwhelmed by our lives, so we skip meals. Or, we have too much pressure on us at work, so we look for comfort in the wrong kinds of foods. If we have children, we may make sacrifices to keep them healthy, and not get the medical care, sleep, or social interactions we need.

When we find ourselves in an unhealthy lifestyle, things go wrong with our bodies. And, that’s basically what obesity tells us: we are living an unhealthy life.

The best thing you can do for your friend is to show her you care and support her, says Marsha Marcus, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and psychology that specializes in eating disorders, obesity, and women’s health. Don’t find fault with her or moralize.

Here are some other don’ts:

  • Don’t talk about people you know who have lost weight.
  • Don’t compare the way he looks now to how he looked in the past.
  • Don’t make special, low-cal foods for her unless she asks for them.
  • Don’t dish out small portions—or large ones—to him.
  • Don’t offer her unhealthy, high-calorie foods to eat.

He has plenty problems to deal with, what he needs right now is a friend.

Obese people have a lot of issues to handle, besides health:

  • They are at high risk for depression.
  • They often go through discrimination in the workplace.
  • They may be turned down by insurance companies.
  • They sometimes are left out of social circles or have trouble finding a mate.
  • Teachers may treat them differently in class and peers may pick on them in school.
  • They might have a hard time finding shoes and clothing that fit, as well as seats to sit on.

One study conducted in Australia found that obese women “are more likely to be discriminated against when applying for jobs and receive lower starting salaries than their non-overweight colleagues.”

What your friend needs

Your friend needs to get her life together. To do that she will need to treat her weight problem the same way she would any other chronic condition, by building a healthy lifestyle to help her get back to normal.

A healthy lifestyle includes:

  • A varied diet rich in fresh and healthy foods
  • Very few processed foods or fast foods
  • Little or no alcohol
  • Regular exercise
  • Fresh air
  • Stress management
  • A spiritual and cultural life
  • Friends
  • Goals
  • Routines she can fall back on
  • Plans for the future

“What’s important is to make positive changes,” Marcus says.

As a friend, you are in a good position to lead your friend toward a healthy life. Here are some positive things you might do, that would not be intrusive or hurtful:

  • Invite her to go walking, swimming, bowling, or do some activity that she can handle. 
  • Include him in social events.
  • Let her know she is important to you—send her a birthday card, ask for her advice, introduce her to your friends and family.
  • If he is visiting your home, keep a regular meal schedule and serve only healthy foods.
  • Don’t tempt her with bad choices. Keep your visits positive.
  • Set a good example, and hope that he will follow your lead.
  • Encourage her to build positive activities into her life, such as music lessons, walks on the beach, or community service. Help her find her bliss.
  • Remind him about positive aspects of his life and encourage him to be thankful for good things. 
  • Help her find ways to lower stress or get away from what causes it, which could mean a change in job, relationship, parenting style, or even the house she lives in. Change is good. If she can handle change that goes along with reducing even one stressor, she is in a better position to succeed at reducing her weight at some point in the future.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/obesity

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

NEDA Helpline
800-931-2237

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by TN Hanh and L. Cheung. HarperCollins. 2010.

CBS News. “Is it okay to discriminate against obese people?” April 2, 2012
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57407790/is-it-ok-to-discriminate-against-obese-people/

ScienceDaily. “Obesity Affects Job Prospects for Women, Study Finds,” April 30, 2012
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430101034.htm

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Marsha Marcus, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Judith Matz, LCSW, therapist specializing in treating eating disorders, Skokie, IL.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

You can help a loved one deal with obesity by:

  • Offering support
  • Showing you care
  • Helping him build a healthy lifestyle

You have a friend and she is obese. She has not always been this heavy, but little by little, over the years, she has gained so much weight that you are worried about her health.

You should be. Obesity is a chronic medical condition that puts a person at risk for many serious problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. Just carrying the extra weight puts a person at risk for arthritis and joint injuries. But there are many biological reasons why your friend could go through other health, emotional, social, and work-related problems, as long as she is heavy.

