Concerned about Overweight Friends?

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    Mar 30, 2007 6:50 PM GMT
    The "judging the overweight" thread got me thinking about this again, it's something that has been bugging me for a while, and I figure this community may have some good advice.

    One of my best friends has struggled with weight issues for years, and lately has just been gaining weight pretty steadily and is really very obese now, well into the "this is seriously endangering your immediate health" zone.

    The thing is, she's working a fulltime job and going to college and dating a guy who is relatively sedentary, so she has a bunch of factors working against her.

    Nonetheless, whenever we spend time together she talks about how she's really concerned about her weight, and how she exercises at the gym at least a couple days a week and is trying various diets.

    The problem is, I'm sure she's not really doing the exercises she ought to be doing to lose weight, and the dieting is more of a nice thought than a real plan, because she wouldn't be gaining weight still if she was doing that. Kind of the "Try a diet and cheat and not really stick to it for a few weeks and then move onto something new" approach. It's clearly not working.

    Still, I feel uncomfortable bringing it up, because I know she's not really in a spot where she has much free time to be exercising like I do, and I don't want to just discourage her by pointing out that she'll need to be tenfold more diligent about dieting if she really wants to see results. I really think she feels like she's working hard on it right now, and I know she doesn't like being overweight, so I worry that anything I say might just make her dejected and lose hope.

    Nonetheless, I've lost many a pound myself over the years, so I know what it takes to do it, and feel like I could help her, and as her friend, am increasingly concerned that it's a pretty serious problem.

    Have any of you been in spots like this? Any tips on the best way to go about acting on that concern without being an imposition, or doing more harm than good?
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    Mar 30, 2007 10:08 PM GMT
    Weird, the "Newest Threads" seems broken, as this isn't showing up for me in the list, and until someone posts it won't show up in the other list, most recent posts.

    Ahem, let me artificially bump that on there, now...
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    Mar 31, 2007 12:01 AM GMT

    Firstly, your friend must do it for herself and for her health. I was in a simular situation in my late teens when I was in college. I had a great friend who encouraged me by walking every night after dinner with me. You could do the same. If she goes to the gym, go with her or make it a date type thing. Do some cardio with her and show her how to set some goals. Another thing is perhaps share some recipes with her that are healthy but not "diet" type stuff. It need to be a positive journey for her. It is a way of life to eat healthy. Lots of people think they eat right or they don't eat alot. The more calories you take in the less exercise you do = OBESITY.

    If she brings the weight issue up again tell her that you will be there to support her, if she needs it. You can't do more than that!
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    Mar 31, 2007 12:27 AM GMT
    its really up to her. You can only do so much, but for the most part its all on her. You can always try an intervention.
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    Mar 31, 2007 12:35 AM GMT
    At a gym I train at one of the members bought a personal training package for two of her friends. She had us send her friends a free training session with a card "from a concerned friend". Both of her friends are now training and doing great.

  • GQjock

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    Apr 08, 2007 12:15 PM GMT
    well you seem in a good position to impart at least some good advice...
    she's already opened up for you to give it
    But just be careful that you don't become responsible for her success...
    It sounds like she maybe already sabotaging doing some exercising and not getting any place and still gaining weight
    Tell her that you're concerned and say that you're concerned about her health...and give her as much of you're knowledge and experience as you can...
    the old say can lead a horse to water
    is esp true here
    just don't be disappointed if she doesn't heed your advice
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    Apr 08, 2007 7:01 PM GMT
    GQjock, you hit the nail on the head with the comment about people concerned about their own weight problems "sabotaging" themselves.

    I have a couple of very close friends, a couple, who are very overweight. They "try" every diet that there is around, and dabble with increasing exercise. The latest diet they tried was the "South Beach Diet".

    The interesting thing is, no matter what the diet (you know, proportion of calories from fat, protein, carbs etc.), all of them have one thing in common, reducing calories. For my friends, this is the prime issue.

    So guess what they do, for this particular diet that completely deprives people of carbs. They think they are staying on the diet yet every fourth or fifth day they will essentially "binge" on carbs (cake, or beer, or whatever). I've pointed out the inconsistency...even if the S.B. Diet had scientific backing (which it doesn't), it can't possibly work if you don't stay on it. And the low calorie end of it won't work, if you binge 3000 calories extra on one of the days you think you are on the diet.

