Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Touchy Subjects: Confronting Loved Ones about Weight and Money Problems

Even in 2008, there are certain issues Not Discussed – problems we don’t bring up, lest they cause discomfort or even worse, hurt feelings. Two of the biggest, that affect most of us in our day-to-day existence, remain weight and money. All too often, we’re reluctant to talk about our own health and fiscal situations, never mind voicing concerns about a loved one’s. Yet, despite our reluctance to broach the subjects, none of us want a brother who dies at 45 of a heart attack or a grandma who has to panhandle for tea.

So, what do we do when a friend or family member’s financial or weight predicament threatens to spiral out of control? What do you say to your 65-year-old father who puts on 100 pounds in five years? How do you tell your mom you can’t support her if she has no savings when she retires? Simply, how do we confront a loved one about a problem that could seriously affect his or her well-being?

The short answer: be honest.

The long answer: well, read below.

See, I feel that dire, near-emergency health and money circumstances necessitate action, and that confrontation is vital when the stakes are that high. We waste so much time pussy-footing around out of propriety and politeness when open, caring communication might actually solve the dilemmas at hand. You absolutely don’t have to agree, though, and I’d love to hear from readers with differing opinions. (Er … and similar opinions, too. I like being agreed with.)

But before we kick off the DOs and DON’Ts of confrontation, know I’m not a psychologist, nutritionist, or financial planner. In other words, I’m not qualified IN THE LEAST to give this kind of advice. It comes from a combination of personal experience, total speculation, and a few hours of research. Use at your own risk, and holy moly, please don’t sue.

DO come from a place of concern. Why are you raising the issue? Is it out of personal gain or of genuine love and caring? The answer to these questions will dictate much about how you proceed.

DO make absolutely sure you want to go ahead with this. Serious weight and finance conversations are not the kind you want to have off the cuff. Self-worth, vanity, addiction, personal responsibility, stress levels, history, habit, family, and peer pressure are just a few of the exciting issues that can play into the discussion. If you’re willing to deal with them – aces. If not, perhaps there’s another solution.

DO consider approaching as a group (or at least taking a consensus). When multiple friends or family members raise an issue with a loved one, it can emphasize the urgency of a message and make it clear that more than one person sees the problem. (Strength in numbers and all.) However, before you sit down and talk, ensure that the group is all on the same page, with the same concerns and same positive solutions. You never want to dogpile on someone who’s probably already pretty down about herself.

DON’T cry wolf. A ten-pound gain and/or $200 debt aren’t tragedies. It’s when someone’s health or well-being are in serious danger you might want to raise a red flag. Calling out a minor bump in the road can cause resentment and make you seem like a busybody.

DON’T wait until the last minute. If you are truly concerned about someone’s weight or fiscal situation, the time to make your point isn’t during her foreclosure or his third bypass surgery. Voicing worries early can help prevent obstacles down the road.

DO time it right. Holidays and major life events cause enough stress as it is. Piling on, “Bro, I’m concerned about your six-figure credit card balance” won’t help. Pick a low-key afternoon or quiet lunch to start the conversation.

DON’T assume they don’t know already. Odds are that someone deep in debt or seriously overweight is 100% aware of his situation. What’s more, realizing that others are conscious of the predicament can be severely embarrassing. That’s why delicacy, sensitivity, and caring are the names of the game.

DO consider consulting a professional. If you’re feeling nervous or lost about where to begin, a therapist, doctor, or clergyperson can guide the way.

DO rehearse the conversation. Rushing into important talks without a clear idea of what to say can leave all participants confused and angry. Think about your message. Frame it honestly and positively. Practice delivering it in the kindest tone possible. Anticipate responses. This isn’t a debate, but going in with all your ducks in a row can only facilitate dialogue.

DON’T be judgey. You are not the moral authority here. Casting aspersions or telling someone her behavior is a result of personality failure can make her defensive, angry, and/or sad. Justifiably so. It also makes you a jackass.

DO be honest. Voice your concerns openly and kindly. Listen. Ask questions. Answer questions. If the situation affects you – like if your parents are flat broke and on the verge of retirement – say it.

DO speak wisely. Your choice of words could dictate everything about how the talk is going to go. “You’re an idiot with money!”/”Your behind is bigger than the sun!” will not get the discussion anywhere. Avoid insulting language.

