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To shy away from telling my best friend that she needs to diet properly?

(37 Posts)
Anonymumous Wed 26-Sep-12 21:48:47

I met up with my best friend today. She's been overweight (OK, obese) since I first met her - she put five stone on with her first child and never lost it. Over the years she's always said that she hates being fat and I've tried to encourage her when she's tried diets and tried to offer advice based on what's worked for DH. She can be very sensitive, so I tend to back off from being too blunt because I am a complete coward don't want to lose her friendship.

Today she told me that she'd been to see the doctor about water retention, and that the doctor had given her a stern lecture about her weight, referred her for an urgent appointment with a dietitian, and given her strict instructions to keep a food diary and come back in one month having lost 8lb. She said she told the doctor that she didn't eat a lot, but that the doctor didn't seem to believe her. (She actually probably eats more healthy food than me, but her portion sizes are HUGE compared to mine. She has it fixed in her head that as long as the food she eats is that which is commonly deemed 'healthy' (cereal, yoghurt, rice etc.) then it doesn't matter how much of it she eats - she doesn't really 'get' calories.) She said the doctor thought she was "in denial" and scoffed at how silly that was, because she knows that she she needs to lose weight. Then two minutes later she said that she'd had five chocolate biscuits with her cup of tea, but that she wouldn't be putting that in her food diary. Isn't that denial? confused (I did say that to her, but she thought I was joking.)

The doctor told her to cut out all unnecessary calories - no potatoes, pasta or rice. She came home and said, "F* that." She said that her DH had got the exercise bike out for her, but that she never had time to use it because she was always out on the school run or feeding the baby. But I was round there for nearly two hours and she only spent 15 minutes or so feeding the baby, and the rest chatting to me.

I really am getting worried about her now, because I always thought that she did want to lose weight, but was hindered by not really understanding calories or carbs or dieting or portion control. Now that the doctor is so concerned about her health, I would have thought it would give her the kick up the bottom that she needs to really sort herself out, but it seems to have done the opposite - she seems to have lost her motivation and the stubborn streak has kicked in. Before now she has badgered me to go to a gym with her, and I didn't really want to - I prefer classes. But I did join a gym a couple of months ago to get rid of my baby weight. I told her I can get her a free guest pass and we could go together and try things out and have some fun, but she just refused point blank. I've lost a stone in a couple of months, and she said I look old and gaunt and I'm too thin. sad I'm not upset, because I think she is just being defensive. But it did make it extra hard to say anything about exercise, because I just sounded like a gym nut / convert. And I didn't really need to lose much weight in the first place, so I felt like going on about it was rubbing it in.

Sorry about the long post. What I want to know is, am I being a crap friend by massaging her ego and going along with her denial? Should I have come out with it and said, "Look, the doctor's right - you are not going to lose weight unless you do some serious exercise and start counting calories properly"? I always thought that no-one else can make you want to lose weight - you have to do it for yourself. But I do want to help her and I can't help feeling that I've let her down by not being more blunt. Then I think the doctor was incredibly blunt, and maybe my friend is still a little shellshocked and defensive after that and just needs a little time to come to terms with what was said - so maybe just being there for her if she needs me is enough? Aaarrggh - I don't know what to do! What would you do?

squeakytoy Wed 26-Sep-12 21:51:06

Get her to do MyFitnessPal. It will soon show here exactly where she is going wrong, so long as she is truthful with it.

SlightlySuperiorPeasant Wed 26-Sep-12 21:52:15

I wouldn't lie to her or offer sympathy but unless she asked outright for my opinion, I wouldn't give it.

tigerdriverII Wed 26-Sep-12 21:58:39

I think you have to talk plain to her but accept that she will only hear when she wants to, not when you speak. If she has a bmi of over 30 then I believe her gp (assuming you're in England or Wales) might be able to refer her for a free 12 week membership of a slimming club, eg slimming world or weight watchers. I have a bmi over 30 and my gp got me onto this and I've taken it up, also besides hearing all the stuff about health, I got a real health problem from my weight and realised that this had to stop. If your friend is competitive or likes groups etc then she might like this, and won't feel out of place like she might in a gym. You aren't doing her any favours by agreeing with her, but I know it's difficult to be the "bad friend". Good luck

LittleMissFlustered Wed 26-Sep-12 21:58:44

Speaking from experience, until she is ready to stop lying to herself your words will not be heard.