    So the last time I saw them, they told me that they were giving up the diet because it was not working.

    So they sabotaged themselves twice. First, by being on a diet that is poorly designed to begin with. And, second, by giving themsleves permission to go off the diet while in the midst of it.

    I've tried to be supportive...and, despite the above, don't make sarcastic statements about the diet...figuring at least if they can stay on a diet, it would help. But to no avail. I've also tried to be supportive about encouraging them to exercise, go out on walks with them etc. But they lose the motivation for that too.

    There are no easy answers to this issue for folks with ingrained bad habits. These are wonderful people, by the way.

    Anyway, good point about "sabotage."

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    May 05, 2007 11:06 PM GMT
    I had a good friend/neighbour who was also seriously obese. She "tried" exercising, dieting (I would regularly check her fridge for contraband to no avail) et al. She got so bad even her mother had a sit-down and told her she was getting too fat (I know, tough love). Her answer in the end? To go on a HUGE binge to get over the 325-pound limit for Stomach-bypass. She made her goal, got the surgery, and lost 200 pounds. She looks good, but now it's the new breast implants and gawd-knows-what down the road. I lost a considerable amount of respect for her after the bingeing...
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    May 06, 2007 1:24 AM GMT
    Fat folks are a lot like drunks, drug addicts, pictureless, closeted, sex addicts and so on. Until they hit bottom, they won't help themselves, and coddling them only makes them worse. Something has to happen that will make them seek to help themselves.

    They do need to know that you support good behavior and that you won't be empathetic, or sympathetic, with bad behavior. Leading by example is a good way to go. You should let them know that discipline and patience will reward them. They didn't get fat in a single day, nor will they become a regular person overnight.

    Under no conditions should they be given sympathy. It'll only make them worse.

    The obesity PANDEMIC kills more people than all other diseases combined annually. It kills folk in DROVES.

    Here's some stats:
    All illegal substances combined, 3000, annually

    Alcohol death, 800,000 annually

    Tobacco death, about 1.6 million annually.

    Obesity nearly 6.5 MILLION annually.

    That's why the "war on drugs" is such a waste and ongoing failure. It's failed consistently for 35 years, effects a very few folks in comparison to the fat people, it costs way more money than real wars, and disenfranchises otherwise good people from the rest of mainstream society. I think Canada has a much better modality (another discussion).
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    May 06, 2007 1:29 AM GMT
    I typoed my stats: the obesity pandemic kills nearly 6, that's 6, million folks annually.

    It is by far, and WAY ABOVE, the number one killer of folks in the U.S.

    If we're truly concerned about saving lives,..... if we TRULY are, we MUST stop with the political correctness and sympathy, and make being morbidly obese unacceptable. It's just the right thing to do.

    There's no excuse for a kid being 50 to 100 pounds overweight, other than very bad parents.

    All these folks are going to have huge costs as they grow older.

    It has to be stopped by folks stepping up and saying it's unacceptable to be a fat slob, AND, it'll kill you.

    It's about saving lives; nothing more, nothing less.
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    May 06, 2007 1:38 AM GMT
    I think any person has a responsibility to educate themselves.

    Lots of folks are just plain lazy about doing proper research.
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    May 06, 2007 10:27 AM GMT
    We see this with a lot of our patients..

    I truly feel sympathetic for them as I think it is a viscious cycle that has been long cultivated in their lives before the end results get to the out of control point.

    As with many of the posts already, obesity involves many different aspects, it is not just diet, education, food culture, or something as dry cut as simple will power.

    A lot of them have issues with food in BOTH physiological and psychological aspects.

    There has been numerous recent research that some patients get such a biological/physiological response to food and the sensation of hunger is constant and intolerable...

    Many of them are very desperate, but also lack the education in the areas of diet, exercise. Furthermore, many get scorned and lectured, which are not perceived as positive support to these patients. They feel not understood, isolated, and trapped.

    Many of them end up feeling hopeless, but continues the unhealthy behavior while lying to everyone else and also themselves that they are concerned about their obesity and are eating less... They hide food, they hide their eating in public... This act becomes a psychological tool to lessen the guilt and shame they feel towards themselves.