DO use lots of “I” sentences. Relying on your own experiences is a great segue into talking about a loved one’s. Try it: “Ma and Pa, I recently became super-interested in my 401K. It’s really neat. How do you guys do yours?” or “Sis, I have a really hard time maintaining my weight. Can I talk to you about it?”

DO expect resistance, but take it in stride. “It’s none of your business,” “I’ll never lose 100 pounds,” or “Don’t you have your own money problems, Miss Unemployed Since Christmas?” are just a smattering of the exciting defensive responses you can anticipate when confronting a loved one about a major issue like this. Don’t take it as a personal attack. Accept it, make your points gently, and keep moving.

DO understand extenuating circumstances. Did this person just have a baby? Did someone close to her pass away? Did he have a car accident? Major life changes can have a profound impact on financial and physical health. Sometimes, they’ll take a lower priority to just getting through the day alive.

DON’T harp on it. Nagging gets no one anywhere, ever. I think my sister still smokes purely because I yell at her every time she does. Make your point and move on.

DON’T expect instant results. Understand that people change when they want to, not when you want them to. It’s one thing to express concern, it’s another to demand immediate satisfaction.

DO take baby steps. If your loved one is on the same page, offer assistance, and help them make incremental changes. Rome wasn’t built in a day, or even 40 days. It probably took decades, and even then, it wasn’t perfect. Weight and finance problems can take entire lifetimes to build up, and need additional days, months, and years to get better. Any progress is good progress.

And that’s it. But I’d love, Love, LOVE to hear readers’ opinions on this. Have you had to speak to a loved one about their weight or money? What did you do? How did it go? Have you tried any of these strategies? Did they work? What would you change for next time?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

30 comments:

English Major said...

I am firmly in the camp that there is never a good reason to "intervene" in someone's weight stuff other than concern that the person in question has an undiagnosed eating disorder. Otherwise? They know already, and their choices are theirs.

Money is a little different, though, I think, because I think many money troubles are genuinely related to a lack of information. I think you can approach the issue circuitously, with lots of sideways "I worry I'm not contributing enough to my 401(k)..." and "Gosh, I find it so tough to save money...". I think you need to know where certain people (potential spouse, say, or your parents) stand with money, but not so you can hector them about it--just so you can plan your own stuff with as much information as possible.

But I'm an "eyes on your own paper" kind of girl, and not much for come-to-Jesus talks.

Anonymous said...

I have had to confront someone about alcohol abuse.

Definitely unhelpful things I've done:
* roll my eyes or sigh when he pours another drink
* say anything at all when he goes to pour another drink, like "it's bedtime."
Those put him on the defensive and he goes stubborn.

More suitable things I've tried:
* discuss with him how much he thinks it's okay to drink. He gives me some boundaries but then doesn't stay within them.
* ask how I can help him stay within the boundaries he has set. He gives a flippant answer.
* threaten to tell his best friend and closest relative if he ever again gets so drunk that he does anything stupid. No response.
* tell him the next day about anything he did that worries me, which he has generally forgotten by the time I tell him. He acts worried, too, but then when nothing else bad happens for a while, he quits worrying.
* promise to leave him if he doesn't get things under control, explaining the areas of my life that were becoming unpleasant and other ways I have tried to deal with those areas of unpleasantness. For example, I have trouble falling asleep because I am worried he is going to burn the house down or injure himself. For another example, he turns into someone I don't like, and I don't want to live with someone I don't like, even if it's for a relatively small percentage of my waking hours. This resulted in him making a plan. He didn't drink at all for several days, then stuck to the plan for several more days, and now he's back to his old self. Time to talk to him again.

My biggest problem is that when he's drunk is not a good time to talk to him. And when he's sober, I also forget all about everything and am happy again.

And PS--There is no violence involved. He just gets stupid, poetic, clumsy, and who knows where he's going to pee. (Peeing on electronics is unsafe.) And of course alcohol makes him fatter, disrupts his sleeping patterns, and kills off brain cells or whatever.

**

All of your ideas sound spot on except for the part where in the end you cannot fix anyone. They have to fix themselves. Just make sure they know that if they ever decide to work on that area of themselves, you will be there to help. (Some people are better motivated to work on themselves alone, and then to surprise their friends with their results.)

