Supporting Weight Loss
10 Things Not to Say to Someone Who's Trying to Lose Weight
To lose weight, it helps to be surrounded by supportive people. But when trying to support a dieter, well-intentioned comments often backfire.
"People use food for very good reasons: stress, loneliness, because they don't know what else to do to handle what's going on," says Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food, and God. "When you say something that judges, threatens, or controls an eater, all you do is create a relationship issue between the two of you. And that's another thing for him or her to be stressed about," Roth says. "It's the last thing they need."
How can you be encouraging to someone who's trying to lose weight? Avoid putting your foot in your mouth by not saying the following:
1. "Sorry, no seconds for you."
Variations: "Don't eat that!" "Your doctor says you shouldn't eat fat/simple carbs/sugar/etc." "You don't really want that."
Why it's unhelpful: Playing "food police" by depriving someone, hiding food, shaming, or otherwise monitoring his or her diet is controlling. Just as nobody can put food in someone's mouth, nobody but the eater can put the fork down, Roth says. The desire to lose weight has to come from that person.
Better: Address the stress, or the other source of the eating, not the eating itself. Instead of telling the eater what to do (or, more typically, what not to do), Roth suggests asking what you can do to help: "What can I do that would support you?"
Don't make it food-specific. For example, to an overwhelmed "sandwich generation" caregiver looking after children and aging parents, you might offer respite care so she can go shopping or take a walk.