I'm 4 stone down with many yet to go. I hope your friend 'gets it' soon, but by the sound of it I doubt itsad

Anonymumous Wed 26-Sep-12 22:03:44

Thanks for the advice, Squeaky. I'm not sure whether MyFitnessPal would help. I did suggest weighing out her portions so she could be sure about how much she was eating (because her food diary innocently says things like 'chicken with rice' which is pretty useless as an indicator of calorie intake!). But she looked at me as if I was mad and said that she didn't have time to faff about doing stupid things like that. And if she doesn't want to weigh things out, then she's not going to be able to enter accurate data into a computer program.

THETrills Wed 26-Sep-12 22:05:56

She doesn't sound like she wants to lose weight - calling you "gaunt" is a way of saying that she is th "right" weight/shape.

cardibach Wed 26-Sep-12 22:07:04

I would be very surprised if the doctor told her to cut out a whole food group - doctors tend not to recommend carb free diets (with good reason). However, she does need to be honest about what she eats. You can only support her, I think. Be honest if she asks you but don;t come across as judgey.

LonelyCloud Wed 26-Sep-12 22:08:50

I think you're right to think that you can't make someone else want to lose weight, and that she has to want to do it for herself.

I wouldn't tell her that she's not dieting properly unless she specifically asked me - if she's not willing to listen to her doctor, she's unlikely to listen to you.

But I would try and support any attempts at dieting - i.e. suggest active things you can do together like walks, gym classes. Or say "I'm thinking of joining weightwatchers but I'm nervous about going on my own -will you come with me?" Or even just never having chocolate biscuits in the house when she pops round for a cup of tea.

SanctuaryMoon Wed 26-Sep-12 22:12:11

I feel for you, and for your friend.

Well done on your own weight loss smile

2rebecca Wed 26-Sep-12 22:13:32

If she asks you for your opinion I would give it honestly. "Your doctor is right, you eat larger portions than me and if you cut down your portion sizes you would lose weight".
Most obese people are in denial about their food though, very few will admit they are fat because they eat more calories than they should.
Having said that I have never counted calories. If she really believes she isn't eating too much then weighing her food and calorie counting for a week may be enough to point out where she is going wrong. It usually is either the portions size or evening drinks and or snacks for most women. They seem to eat sensibly until about 6pm then go a bit mental.

mirry2 Wed 26-Sep-12 22:13:49

Why don't you suggest she gets one of those 'diet' plates which is marked up to show correct food portions? Then ishe can see for herself how much of each food group she should be eating.

Servalan Wed 26-Sep-12 22:17:32

Do you think maybe your friend uses food emotionally? I've been an emotional eater for years and eventually ended up in the obese category a year ago. I had half-heartedly tried to lose weight for years, but the idea of going without the emotional crutch that is comfort food felt too daunting to do anything proper about it.

I eventually did something because my family were so obviously worried about me. -Unlike- -DH- they were not horrible to me about my weight, but they weren't dishonest about how horrified they were by it either. It is possible to be honest and constructive - whether your friend is ready to take that on board is up to her, but she won't be committed to losing weight until she is ready and keen to make that commitment.

If she doesn't want to give up eating big portions, Slimming World might work for her - that's what has worked for me - I've lost 3 and a half stone on it (I'm now within the "normal" BMI range) and haven't been hungry at all - I haven't had to give up pasta, rice or potatoes either (on the plan that I follow) in fact I can have unlimited amounts of those as long as a third of my plate is filled with what's called "superfree" food (basically fruit and vegetables). You can factor in treats as well - I've had chocolate today and been "on plan". They don't disclose your weight to anyone and no-one gets shamed or humiliated - it's really positive. Was really skeptical about groups like this before, but I wish I'd done it years ago. I've made new friends, feel really supported, I've learned loads of food tips and it's given me loads more confidence. I'm now running 3 times a week, I can keep up with DD (in fact I outstrip her in energy).