As a friend, you want to help, but what can you do?

You have to learn that obesity is not a sign of more weakness or immorality, but the sign of a life out of control. Our body, by nature, works toward keeping itself healthy, but sometimes we do things that upset the balance.

We get overwhelmed by our lives, so we skip meals. Or, we have too much pressure on us at work, so we look for comfort in the wrong kinds of foods. If we have children, we may make sacrifices to keep them healthy, and not get the medical care, sleep, or social interactions we need.

When we find ourselves in an unhealthy lifestyle, things go wrong with our bodies. And, that’s basically what obesity tells us: we are living an unhealthy life.

The best thing you can do for your friend is to show her you care and support her, says Marsha Marcus, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and psychology that specializes in eating disorders, obesity, and women’s health. Don’t find fault with her or moralize.

Here are some other don’ts:

  • Don’t talk about people you know who have lost weight.
  • Don’t compare the way he looks now to how he looked in the past.
  • Don’t make special, low-cal foods for her unless she asks for them.
  • Don’t dish out small portions—or large ones—to him.
  • Don’t offer her unhealthy, high-calorie foods to eat.

He has plenty problems to deal with, what he needs right now is a friend.

Obese people have a lot of issues to handle, besides health:

  • They are at high risk for depression.
  • They often go through discrimination in the workplace.
  • They may be turned down by insurance companies.
  • They sometimes are left out of social circles or have trouble finding a mate.
  • Teachers may treat them differently in class and peers may pick on them in school.
  • They might have a hard time finding shoes and clothing that fit, as well as seats to sit on.

One study conducted in Australia found that obese women “are more likely to be discriminated against when applying for jobs and receive lower starting salaries than their non-overweight colleagues.”

What your friend needs

Your friend needs to get her life together. To do that she will need to treat her weight problem the same way she would any other chronic condition, by building a healthy lifestyle to help her get back to normal.

A healthy lifestyle includes:

  • A varied diet rich in fresh and healthy foods
  • Very few processed foods or fast foods
  • Little or no alcohol
  • Regular exercise
  • Fresh air
  • Stress management
  • A spiritual and cultural life
  • Friends
  • Goals
  • Routines she can fall back on
  • Plans for the future

“What’s important is to make positive changes,” Marcus says.

As a friend, you are in a good position to lead your friend toward a healthy life. Here are some positive things you might do, that would not be intrusive or hurtful:

  • Invite her to go walking, swimming, bowling, or do some activity that she can handle. 
  • Include him in social events.
  • Let her know she is important to you—send her a birthday card, ask for her advice, introduce her to your friends and family.
  • If he is visiting your home, keep a regular meal schedule and serve only healthy foods.
  • Don’t tempt her with bad choices. Keep your visits positive.
  • Set a good example, and hope that he will follow your lead.
  • Encourage her to build positive activities into her life, such as music lessons, walks on the beach, or community service. Help her find her bliss.
  • Remind him about positive aspects of his life and encourage him to be thankful for good things. 
  • Help her find ways to lower stress or get away from what causes it, which could mean a change in job, relationship, parenting style, or even the house she lives in. Change is good. If she can handle change that goes along with reducing even one stressor, she is in a better position to succeed at reducing her weight at some point in the future.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/obesity

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

NEDA Helpline
800-931-2237

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by TN Hanh and L. Cheung. HarperCollins. 2010.

CBS News. “Is it okay to discriminate against obese people?” April 2, 2012
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57407790/is-it-ok-to-discriminate-against-obese-people/

ScienceDaily. “Obesity Affects Job Prospects for Women, Study Finds,” April 30, 2012
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430101034.htm

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Marsha Marcus, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Judith Matz, LCSW, therapist specializing in treating eating disorders, Skokie, IL.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

You can help a loved one deal with obesity by:

  • Offering support
  • Showing you care
  • Helping him build a healthy lifestyle

You have a friend and she is obese. She has not always been this heavy, but little by little, over the years, she has gained so much weight that you are worried about her health.