    When confronted by clinicians that no matter what these patients tell us, the body just cannot generate excess tissue out of thin air, that it has to enter the body somehow, and this is just plane mathmatics: Food water = tissue, not = 0, most of them only feel more trapped or perpetuate in deniel...

    That is why possibly these weight loss for pay programs such as Jenny Craigs a lot of times work even better then programs set up by meidcal professionals as these patients get a GROUP support system and also the guidence of a staff that checks all aspects of weight loss, more than simple diet, exercise, and will power..
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    May 06, 2007 10:38 AM GMT
    I meant to say GROUP/PEER support... These programs have groups discussions and tell sotries by peers and they cheer any improvement, just like in an AA meeting...
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    May 06, 2007 11:26 AM GMT
    I have to agree with Chuckystud on this (doesn't happen often) but we have to make obesity unnacceptable. Bring back shame. Fat people only used to be seen in circuses now they're everywhere.

    Your friend can only help herself. All you can do is point her in the right direction. If she can't be bothered to get off her lardy arse then it's not your problem.
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    May 06, 2007 11:42 AM GMT
    I do not agree with that at all...

    Many obese people do want to help themselves but do have a physiological problem not that much different from people addicted to other sorts of chemical substances.

    To generalize all obese people as a groupand promote shame is ignorant and unconscionable. It just show your own lack of knowledge on the complexity of this disease...

    That would be like someone who do not understand homosexuality saying they should all be shamed without understanding anything about homosexuality.
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    May 06, 2007 11:45 AM GMT
    Redhead guy, SHAME on you for making such statement about obese people as a side shows in circus.

    It is ignorant, juvenile, vile, and cruel.

    Many of them already feel shame.
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    May 06, 2007 11:54 AM GMT
    And you obviously did not read my post, or worse, have no capacity to understand what you read.

    Obesity existed outside a circuse in history..Waht an moronic statement.

    Shame is one of the reasons why a person with the disease of obesity would continously feel isolated, hopeless, and perpetuate unhealthy eating habbits as a psychological release.

    Yes, the final responsibility of their own bodies and health rest on themselves, but to promote such a vile statement is NOT helping any of these people to help themselves.

    If people go around with your attitude, EVERYONE has some attributes to be made a marginal group, and shame is not the key to help solve a problem.
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    May 06, 2007 12:10 PM GMT
    And I also do not agree with Chuckystud..

    You are assigning a negative characterization on a group of people with a disease that is medically proven beyond just "laziness.'

    To suggest we do away with sympathy, and sympathy is "cuddling" this problem, is just very simplistic.

    Education comes in many forms. What these people have only reading materials to rely on, and feel very intimidate to go to a gym, and cannot break away from the pattern of unhelthy eating taht is passed down from generations... Education in the forms of peer support and actual engagement of active acitivites are sometimes not so accessible to many (not all can afford personal trainers.)

    There is such thing as intolerant "body nazi". This kind of attitude certainly would make these people with problems less willing to get help... You dont need to cuddle them, but lets not go to extreme and make such a gneralization.

    And for someone who has never been obese, you do not ahve the right to call others not to feel sympathetic, you do not know what it is like to be them.

    For those who were and became intolerance with obesity after they lsot the weight, it is your personl hate for your own past self that is speaking, not your rational mind.
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    May 06, 2007 1:12 PM GMT
    For anyone who truly want to help their friends with weight problems instead of prosecuting them...

    The reaserch on obesity came as an accident with gastric bypass patients.. It was found that the reason why some patients benefited from gasrtic by pass was more due to the short cutting of a pathological neurotranmitter feed back system that is originated directly from within the stomach to the brain, not the other way around...

    Why a person becomes obese and unable to consistantly follow up with prescribed healthy eating and exercise habbits may fail because of the above, which is still not very well understood...
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    May 06, 2007 4:59 PM GMT
    First of all, I want to restate that the responsibility of taking care of one’s own health ultimately falls with that person himself/herself.

    What I am pointing out is that obesity is a disease that many are affected but feel powerless to cope with. There is a general lack of understanding of the powerful urge to engage in unhealthy eating and exercise life style with people affected by this disease.

