Advice for the “well meaning” friend
You may have a friend /colleague/family member who you think is overweight, and their weight is, in your opinion, causing them problems. You may think you will do the “right thing” and tell them they need to lose weight, or that they are too heavy right now for x, y or z. You may be planning to offer them diet advice, or fashion advice, or to explain to them how concerned for their health you are.
Let me tell you right now, just don’t do it.
It won’t help
You may think that you are helping them. You may think that they need a kick up the bum to sort them out. You may think that they will thank you for telling them.
(well they might because some people are politer than me, but they won’t mean it)
You will hurt the people you supposedly care about and it will destroy their confidence and their trust in you. You will make them cry and doubt themselves.
Your friends do not need your judgement.
If you believe that it is helpful and kind to shame another person because they don’t fit into your idea of what is correct then you are a horrible person and you need to rethink your values.
I don’t care if you think you are helping.
I don’t care if you truly believe you are acting in someone’s best interests.
I don’t care if you don’t think this is shaming. It is. whether you mean to or not, the recipient of your “help” will feel stupid and ashamed.
You need to come to terms with your own discomfort and let people get on with their own lives.
Let me reiterate that…
Do not ask someone to change themselves to ease your discomfort. Not if that discomfort is coming from your own prejudice and insecurity.
Do not hurt someone to make yourself feel better. You can justify it however you like, but all you are actually doing is hurting someone to make yourself feel better.
Instead of doing this ask yourself why it is so important that you say something?
Do you really think the recipient of your “concern” doesn’t already tell themselves how fat/bad/stupid/unhealthy they are on a regular basis.
Do you really think they just didn’t notice?
Do you really think that they are so oblivious to themselves that they need your input to make them self aware?
Bear in mind when you are considering these actions that all you have to go on is external evidence.
All you have to go on is a person’s looks.
You know nothing of their health, fitness, or ability.
So, no matter how you attempt to justify it, you are judging a person you supposedly like based entirely on looks.
You are saying to them that you don’t approve of the way they look because it doesn’t fit in to your narrow version of normal.
More than that, is you are saying that you disapprove of them and their life choices based on the most rudimentary of information.
You may say to them and to yourself that how they look is not a problem, but it is all the information you have, so of course it is about that.
You do not know how fit they are, you do not know how healthy they are, you do not know what other factors are effecting them at that time. You only know what you can see, and you then map this onto your own world view and perception of truth which is very likely to be different to theirs.
If you do decide to go a head and tell someone that they are too fat to do the thing they love (or whatever) than this is what you are going to do to them.
The person you supposedly care about will shrink into themselves, and cry. They will feel small, stupid, and humiliated.
You have just confirmed their fears and anxieties.
You have confirmed that people do judge them for being this way.
You have destroyed the hope that people can see past the weight and judge them on their activities and actions.
The person you ambushed with your concern and well meaning words will let those words take root in their heads and they will cast doubt on every thing they try to do. These words of yours will live in their head and get bigger and bigger until they influence every decision they make and every action they attempt to carry out.
They will turn from a person who is happy with their outlook into a person plagued with doubt and worry.
They will turn from a person who is making positive steps to regain fitness lost through injury, to a person who wants to hide and believes that whatever they attempt they will be judged on size rather than ability.
They will stop trusting you.
They will be angry, sad and confused all at once.
They will be immeasurably hurt because these words have come from a friend who should know them well enough to know that they are capable of knowing themselves.
Your friendship will be destroyed.
Their anxiety will increase.
They will feel like the activity they loved has been tainted and may never be able to engage with it again, and certainly not in the same way for fear of judgement and humiliation.
Well, that is how I feel anyway. I suspect some of the specifics of the reactions will be different from person to person. But I can tell you for certain that it will not help.
Feeling bad does not make a person want to make good choices, feeling bad doesn’t make people want to be active and engaged and have fun. Feeling bad does not help anyone.
Body shaming does not help people.
Body shaming is not ok.
I am not ok.
But I will be.