And if they are willing to accept help, ask what kind of help they would like. Do they want an exercise buddy? Someone to rant to during emotional crises (instead of eating)? Someone to hold their hand through the budgeting process?

Good luck to you.

stackingpennies said...

have these tips every actually been successful for you? They sound nice, but reality isn't so simple.

People generally do know when they are overweight/unhealthy. I don't think a conversation would help. (the same thought applies to smokers. They know it is unhealthy and expensive, they know I wish they would quit because I love them... what does me telling them do?)

I agree a bit with English major about finances, but I also think parents might know they are saving too little for retirement and not be willing to change their lifestyle in order to improve things.

It is extremely hard not to seem judgy if you are a thin/average person with no debt and nice savings telling them to shape up.

Milena said...

There is certainly a happy medium between getting too involved in someone's life and being completely "hands-off." Depending on your relationship with that individual, it may be completely appropriate to speak up.

That said, I am a financial professional, have seen people with addictions, poor financial abilities, and health problems that directly affect their families.

I would add Do Seek Professional Help if problems get out of hand. It might give you the perspective you need to stay out of the situation, or the support to intervene appropriately. Also Do Create and Stick To Boundaries, if someone else's life choices interfere with yours, you can find the ways to keep your sanity and the relationship by maintaining boundaries.

And the truth is, you and the other person are doing the best they can...even if their best is your worst. Even if their best is pouring a shot to make it through the day. No one attempts their worst. Do attempt the esoteric and love with compassion, blind to faults. I assure you it is possible.

Anonymous said...

I have had experience talking with both of my parents about financial and mental health issues. I am a 26 year old child with three siblings and we've had several big sit down talks to discuss finance and health problems. It is simply never, never easy and has caused immense pain for all involved-especially when parents fail to take care of themselves and children have to take over the parent role.

I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is to continue taking care of yourself and in the end recognize that adults make their own choices and must live with the consequences of those choices. It is good to express concerns, but in the end, you have to be strong enough to tell the truth and set your limits. Don't let a loved one's problems suck all the life and joy out of your own marriage/job/daily life. This is a hard balance to achieve with people you love.

Hops said...

I don't think it's possible for me to disagree with you any more. I'm very much an MYOB kinda gal and this is invasive and judgey and horrible, no matter the kind intentions.

People aren't so unaware of their own situations that they need them to be pointed out. If they want help/advice, they'll ask for it.

Kris said...

Hey everyone - thanks for your responses so far. I'm glad there have been people on both sides of the fence.

While I agree that people's lives are their own to do with as they please, I don't think there's anything out of bounds with, "Mom/Dad/Husband/Wife, I love you very much, and I want you to be around to see your grandchildren/kids graduate high school."

But again, I'd love to hear more.

English Major said...

To my mind, Kris, the problem is that all "I love you very much, and I want you to be around to [whatever]" does is add baggage to the enormous pile of baggage that surrounds this issue for most people.

If you want them to know that you love them and want the best for them and their health? Just love them. Ask them if they've had a cancer screening lately (fat people are likely either to have real ailments attributed to their weight or be afraid to go to the doctor because of the flak they may take about their weight); offer to watch their kids if they need to make time to go to the gym or do some quiet meditation. Don't participate in the fetishization of good food/bad food that only contributes to disordered thinking about food. Don't engage in diet talk. Don't talk about how fat your thighs are. But really, just love them, hang out with them, let the time spent together enrich both of your lives.

Kristen said...

I'm usually really wary to say stuff about weight. Heavy people know they're heavy, they know it's not healthy, and getting on them about it would probably only serve to make them feel worse about it all(which might in turn cause them to eat brownies or something!).

I usually only offer advice if someone seems to be seeking it.

Anonymous said...

Would you rape the wife of a friend who can't get pregnant? Then what makes you think that ganging up on someone and telling them they're fat is ok; the word "love?" What is loving about cornering them and destroying their psyche? Oh sure you get a thrill and feel all self righteous about the "good" you've done, but that feeling will only last until the recipient swallows a bullet. Just pray that he doesn't take anyone down with him.

Anonymous said...