    As gay men we cannot choose who we are attracted to sexually, yet some religious groups keep telling us that we can bypass this innate desire by altering our behavior by either being celibate or force ourselves to have sexual relations with women. To a person affected with obesity, you can also try to alter their behavior by telling them to eat sensibly and exercise, but this does not address the innate physiological and psychological drives to eat unhealthy or unable to sustain a lifestyle of exercises.

    There is a similarity here: they cannot help it.

    It is a disease, and you do not treat a disease with shame and blame.

    Furthermore, unlike being gay, which one can hide within the general public in stealth, so one is not constantly exposed to the cruel oppressiveness from the general population; you do not have this luxury as a person who is obese. Shame is a CONSTANT fact of life EVERYWHERE you go… I have patients who break down into tears describing what a terrible life they live with the constant intolerable hunger and shame from one self and even family members who are supposed to be loving and supportive to hep solve a problem…

    I often tell my straight friends that I appreciate their support as a gay man, but I do remind them that they are not in my shoes and can only empathize with me but will never know exactly what I go through in life as a gay man. This applies with my black friends as well. No one has the right to judge and presume the cause of their suffering or behaviors as we are not in their shoes. I do not assume I know EXACTLY what a HIV positive person deals with daily. I do not assume I know what a short person, or a woman, and likewise, what an obese person, in the past or still is affected by this disease, goes through daily… It is unconscionable to assign simplistic blame and prosecute one who we cannot speak for ourselves.
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    May 06, 2007 5:34 PM GMT
    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    After I posted this, we talked about it more, and -- albeit unrelated to this post -- about my issues with financial management, savings, etc etc. and the two of us now have a little Saturday-night thing where she helps me with investments & budgeting (areas where she's particularly strong and has good habits) and I help her with planning out meals and exercise and ways to stick to it (areas where I have more experience.)

    It's only been a week, but it seems like a great setup. Talking to her made me realize that a lot of her problem is just lack of information and tools. I've been exercising for long enough to know all these varieties of workouts, which ones you want to do for what, what heart rates are good for weight loss vs. muscle building. Similarly, she works in finance and hence knows a lot about that side of things, so it is a good exercise in empathy -- I can rattle off a bunch of foods she should be eating, or ways to cook lean fish to make it more appetizing that she doesn't know, but then she can do the same right back at me when it comes to finance.

    I think it all just comes down to habit cultivation. Once you get super-obese, your eating and exercising habits are just really crummy and it takes a LOT of skill and knowledge to change any habit very dramatically, be it food-related or anything else, and so it takes a lot of motivation to change.

    As for shaming people, I think motivation is a very personal thing. Some people find shame very motivating. Some people find fear motivating. Some people find the compassionate support of friends very motivating. And some don't! Some seem to really need that kick in the ass that a strong negative emotion brings to really get them in gear. I think the danger in encouraging widespread cultivation of shame among the obese is that for many of them, it will not be a motivating force, and will just make things worse.

    I let her use my copy of BalanceLog, an old piece of software (the company that made it closed, in fact) that lets you specify a weight goal, punch in your body fat%, weight, RMR, height, etc etc. and then it tells you how many calories you can eat every day to hit your goal at the date you choose. It's pretty awesome because of the way it turns weight management into a game -- it tells you as you enter your meals for the day how many calories you have left, but you can enter exercise for the day too and it gives you calories back. Back when I was heavier, it was great -- "I really want a sandwich but I've already eaten my calories for the day. I guess I'll go bike for 45 minutes so I can have a veggie wrap."

    She was excited about the program, and so one of her weekly todos is to start and maintain a food journal, and enter it every night into BalanceLog.

    Next week we'll probably spend more time identifying healthy foods that she likes enough to use as replacements for current snack and meal foods without feeling like she's torturing herself.

    I've got my own todos, keeping spending accounts, avoiding impulse spending (even if that shiny new bike component really WOULD make me 1mph faster!) etc. I think the balanced nature of our little plan will keep it working. If it were one-sided, I think it would fall apart.

    I'll post little progress updates maybe, from time to time.
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    May 08, 2007 9:17 PM GMT
    No one forces a fat person to take their pudgey little fingers and fetch more food.

    Same rules work for a drunk.

    A little coddling, a lot few excuses would make a world of difference.

    A disease of weakness, perhaps.

    I sure don't believe that bad behavior is a disease.

    I shot my mom because I had a disease.

    I ate the cake because I had a disease.

