Talking to a loved one about obesity can be a difficult conversation. Obesity affects nearly 42% of the American adult population, so the chances that you know someone who is suffering from this disease is very high. In most cases, your loved one likely knows they are overweight and are aware of the complications of carrying around extra weight.
Yet, it can be frustrating for you as the outsider if your loved one, whether a spouse, a parent, a child, or a friend, isn’t taking the necessary steps to get healthy and lose weight. And this is where you believe you should step in and provide some nudging “in the right direction.” So how do you begin talking to a loved one about obesity and the consequences of their weight?
8 Tips for Talking to a Loved One About Obesity
1. Define your relationship
Before you begin talking to a loved one about obesity, you need to understand your relationship. Just because you are siblings doesn’t mean that the conversation will be well received. You want to be sure that this conversation coming from you won’t create a rift in your relationship.
2. Set aside a time to talk that works for both of you
No one wants to be blind-sided by a serious conversation. If you begin talking to a loved one about obesity and their weight without priming them, the conversation can feel like a personal attack. Therefore, we recommend setting aside a mutually beneficial time to discuss this topic. This will ensure you both go into the discussion prepared to talk about this emotionally charged subject.
3. Speak candidly and from a place of love.
With obesity comes a list of health problems. When speaking to a loved one about obesity and their weight, be sure to express your worries from a place of love and empathy. Emphasize that this conversation stems from a concern for their health, not out of judgment about their appearance.
4. Provide information backed by science, not feelings
Obesity is a metabolic disease and is not just a result of overeating. It is crucial for you to understand the science behind weight gain before beginning your conversation. Comments such as “you just need to eat less” can feel unempathetic and unrealistic. If you can speak about the science of obesity and the health benefits of weight loss, you will be able to provide more helpful solutions that come from a place of compassion.
5. Get to the root of the problem
Along with obesity being considered a metabolic disorder, it is also, in many cases, a result of some emotional trauma in the individual’s life. To help your loved one lose weight and keep it off, you need to get to the root of their obesity and their (potential) food addiction. This may not be your place to discuss the underlying causes of their obesity, but you can provide support and guide them in the right direction to discovering the root of their weight gain.
An excellent place to start would be to set up an appointment with a psychologist or therapist who specializes in obesity or bariatric medicine.
6. Don’t beat a dead horse
You may walk into the conversation hoping for a positive outcome and the discussion to be well received. However, we will prepare you that this is an optimistic viewpoint. In most cases, your loved one will take the initial conversation as an attack on their body image. If this happens, the best thing you can do is back off. The last thing you want is to continue to “beat the dead horse” and create a negative vibe around this discussion. Once negative feelings are involved in discussing their obesity, your loved one will likely avoid all future conversations with you regarding their weight. They may even become overly defensive if any subtle comment is made about obesity and their weight.
7. Provide helpful solutions
The most productive conversations end with a solution and next steps. When talking to a loved one about obesity, be sure to conclude with a list of resources or helpful solutions. Many great resources out there, including our blog, provide valuable information for someone on their weight loss journey. Similarly, if you understand your loved one to be open to this, suggesting they set up an appointment with a bariatric surgeon may also be helpful.
Yet regardless, you will want to be there to support your loved one. Maybe you both agree to stop bringing junk food into the house, or you find time to go to the gym together. Having an accountability partner is essential for implementing long-term health goals.
8. Don’t micromanage their behaviors after the conversation
After talking to your loved one about obesity and concluding on the next steps, give them time to adjust their lifestyle to become healthier. As much as you want to see change, you can’t expect them to walk away from the conversation and begin implementing healthier habits that day. Similarly, if you start to micromanage their journey by calling them out for eating certain things or missing their workouts, you will create a divide in your relationship. Continue to approach this topic of obesity out of love and compassion, and your loved one will begin to make the change-it just takes patience.
This article was originally published on the Bariatric Centers of America website.