“Helpful” comments that hurt

Pssst! Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? A real shocker? It’ll blow your socks off! Perhaps no one ever told you, and you may not believe it, but it is really true. Honest. Okay? Ready? Are you sure? Are you sitting?

Here it is: Everyone who is overweight already knows it. And, everyone who has gained weight knows it. YOU don’t need to tell them. Believe me — they know. They also don’t need you to advise them to lose weight. They know that too.

Yes, Spiderman knows....

Yes, Spiderman knows….

 You are shocked? You need to recover? I understand. Take a deep breath. You are a good person. You thought they needed you to tell them, that they were not aware of it.  You care and want to help. However, I guarantee I am correct on this. Just tuck this revelation away in that filing system in your brain and hold on to it. Remember it and no matter how much you want to tell them, don’t.

You can be sure, she knows.....

You can be sure, she knows…..

What actually happens is, if they’ve gained weight, their scale tells them. And, if they don’t own a scale, their clothes tell them. Sometimes, their mirror has the audacity to tell them. And, don’t worry, if their lives are in danger as a result, their doctor will tell them. Your unnecessary words only hurt and offend no matter how helpful you mean to be. They are dealing with a very complicated issue, which is far from simple.

Furthermore, if you’ve just met, and (horrors) decide you ought to tell the poor thing he/she needs to lose weight — how would you know if they may not have already lost a whole bunch of pounds and don’t need your advice at all? Get it? Best play it safe and stay out of it entirely — especially if you want to make/keep friends.

Sure, they may have health issues, but remember thin people have health issues too. Losing weight is not a guaranteed cure-all for every health condition we humans encounter. Unless you are a medical expert, resist giving medical advice or opinions to anyone. Suggesting that if only they lost weight their dizziness wouldn’t reoccur, or their sore shoulder (injured years ago) or whatever — will magically be cured is nonsense. Without a medical degree, you cannot know what will cure them. And, even if weight loss would help their condition, leave that to their doctor. It is absolutely inappropriate for anyone else to comment.

And, while I’m in the mood, I’ll go further. How come some of the very people who tell you you need to lose weight will sabotage you by saying  “Oh, one slice won’t hurt you.” when you are attempting to count calories. They really don’t get that it is an unfair thing to do. Be kind.  Just accept the “No, thank you.” without comment.

Something else to clue into: (Will this never end???) People who are very thin, or tall, or short, or different in any way, know it too. They don’t need your clever remarks. You can be sure they’ve already heard them. Let’s face it, if you had red and green skin with yellow polka dots, you’d know it, wouldn’t you?

Enjoy your friends as they are. Celebrate the differences in people and let them be. If you do, everyone will be happier. And me? I’ll be proud of you.

She knows, and she likes it....

She knows, and she likes it….

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8 thoughts on ““Helpful” comments that hurt

  1. Good article! Made me think about the occasional comments I make to my friend Pam, who is very thin and petite. I have jokingly said things that refer to her size, partly because I envy how trim and fit she is (so in my mind, it’s a compliment), and partly because she is a very strong, confident person (who used to be a cop and flies massive helicopters), so the irony of her being so diminutive is just an interesting fact. I also don’t think she is likely to be insulted by it, as she has joked about it herself. BUT WHAT IF I’M WRONG??? What if MY making “fun” comments that refer to her “tiny little self” or whatnot hurts her in some way? I am going to talk to her about it next time I see her, and if I have upset her, I will apologize. Thanks for making me think about this, Muriel.

  2. Thank you, Muriel,for your thoughts. As someone who was VERY overweight as a child, I know how hurtful helpful comments can be – just as hurtful as comments that are meant to be mean. Often, when receiving helpful comments from friends, I would feel betrayed. I wasn’t really one of them, I was alone in good company.

  3. So true….I couldn’t agree more! And these types of hurtful, so-called “helpful’ comments are offered by people for other areas of our lives/bodies/psyches as well. “When are you going to start colouring your hair? You’re starting to look old!” “You need to go hiking up in the mountains. The beach and the park are not good enough!” “Your eyes are red. Maybe it’s allergies?” “Your face looks fat. I’m just telling you so you know where the fat is going.” And there are more, but I’m trying to forgive the friends and forget the words! Words are powerful, and we need to use them thoughtfully, and with respect for each other, and compassion. Thanks, Muriel!

  4. It is inappropriate to make ANY personal comments about our friends’ height, weight, girth, clothing, life style or any other matter close to the skin. If your friend is truly drowning in drink or drugs, legal or otherwise, then you have a duty as a friend to stop and say, “Look, sweetheart, I love and you’re in deep poo.”

    Weight or eating habits may seem the same to you, but they are generally not. I tell you this from a lifetime of being an addictions counselor.

    When it comes to friends and colleagues, other mothers’ advise was right – If you can’t say anything nice, Bunky, shut it.”

  5. I have a different problem. My doctor just told me, that if he didn’t know whose test results he had from my check up, he would have thought they were from a 20 year old. But my mirror says something else. Who do I believe?

  6. Hear! Hear!
    As a slightly overweight person with two daughters, one overweight and one slim and a sister who is slim I now say nothing personal to anyone. No amount of exercise
    or diet will affect my somewhat large tummy. I know as I have tried. Meanwhile if someone suggests a diet I just tell them I am a diabetic and follow that diet very carefully. My doctor has not said a word about my weight.

  7. Thanks Muriel for saying it as it is. I especially like “Be kind. Just accept the ‘No, thank you.’ without comment.” We should all learn to comment less! Be well.

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