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"Intervention" for overweight friend.

post #1 of 122
Thread Starter 
I really am looking to get some responses to this from folks removed from the situation.

My friend, who I've known for about three years, is overweight. She's actually very overweight. I'm horrible at guessing weight, but I'm sure she's well over 300 lbs (perhaps nearing 400??) and maybe around 5'5. She is still mobile, but I can see her mobility has been declining this last year. She basically never goes up the stairs at her house because it is just too difficult, and has made arrangements to be able to live entirely downstairs. I know it's a challenge for her to find clothes. I know it's hard for her to put on shoes. I know she has chronic hypertension and is pre-diabetic. She is 33 years old and has three children that she really struggles to keep up with. She is just half an inch away from not being able to drive any longer because her stomach presses against the steering wheel. So, yes, clearly she is a woman who is suffering the effects of being extremely overweight. She isn't dieting right now, that I'm aware of, and hasn't ever talked about her weight being a major issue in her life. She doesn't talk about it too much, and I don't really bring it up either.

Well, I got a phone call from... oh, let's call her Jane. I don't know Jane too well, but she is very good friends with my (overweight) friend. OK, before this gets confusing, let's call my overweight friend Anne. I've done a few dinners that included both Anne and Jane - but I really don't know her very well. Anne sort of has a circle of friends that go way way back and I'm not really in that circle, if that makes sense. So, anyway, I was a little surprised to get a call. The conversation started off just catching up on what our children were up to... then Jane said "I need your help with something."

It turns out Jane is planning to stage an intervention for Anne. I was SHOCKED. Was she on drugs and I didn't even know it? What was going on? It turns out they are planning and intervention for Anne based on their "concerns about her eating habits and obesity". She is planning to through a party, which will turn into a fun "this is your life" sort of deal, which will in turn become a "this is an intervention" kind of deal. I don't know if intervention is quite the right word, but this is the word that Jane used. Everyone was going to read a letter to Anne about how much they love her and that they don't want to lose her. Everyone was also supposed to offer one concrete way in which they would support her (like "I'll go on a walk with you every monday morning" or whatever).

I told her I didn't think that sounded like a great idea, but I'd have to get back to her and made up some dumb excuse to get off the phone. Honestly, I thought it sounded HORRIBLE. Anne knows she's overweight. She KNOWS it - she can see it in the mirror, and I'm sure she hears it from her doctor. What is an intervention going to do? Jane said on the phone that "everyone" was worried that Anne is physically falling apart. (Which, frankly, I'd have to agree with...) They are worried she is going to die young and leave her children behind. The intervention, according to Jane, isn't so much a big confrontation as it is a way to show support and show her that they wanted to help her get healthy.

No matter how kind the intentions of everyone, I see this ending with Anne being completely humiliated. Instead of seeing a group of friends extending hands to help her lose weight, I think she'd see a group of friends who clearly talked about her very personal issue behind her back and all judged her harshly.

Has anyone ever heard of an intervention for someone struggling with their weight? I've seen that show on television called "Intervention", and it is usually for drug abusers... but I have seen a couple that were for eating disorders. I suppose one could argue that Anne has an eating disorder... but this all still doesn't feel quite right to me.

But does anyone else think this sounds absolutely asinine? Has anyone ever heard of this sort of thing?? Is this possibly a good idea, and I'm just reacting emotionally because I don't want confront the reality of my friend's health?
post #2 of 122
sounds like the other friend has been watching too much "intervention" it's a show on A&E, and they do interventions pretty much like you described. I wouldn't participate at all. If she was depressed, and talking openly that she wishes she could lose the weight etc.. than maybe, but this might really hurt her feelings or at best, make her feel so awkward.
post #3 of 122
I vote asinine!! I think her friends can offer to walk with her etc with out humiliating her. Would they be having an intervention for a friend who is not overweight that has high pressure and is pre-diabetic? Or a friend who never exercises and eats nothing but junk but isn't overweight?
post #4 of 122
Wow-that hits me in the gut as a really, really bad idea. Wow. I would NOT participate in something like that, and I might go so far as to tell 'Anne' about her 'friends' plans. That would be so humiliating, and would do nothing to help the issue. Do they think she is stupid? Cause that's the implication - that all she needs to get healthy is some 'caring' friends to point out how bad things are. Do they live in her body? In her life? Sorry - this really got me going. I'm so sorry that 'Anne' has friends that would think that is a good idea. It sounds like you are good to her and have her best interests at heart. Don't participate!
post #5 of 122
NO not cool.
The idea that anyone else can say what her weight is right is just out there. The thing is some of my most overweight friends eat the healthiest, and when overweight people assume that the obsese are eating horribly and are sloppy/messy/have no self control. These ideas are not okay, they are prejiduces that are not rooted in fact.
The thing is that weight is really only between that woman and her Dr. - she may eat salads and gain weight or she may eat burgers and loose weight - her body is probably a lot harder to keep within "normal" weight ranges than ours and the idea that her non-obese friends can 1. decide she needs an intervention and 2. tell her what is going to work to loose the weight is full of hubris and is obviously diconnected from this woman's right to choose her own path and be in charge of her own health.