Re: weight

I actually am an overweight person (technically obese, as per medical guidelines about BMI). I have been confronted by a loved one. Although I understand that that person is concerned about me, she did not say a single thing to me that I did not already know. She totally blindsided me with it one day, so not only was it embarrassing, I was kind of shocked that she would bring it up in that way and situation, so it wasn't a conversation, it was an ordeal to smile and nod through. She did it in front of other people, which was extra humiliating (and I think that one of the other people was actually quite embarrassed to be witnessing the conversation). Net result -- a humiliating experience that made me feel even worse about myself (it was a year and a half ago and I still get really upset when I think about it); I now do my best to avoid that person except in large family gatherings. I also resent being told what to do, so there were several months when any weight loss efforts were on hold, because who is she to try to tell me what to do?

Here is my suggestion if you are concerned about someone's weight: ask them to go for a walk with you.


Also, be aware that weight is an incredibly private issue for some people. Some people would rather die than talk about it. Just because someone isn't harping on it, doesn't mean that they aren't thinking about it and trying.

Anonymous said...

Ive been overweight my entire life, and my ex-husband, who eats at least twice as much as I has always been very thin. Even his "gentle" comments were offensive to me becuase he has absolutely no idea what it is like to be in my shoes. And please don't think that fat people are so stupid that they don't already *know* they are fat. Their issues are thiers that they must find a way to deal with, and they are no business of yours unless you are asked for your advice or your help with a weight loss program.

Anonymous said...

For not being a professional, you sure have it all right. I loved the content of this article and each bullet was direct and still sensitive with approach. Loved it!

Anonymous said...

I have been married to a women for 30 years. She was about 10 pounds overweight when we got married. She has added 5 - 10 pounds every year or so and now is about 60 -70 pounds overweight. I never said a word about her weight. I bought her flowers every day for years, told her she was the prettiest woman I knew, provided well for our seven kids and let her have the grandkids (13 of them)at the house whenever she wants.
Truth is, she is not happy with her weight and he her loss of felexibility, feet problems , snoring and neither am I.
She has started every diet out there and lost weight only to quit the diet and gain the weight back.
She has talked about her weight, but now (age 54) seems resigned to being like she is.
Sad point is, it affects our social life, our sex life and her health.
I seem to have two choices, accept it or divorce her. That is a sad situation to place a devoted, loving partner.
Any suggestions from people on either side of this issue would be greatly appreciated.

Kinder said...

"Here is my suggestion if you are concerned about someone's weight: ask them to go for a walk with you."

I totally agree with this. If you want somebody to lose weight bad enough that you'll actually confront her about it--actually hurt her feelings over it--then you should be prepared to do more work with her. You should be prepared to walk with her, or even schedule regular gym work outs with her. That way you are not "confronting" her so much as asking her to engage in an enjoyable social experience with you.

(I wonder: is there "an enjoyable social experience" you can share with somebody who suffers from poor fiscal management? Maybe you can go to the bank together??)

That said, I want to point up another uncomfortable issue: maybe this person's weakness really bothers you. How else to say it? Maybe the fact that they KNOW they have a problem but let it persist for YEARS ON END just, well, burns you out? Here, life gets all uncomfortable: speaking to this person, tactfully or not, may NEVER change her behavior. And yet, her problem makes life more difficult for herself and others.

This is the aspect of the issue that's hardest for me. My mother-in-law has a quickly worsening weight problem. At some point, I asked if she wanted to work out with me, under the pretense that it would be a positive social experience, a time to bond. But she bailed out after three trips (once she realized that going to the gym entailed doing exercise). I said nothing about her diet of baked goods and fried food; I was silent about her complete resistance to an exercise routine.

And now I'm just exhausted. I actually really dislike going to the gym, but I do for the sake of my children. I'm kind of hurt by my mother-in-law's aggressive inactivity, but I want to help her have a better life. And I want her to be there for her grandchildren.

Hope I'm not being a Debby Downer. I just think that, realistically, these stories RARELY have a happen ending. So, yeah...I guess I am a downer. Sorry! I would appreciate any observations, caveats, wisdom, advice.

Anonymous said...

To the man whose wife has gained 60-70 pounds over the course of their marriage and has unsuccessfully tried many diets:

First, for my background: I have been married 26 years. I was about 30 pounds overweight, and my husband is 250 pounds overweight.

