Advice

Would You Ever Tell Someone They Need To Lose Weight? Should You?

That's a tricky one.

Fat-shaming has become a hot topic these days, with a former Playboy Playmate who fat-shamed an older woman at a gym in Los Angeles charged for snapping a picture of her, and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine fat-shaming a congressman, which was picked up by a hot microphone. Shannon Beador is caught up herself in a weight-focused storyline on The Real Housewives Of Orange County.

But what if you know the person, who either is, or has become, unhealthily overweight? Because honestly, if you don’t know them, it is none of your business.

If you do know—and care for them—tread lightly.

Personal Space talked to an expert in the area, Dr. Jennifer Kromberg, PsyD., who says the issue of fat-shaming and weight is coming up more and more in therapy.

“My biggest thing is focusing on health,” Dr. Kromberg says. “Aesthetically we tend to get caught up in weight, but weight isn’t a correct barometer of health. The focus should be on health.”

Dr. Kromberg has some professional tips on how to approach someone close to you that you feel may need some help.

“I think the person doing it [telling them they look unhealthy], has to be somebody the other person trusts and has to be spoken in love,” she says. “It’s a difficult conversation to have.”

Once you decide you’re in a safe enough place with the person you want to talk to, you should usually start the conversation about exercise, ask “how are you exercising,” says Dr. Kromberg.

“I wouldn’t recommend talking specifically about food. I wouldn’t never talk to somebody you’re personally involved with about food. It’s more ‘I’d be happy to go with you to a dietitian or give you the name of a dietitian. While talking about food is tempting, it usually always backfires.”

Don’t compare the person to yourself.

“Comparing is bad,” she says. “instead say ‘I know what works for me and my body, you have to find what works of you and your body.’”

If you and the person are sharing a meal, don’t make any moves in the moment.

“I would never never never say anything in the moment, it always backfires,” Dr. Kromberg explains. “One thing I teach about is even if the person is begging you for diet and health tips, don’t in the moment say ‘don’t eat the bread.’ It backfires all the time. In our society our world is tied up in what we look like and how we eat, so you’re basically saying ‘I’m better than you.’”

Eventually that will build resentment, so the advice should usually come from a professional.

“Therapy helps,” says Dr. Kromberg. “Most of us know what to do to lose weight, it’s not a huge mystery. If you can’t do it, there’s a deeper emotional problem going on.”

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