You should be. Obesity is a chronic medical condition that puts a person at risk for many serious problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. Just carrying the extra weight puts a person at risk for arthritis and joint injuries. But there are many biological reasons why your friend could go through other health, emotional, social, and work-related problems, as long as she is heavy.

As a friend, you want to help, but what can you do?

You have to learn that obesity is not a sign of more weakness or immorality, but the sign of a life out of control. Our body, by nature, works toward keeping itself healthy, but sometimes we do things that upset the balance.

We get overwhelmed by our lives, so we skip meals. Or, we have too much pressure on us at work, so we look for comfort in the wrong kinds of foods. If we have children, we may make sacrifices to keep them healthy, and not get the medical care, sleep, or social interactions we need.

When we find ourselves in an unhealthy lifestyle, things go wrong with our bodies. And, that’s basically what obesity tells us: we are living an unhealthy life.

The best thing you can do for your friend is to show her you care and support her, says Marsha Marcus, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and psychology that specializes in eating disorders, obesity, and women’s health. Don’t find fault with her or moralize.

Here are some other don’ts:

  • Don’t talk about people you know who have lost weight.
  • Don’t compare the way he looks now to how he looked in the past.
  • Don’t make special, low-cal foods for her unless she asks for them.
  • Don’t dish out small portions—or large ones—to him.
  • Don’t offer her unhealthy, high-calorie foods to eat.

He has plenty problems to deal with, what he needs right now is a friend.

Obese people have a lot of issues to handle, besides health:

  • They are at high risk for depression.
  • They often go through discrimination in the workplace.
  • They may be turned down by insurance companies.
  • They sometimes are left out of social circles or have trouble finding a mate.
  • Teachers may treat them differently in class and peers may pick on them in school.
  • They might have a hard time finding shoes and clothing that fit, as well as seats to sit on.

One study conducted in Australia found that obese women “are more likely to be discriminated against when applying for jobs and receive lower starting salaries than their non-overweight colleagues.”

What your friend needs

Your friend needs to get her life together. To do that she will need to treat her weight problem the same way she would any other chronic condition, by building a healthy lifestyle to help her get back to normal.

A healthy lifestyle includes:

  • A varied diet rich in fresh and healthy foods
  • Very few processed foods or fast foods
  • Little or no alcohol
  • Regular exercise
  • Fresh air
  • Stress management
  • A spiritual and cultural life
  • Friends
  • Goals
  • Routines she can fall back on
  • Plans for the future

“What’s important is to make positive changes,” Marcus says.

As a friend, you are in a good position to lead your friend toward a healthy life. Here are some positive things you might do, that would not be intrusive or hurtful:

  • Invite her to go walking, swimming, bowling, or do some activity that she can handle. 
  • Include him in social events.
  • Let her know she is important to you—send her a birthday card, ask for her advice, introduce her to your friends and family.
  • If he is visiting your home, keep a regular meal schedule and serve only healthy foods.
  • Don’t tempt her with bad choices. Keep your visits positive.
  • Set a good example, and hope that he will follow your lead.
  • Encourage her to build positive activities into her life, such as music lessons, walks on the beach, or community service. Help her find her bliss.
  • Remind him about positive aspects of his life and encourage him to be thankful for good things. 
  • Help her find ways to lower stress or get away from what causes it, which could mean a change in job, relationship, parenting style, or even the house she lives in. Change is good. If she can handle change that goes along with reducing even one stressor, she is in a better position to succeed at reducing her weight at some point in the future.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/obesity

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

NEDA Helpline
800-931-2237

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by TN Hanh and L. Cheung. HarperCollins. 2010.

CBS News. “Is it okay to discriminate against obese people?” April 2, 2012
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57407790/is-it-ok-to-discriminate-against-obese-people/

ScienceDaily. “Obesity Affects Job Prospects for Women, Study Finds,” April 30, 2012
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120430101034.htm

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Marsha Marcus, PhD, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Judith Matz, LCSW, therapist specializing in treating eating disorders, Skokie, IL.
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

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