We recently began seeing a female internist who believes in natural approaches (nutritional supplements, non-surgical techniques when possible, bioidentical hormones, etc.). One of her specialties is helping people lose weight. She even offers counseling to get at the root of emotional issues that lead to overeating. My husband is not very compliant with suggested diets nor as concerned about his weight as he should be, but surprisingly, I was the one with the blood sugar problems (he's fine!). This doctor scared me into caring enough about my status of being 30 lb. overweight to work on it, telling me that I was close to becoming diabetic (my blood sugar was 140!).

She put me on a low carb diet -- not an extreme one like Atkins, where you go into ketosis (as I get terrible symptoms like extreme arthritis when doing that), but the more rational "low glycemic diet". Trying to do that myself wasn't doing the trick (partly because she wasn't as emphatic on my first visit), so she put me on a more specific diet of 2 eggs or 5 oz. of 1% cottage cheese for breakfast, meat and vegetables for lunch and dinner, and NutriMed protein shakes with a small amt. of fruit in between each meal. That way my blood sugar stays stable and I never get too ravenous. Only a TINY amt. of starches are allowed (like 2 pcs. of Melba toast a day or 1/4 cup of brown rice only 3 times a week), although I cheat a bit on that. The low amts. allowed, however, let me know that I am having a "treat" when I add little pcs. of potato to my morning eggs or have a little pasta with dinner. I have lost 20 lbs. over 5 mos. The good thing is that this "diet" is more of a lifestyle way of eating that is not too tough -- you're not going hungry. (I don't believe "diets", in which you stay hungry, work!) I'm looking pretty good, but my blood sugar is still higher than optimal (about 105-110), so my doc suggests another 10 lbs. till my body is "happy".

Basically, I was not made to be overweight! My husband's entire family are huge, and apparently he is supposed to be bigger (although he's gotten SO big, he definitely needs to get serious about losing weight). I think there are emotional issues behind his eating, however, so unless he deals with that, it may not work.

In short, I'd suggest you find a good natural-oriented doc like mine for her to go to. (Mine is in North Central Florida, in case you live here too.) She needs to be told the ramifications on her health in no uncertain terms, and she needs to develop a new lifestyle of eating that she can maintain.

Anonymous said...

It's really interesting when I read the MYOB folks - in my case specifically about weight. I have two cases - one friend, one relative - who constantly complain about their weight, who feel free to comment on my not being overweight, etc. My favorite was the friend told me I must be so skinny because I drank grapefruit juice. Never mind the fact that at the time I was an avid cyclist, and had ridden over 200 miles that weekend. The relative sent ME nutrition books (I'm in the healthy BMI, fwiw, so she couldn't have logically been afraid I had anorexia).

So far I have resisted stepping through the door that they're leaving wide open. The problem I have is I do worry about their health, I would love to say LET ME HELP YOU. Except that I live a plane ride away, and can only offer virtual help. And I know that in both cases, it would be stunning if they went a whole week without the excuses starting. It kills me because I know it's killing them. And the relative is my son's grandmother. I want him to know her, to love her, to interact with her. (I'm doing everything I can to move closer.)

So yeah, it would be lovely if these two would LET me be eyes on the paper. But it's hard to do when they keep waving their paper under my nose.

Anonymous said...

"Mind your own business" on these issues is a fine philosophical position - as long as it's consistent. If a person's actions are self-destructive, and they are fully aware of the consequences of their actions, then they have no claim on you for assistance when they've messed up their own lives. An adult has no right to demand assistance from others when their prior actions are irresponsible. For the person demanding such assistance, I'd say, "Whatever happened to 'mind your own business'? I did what you asked. Now you are living with the consequences of your own choices. I can't change the laws of nature."

Julia said...

Re: "I wonder: is there 'an enjoyable social experience' you can share with somebody who suffers from poor fiscal management?"

What about asking them to take a financial workshop or course with you like the Dave Ramsey course? My dad took it and asked me to join him. I know it was his way of giving me financial advice without US actually having to talk about it. And if I didn't live two hours away from him I would have, happily. Just an idea.

Jeff S. said...

I doubt that anyone really believes that talking to a loved one about his weight is remotely analogous to raping someone, as one commenter said above.

It's only natural for us to want our friends and relatives to stay healthy and stay alive. If someone you love has a treatable condition that they are unwilling or unable to confront, then to offer help and guidance is the loving choice, if not the most comfortable for either party.

While it is important to be sensitive to hurting anyone's feelings, as practically everyone here has made clear, sometimes confrontation is necessary. Most of us would not consider it heartless to talk to a friend or relative about a life-threatening drug addiction; is it so different when someone may be eating himself into an early grave?