    I lash out at folks because I had a disease.

    I'm closeted because I had a disease.

    That's just bullshit excuses for a medical industry trying to justify its own existence.
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    May 08, 2007 9:42 PM GMT
    I can't believe you shot your mom, Chuck. That's just not right.

    Seriously, though, the "disease" thing, I don't think about it in terms of the industry trying to support itself as much as I do the individual. In fact, it's more than just "disease" terminology. Generally speaking, when people subconsciously really want to avoid addressing a problem, it's extremely convenient to blame other things. After all, acknowledging that everything is within your power makes it harder to stay in denial about problems.

    That said, I don't often meet people who are 100% self-aware and don't attribute at least a couple problems to external circumstance as a way to avoid dealing. Or if it's not blame, it's something else. People who are in outright denial about things and flat-out refuse to acknowledge that the problem exists. Or whatever. That's kind of been me with finances for a while. I always made a lot of money, so the fact that I spent almost all of it was something I could conveniently avoid thinking about. It's not like my house is getting repossessed.

    I guess I'm not so concerned about what happens during that period of denial or blame -- generally, that period of avoiding dealing with an issue. Nor am I interested in vilifying people when they are doing that, because everyone does it sometimes, and furthermore, what good does such vilification do? Okay, you think they're ugly and weak-willed and despicable. Even thinking those thoughts is strengthening your own bad habits, and it's not helping anyone else, either.

    I'm more interested in what motivates people to wake up and change. People who've been overweight their whole lives who wake up one day and say, "Enough is enough." People who've been in debt for decades and abruptly turn it around and save up a ton of money. People who've been terrified of social interaction or never date or have no friends or are agoraphobic and one day they just decide to turn it around, open up like flowers in the spring, and develop fulfilling personal relationships.

    Then when that decision is made, I'm interested in what people use to motivate themselves, what techniques they use to make that commitment resist the ebb and flow of circumstance. I'm losing some weight now and man, it is HARD to make myself live on 1500 calories a day. I'm not starving, but it's just such a change of habits, and I'm realizing all these ways I use food as entertainment, as a break from work, as all this stuff that isn't just nutrition, and I'm having to really work hard to cultivate that persistence and not give in and just eat a big lunch. In my case, pinching my stomach usually does the trick. :)

    I have a lot to learn about cultivating motivation, and I think it's important, because it's the only way I'm going to achieve the kinds of things I want to achieve in this particular lifetime.

    So what good does it do to angrily gripe about the medical industry, or the fact that other people use excuses and rationalizations to avoid dealing with problems? What good does it do to talk about them with derision?

    Certainly, I judge people all the time, it's habit, I can't just turn it off like a light switch, but I try not to delight in it, I try to regret those judgments and that regret is my motivation not to repeat it.
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    May 08, 2007 9:57 PM GMT
    It would be an unwise man that is NOT judgmental. Good judgment protects us from bad things. There's no excuse for NOT being judgmental.

    Someone judges to have unsafe sex. They get HIV. Is that a disease, or idiocy (the lack of judgment)? It's idiocy, of course. Perhaps, compulsive stupidity is a better way of expressing it.

    Nonetheless, at some point, whether it's a fat person, or someone with HIV, etc....we have to accept responsibility for shitty judgment. Saying these things are diseases is a huge cop out for a lack of brain power.

    If I put an electric shock on a fat person every time they mad bad choices, they'd knock it off. We shouldn't have to take those extremes.

    If I tell someone they are destined for disease and misery if they won't exercise judgment regarding food, you think they would stop, but, they don't. But....being irresponsible and compulsive is not a disease, that's just weak character.

    Most pets eat better than fat people. Bad behavior, yes. Bad parenting, low esteem, cultural, etc., perhaps. Disease for not helping oneself? Hardly. Call a spade a spade.

    If you go get fat, it doesn't happen overnight. It takes months, and even years.

    If you go get HIV, after 30 years of HIV education in this country, there's no excuse except calling irresponsible what it is. I didn't know etc is not a valid excuse. You never know where an asshole or dick has been, and you MUST let that assumption guide SOUND JUDGMENT.

    That's like saying the cat ate my homework. Bullshit.
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    May 08, 2007 10:56 PM GMT
    I'm voting for Chuckystud for Mommy of the Year. :)