(Sorry if that all sounds like a bit of an advert - just it's worked so well for me I want to share it with everyone)

GoldPlatedNineDoors Wed 26-Sep-12 22:17:34

I would have lost patience by now and said "if you take in more calories than you burn off then you get fat. Eat less and move more. And stop twittering on to me about something you arent prepared to do anything about".

It is blunt, and may seem nasty, but I am firmly on the 'say what you see' bench.

BlueSkySinking Wed 26-Sep-12 22:24:58

Give her a smaller plate to eat off maybe?

Anonymumous Wed 26-Sep-12 22:26:04

Tiger, I think her BMI is over 35 - I'm not sure because she is quite secretive about her actual weight. She lacks confidence (ironically because of her weight) and doesn't like social groups. Plus the local WeightWatchers is run by one of the other mums in her daughter's class at school, and she is a bit... well, stuck-up. They don't really get on very well.

LonelyCloud, I can't really join WeightWatchers myself - I'm only 8 and a half stone as it is! I'd love her to come to the gym with me, but I think she's just too self-conscious. She loves swimming, but won't go because she doesn't want to be seen in a swimming costume. sad

Slimming World sounds quite good, but I looked up the times of the local group and I don't know if she'd be able to go. Maybe she would if the GP could get her in for free... I might suggest it to her and see what she says. Thank you!

Anonymumous Wed 26-Sep-12 22:29:12

Oooh, I've just looked up portion plates - what a good idea! I'm going to get one of them for my friend right now. Thank you for the idea, Mirry! smile

MrDobalina Wed 26-Sep-12 22:32:10

i have a friend like this; she is on medication for blood pressure, which is uncontrolled

doctor has told her she must loose weight, and she goes to be weighed regularly

she refuses to change the way she eats; saying it makes her miserable to be eating food she doesn't enjoy. She always has an excuse to not exercise

Myself and a number of mutual friends have tried all sorts of approaches; encouragement/ support/ going to various excercise classes or gyms/ blunt talking....nothing works sad

HermioneHatesHoovering Wed 26-Sep-12 22:48:46

"Then two minutes later she said that she'd had five chocolate biscuits with her cup of tea, but that she wouldn't be putting that in her food diary. Isn't that denial?"

^I can tell you from personal experience, there is very little you can do until SHE decides she wants to lose weight.

Yes she is in denial, yes she is kidding herself, that could have been me except I wasn't even doing a food diary.

mirry2 Thu 27-Sep-12 12:46:00

"Then two minutes later she said that she'd had five chocolate biscuits with her cup of tea, but that she wouldn't be putting that in her food diary. Isn't that denial?"

She's in denial to her medical practitoners but not in denial to herself - she knows perfectly well what she's doing. She doesn't want to be helped. Smokers are the same. It doesn't matter what other people say, until the persons wants to do it, they won't.

ClippedPhoenix Thu 27-Sep-12 12:49:35

I'd just listen, nod and keep my mouth shut here.

FushiaFernica Thu 27-Sep-12 12:57:05

There is nothing you can say, all you can do is listen to your friend. I know someone who is very overweight and whenever she hears about anyone losing weight she says that they now look haggard and wrinkly.

elspethmcgillicuddy Thu 27-Sep-12 13:00:25

I've also been in your friend's position and agree that there is NOTHING you can say or do to help until she is ready to hear it. You do run the risk of losing her as a friend and alienating her if you make it an issue though. I would have been hugely insulted if someone bought me a diet plate without me asking for it btw but maybe she is different.

I can't imagine she would ever blame you for NOT saying anything (provided you don't collude with her by telling her she is a normal weight etc) but could be hurt if you did.

If I were you I would listen and nod and smile and tell her what worked for you etc but do not give any unsolicited advice.

It's tricky but I really think this is the best way to be a good friend to her.

fuzzpig Thu 27-Sep-12 13:03:16

There are so many threads like this and I agree with the advice that is most commonly given on them - you can't make her do it or even listen to you. I wouldn't lie though, if she directly asks your opinion.

whyme2 Thu 27-Sep-12 13:05:36

Just wanted to add that I bought my DM a portion plate earlier this year and it did really help her. She knew all the healthy foods but by using the plate it helped control her portions and she lost a stone without any thought. My dm is still using it and very slowly losing weight.

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