It's always important to remember that while your choices are your own, they can affect the people you love. These people may have to care for you when you are incapacitated, nurse you when you are down, or mourn for you when you have passed away. If you really want to avoid their input, then you may as well break all ties now, because they have a vested interest in seeing you happy and healthy. Unconditional love is not the same as unconditional acceptance of all of your choices.

Finally, if having a loved one talk to you about your weight is something that might really drive you to "swallow a bullet," then your friends and relatives have more important things to talk to you about than your weight.

ering said...

This is really hard. I am just now reading one of Dave Ramsey's finance books and realizing that I wished I'd listened to what my mother has been saying for years! I think it is incredibly hard to change my own habits - forget trying to change someone elses. The inertia to get over the old habit is incredible. But I have changed a few habits and they way I did it is to use the challenge on ZenHabits website. Leo has a forum where you state the habit you want to create (i.e. eat healthy instead of stop eating badly) at the beginning of the month (or whenever you find out out about it!) and then you make a commitment to two things 1) meeting your habit and 2) report on it daily. This has been extremely effective for me personally. He also has inspiring posts about making health changes like this one: http://zenhabits.net/2007/10/31-ways-to-motivate-yourself-to-exercise/.

But that doesn't get someone else to change...I don't know how to do that. I have had "the talk" about weight with my mother as have all my siblings. She knows she is overweight and she doesn't change. We have resigned ourselves to it. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

"Rape isn't about love, it's about power and control." By that definition Jeff, the two are morally equivalent despite your denial. Justifying an intervention because someone's weight inconveniences your friendship is no more right than raping a friend because you feel a child will make her happy one day.

So genius, what do you think the outcome of one of these "love fests" will be? The victim saying, "Oh thank you! I never realized how fat I was?" Or will it damage/end the friendship between the victim and the others involved? Most likely the later. And what, pray tell, happens when individuals feel isolated from and victimized by society? Columbine, Virginia Tech, etc. There's ample precedence for how people react when they're depressed and feel victimized.

The question now, Jeff, is whether you are willing to take responsibility for the result of your actions? Or will you just pass it off as, to paraphrase you "someone has more pressing problems than their weight?"

The Future Mrs Drawz said...

I haven't dealt so much with the money issue, but I have discussed diet and exercise with my immediate family. I've found the most effective (and least awkward) way to approach it is from an impersonal perspective. For example, I read a book about health and nutrition ("Eat, Drink and Be Healthy") so I would share interesting tidbits I learned from it. I also like to cook, so when I go home to visit, I always make at least one meal for the family. I try to incorporate a tasty vegetable dish, or something from cooking light, and specifically mention how healthy it is. That often elicits some surprised reactions, since it tastes good, and often some recipe requests. And I've mentioned medical studies I've read on correlations between BMI or fitness level and various diseases (although it's easier for me to get away with that, since I'm in biomedical science).

I do kind of pester my mom and siblings about exercise- I think that's a much less touchy subject than weight, and in the end, is actually more important. I've had limited success so far, but I'm still working on it. I think that staying positive, and focusing on the benefits of exercise and healthy foods, is likely to be far more helpful than telling someone they're fat.

Obviously, I'm not in the MYOB camp. Sometimes a gentle nudge in the right direction is all it takes to really make a difference. For example, my fiance and my best friend are relatively averse to doctor visits, and it often takes some prodding on my part to get them to routine physicals. They know they should go, they want to do it "in theory", they just need someone to push them.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 7:29 -

Raping someone, and mentioning they have a weight problem are morally equivalent? That is patently false as well as being downright offensive to people who have been the victim of a serious crime.

People's worth is not determined by the number on the scale, and telling them that they are overweight is not the same as suggesting that they are loathsome individuals that ought to isolate themselves from society. Fat people are not so emotionally fragile that asking if you can help with their problem will cause them to become hermits, and suggesting that they are is downright ridiculous.

What will happen if you tell someone they are overweight and they should do something about it before it kills them? If they know it is a problem already and are working on it, you can help and support them in their struggle to regain their proper weight. If they don't regard it as a problem, you can point out the ill effects, and hopefully get them to realize that.

Kris said...

