"I've decided that perhaps I'm bulimic and just keep forgetting to purge."

-- Paula Poundstone

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The fine line between helping and hurting

Some of the best topics for this blog come from you, the readers.

This comment from a former co-worker is a real thinker:

“The other thing that I have noticed is that our very good friends will usually gently probe us if we are doing the wrong thing in areas of morality and alcohol. If we were involved in something destructive most good friends would at least chime in with a small nudge to get us back on track.

“But family and friends are very reluctant to mention to us that we are getting 'larger.' I have told my wife that once I get this weight off she has my permission to let me know (what I will already know) that it is not acceptable if she sees me gaining weight again.

“From past experience I know that it is so much easier to lose 10 pounds than to lose 100. I started my current diet when my uncle, who I hadn't seen in several years, frankly and brutally asked me: "Are you trying to kill yourself?" He noticed a pretty hefty weight gain since the last time we had been together. Yes, it hurt a little, but it made me make a u-turn and start doing the right thing. I have thanked him for it since.

“We with "the problem" need to empower those around us to let us know when they notice we are straying. …”

The morning I read this comment, I mentioned it to my husband as we were getting ready for work.

“And how do you feel about that?” he asked me. “You don’t like people telling you you’re fat.”

No, it’s not that, really. I just think there are very good ways to go about it and very bad ways. And the line between them is fine and fragile.

Let me explain.

A few months ago, my good friend Karen actually approached the subject with me when we were in our hotel room during a scrapbooking retreat.

Anyone could see I was the biggest I’d ever been.

So she said something about it, and she did it with respect.

“I just love you and want you to be around for a very long time,” she told me.

She probably doesn’t even know it, but her courage in saying that to me was one of many reasons I got up my own courage to start this journey.

But go about it in the wrong way, and you can cause lasting damage.

Telling someone they’re a fat ass over and over, in my experience, will usually cause someone to eat more, not less.

One of the hardest things I faced growing up was the criticism of my uncles and grandfather.

Yes, I know they loved me. But nothing cut me to the core like them mentioning my weight.

“Good God!” they’d yell when I filled my plate at family gatherings.

It had a way of ruining every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And Granddad, God rest his soul, would be so hurtful and not even know it.

I still remember him telling me my freshman year of high school that it was good that I didn’t care what I looked like, because then I wouldn’t have to worry about boys distracting me from my school work.

Somehow, in his mind, he was trying to help me.

And then there’s my Grandma, who has never said a mean thing to me or anyone else I know of.

To her, food is love. And still to this day, she gives me lots of love.

But she would be filling my plate, and Granddad would bark at her that I didn’t need any more.

Good times.

Anyway, yes. I do think that approaching those we’re worried about is the right thing to do, whether we’re watching them kill themselves with drugs or alcohol or food.

But I also know that doing it the wrong way can leave scars on souls that never fade.

Please tell me your thoughts on this. Have you been the concerned friend? The one getting the nudge? What works, and what doesn’t?

1 comment:

  1. As the good copy editor that you are you completely improved on my comment. Yes, the way the nudging is done is very important. Love and concern is much, much better than derision or condescension. My uncle was a mix of both, but he's 83 and he knows no other way so I forgive him. His heart was in the right place.

    I've been that friend with alcohol, marital straying, but, to be honest, I've never ventured into the area of weight issues with friends. Probably due to my own issues.

    Like you I had a grandmother (rest her soul) who worried about my weight and then piled my plate high with food and dessert.

    "No dieting at my house," she would say.....