Hey guys - I'm really digging all the different points of view, but I think I might ask y'all to back away from the rape/weight comparisons for before it gets a bit too off-topic. I'd still love to hear your thoughts on weight and money confrontations, though.

Anonymous said...

An individual telling someone he is fat isn't morally equivalent to rape; an intervention is, and after watching A&E's "Intervention" TV show, there are a few other crimes that should be thrown into the mix: assault, kidnapping, false imprisonment, etc. There's no other way to describe the luring someone to a location under false pretenses, and preventing him from leaving until everyone has had a chance to participate in the group shaming. There is no "love" in that, only "power and control."

Kris has a good point in her post, "DON’T harp on it" Of course she has also discovered that individuals will often rebel at unsolicited advice as evidenced by, "I think my sister still smokes purely because I yell at her every time she does." Where she gets it dead wrong is when suggests an intervention with the statement, "DO consider approaching as a group."

Anonymous 4:43 is correct, a person's worth is not determined by a number on a scale. So why have the conversation in the first place? Only in America do people worry more about other people's business than their own. (And as a side note, only in America do people find offense to be more of a crime than the actual deed.) Where he's wrong is in the Pollyannaish attitude that all will be well after the confrontation. If it's done on an individual basis, then the relationship between the individuals will be, at best, strained. If it's done on an intervention basis, then the results will be much worse.

Kris said...

Hey everybody - that was the last comment on rape/weight. Still would love to hear more on the post topic, but all rape-themed comments will henceforth be deleted.

Anonymous said...

Kris,

What do you expect to happen after a group confrontation of someone about their weight? What do you hope to get out of it?

Kris said...

Hi Anon,

Thank you for writing. Those are great questions, and I'll try to answer them best I can.

Ideally, I wouldn't get anything out of a confrontation. If I'm approaching it from the right place, it wouldn't benefit me at all. Rather, I would hope it would help convince a loved one that there are people who are deeply concerned about his/her choices, and willing to support them through adversity and possible change.

I realize this may seem unrealistic, especially when the subjects at hand are so sensitive and the potential for bad blood is high. But maybe, just maybe, it's worth a shot? For someone's life?

I'm curious to read your ideas, and thanks again for a good discussion question.

Kris

slinkystar2002 said...

I think that the most important element in having a conversation like this, is that the other person be willing to have it too. Forcing an unwelcome conversation about a sensitive topic will do no good. No change will happen. The person has to be willing to change, or nothing will.

I have two situations that this post relates to. The first is my fiance. He has gained a bit of weight since we first started dating, and is entirely aware of it. We've had numerous conversations about it. He started eating healthier of his own initiative. He didn't 'diet', he just made small changes in his eating. No more hamburgers or sugary drinks. This has helped some and he lost a bit of weight, and seems to be holding steady. He tried going to the gym, but gets frustrated by other people hogging the machines, and it's not any fun for him either. In all the conversations we've had I always do three things. I'm supportive and make sure he knows I'm with him no matter what. I try to find out WHY things aren't working (him going to the gym). And last, I try to suggest an alternative. This summer we're going to investigate the nearby bike trail at least three days a week after work. I refrain from negative comments or from belitting his efforts (ie 'If only you tried harder...').

The second situation is my mother and relates to financial matters. I haven't yet had a serious talk with her, because it's not as much my business as my fiance's weight. (which he brought up and directly affects our relationship) I'm kind of working my way towards it though. She's 50 years old and hasn't a stitch of retirement savings. I think she's counting on a combination of my dad's pension (she gets half as per the divorce agreement), social security, and 'I had kids' security. I happen to think the most reliable is probably the third. She owns a small condo that is currently being rented to my brother and his family. I've mentioned to her before that when she sells it (after they move on to a house of their own) she should put it in savings for retirement. It's a drop in the bucket, but it's something at least. For the moment I'm sticking with a few gentle nudges, and perhaps we'll end up having that talk. (Wouldn't surprise me). If it doesn't happen though, I probably will initiate one.

As for something (not necessarily fun), but that can be a good foot in the door: Offer to do their taxes. I used this with my sister. I offered to show her how to free file. This led to us sitting down and doing her taxes, which led to talking about the different tax advantages for school stuff, which led to loans, which led to budgeting and getting her finances straight. I offered to sit down and help her if she needed it and left it at that. If she wants the help, I'm here, but I'm not her conscience either.