Please write Jane a letter and cc Anne (seriously.) or vs. vs.



I've been contacted by our mutual friend Jane regarding a "friendly intervetion" for you regarding your weight. I am not at all comfortable with the idea that it would be my place to judge what your health status dictates; in terms of current heath or future activity and I want you to know that this is coming.

I am not comfortable telling you how/when/or why to "get in shape" or "loose weight" but rather I want you to know that I enjoy your friendship and am always willing to support you in any endeavors you may choose to pursue. I think you are a strong and wonderful mother committed to her family and am glad to have you in my life. In that strain I could not allow this "surprise" to happen as I find it incredibly hurtful.

Your friend,
post #6 of 122
I would try really hard to talk Jane out of an intervention. Jane's act could be devastating to your friend, depending on her personality.
post #7 of 122
Thread Starter 
OK... can I just say that it is a RELIEF to hear that you guys think this is just as crazy as I do. I was sort of being made to feel like I was an uncaring friend to not jump to support this.

I should add that Jane is a bit of a drama queen, and yes I completely agree that she watches too much Intervention on A & E. I have no idea where she is in the planning of all of this. I don't know who she has talked to, or how easily I may be able to talk her out of this. It could very well be that all the other friends (most of whom I don't know) find this just as awful as I do and it never gets off the ground.

This was my initial thinking, once I verified that my gut reaction wasn't too far wrong: I'd try to talk Jane out of this, and if that failed I would warn Anne well before she walks into their humiliating scene. Good suggestion on the letter with the cc. I don't see, as a friend, how I can let this happen. There is maybe a 1% chance Anne would take it well and make a change in her life for the better.... but there is a 99% chance this will backfire and only serve to deeply hurt Anne.

I'm glad to know my gut instincts aren't so far off base. This really deeply bothers me, and it makes me want to cry to think of this beautiful and unsuspecting person being subject to something like this. No matter how light-hearted and fun Jane tries to make it with the "this is your life" sort of theme, I think it end result will be very humiliating and hurtful.

Thanks... I feel less crazy already.
post #8 of 122
Agree with all of the above. While I agree that certain foods have addictive qualities [ex: I am currently trying to wean my self off of fast food--it was psychological and a taste thing], trying to equate obesity with heroin addiction is tenuous at best. She is certainly aware of her weight. This subject is best dealt with individually in a caring manner. If one of my friends was concerned about my weight i would hope they might come to me and just say "hey, you wanna start walking in the afternoons?". i would get the hint but without it being direct, you know?

She does probably need some assistance. I know my weight and depression were intertwined. Good luck, you seem to be a caring friend
post #9 of 122
horrible idea!

I'm overweight myself and while I would be embarrassed if someone came to me to offer to help, I'd be thankful they did it one on one.

I'd probably get over being embarrassed and then consider their help.

But the whole "party honoring her" turning into everyone talking about her weight and what she needs to change is horrible. That would be so devastating--speaking personally. I'd just about die if someone did that.
post #10 of 122
I am sitting in the morbidly obese category as well... if my friends or family did that "for me" I don't know that I would keep contact with them in the future.

As it is my older brother send me a few internet links talking about how obesity was linked to lower IQs and cognitive abilities in general and then pointed out several other issues with obesity. Which of course I already know about because I realize that it is a problem. Obese people do get stuck in a rut, but addiction to food (if that is the only problem) is different than addictions to substances. You have to eat food to live.

Anyway, I am rambling. The pp's letter is a good idea.
post #11 of 122
Wow, what a horrible, horrible idea.
post #12 of 122
I think interventions in general are a horrible idea, honestly. Public humiliation as an incentive to better yourself just seems like a long shot.

I really hope they don't go through with it. All a stunt like that would do is make me never want to see any of those 'friends' again.
post #13 of 122
Oooh, I think that is a horrible idea. I see nothing but tears and humiliation for Anne. I think she could be very hurt. I'll bet most of could use more exercise so can't all these friends just send a group email about getting together and walking or something and see if your friend wants to particpate? I would not be offended if a freind called me and said they wanted to get more exercise and could use some company. After all, if Jane isn't exercising regularly her health could be in jeopardy too.
post #14 of 122
I've got the impression that J's drama queen personality is a big part of the ... problem (? - for lack of a better word). She probably means well, has it all planned out, and maybe got a bit carried away by her good intentions.
Depending on A's personality, such an event could even be dangerous (deppression, suicidal thoughts) - I think I'd be a mess in front of my children afterwards.
That said, if you feel your friend needs help this might be your incentive to step forward and offer some help in a non-confrontational way. She's lucky to have such a thoughtful friend like you in her life!
post #15 of 122
Breathtakingly bad idea. Your overweight friend knows quite well that she's overweight. Not a day goes by that she doesn't think about it.

I agree that if you can't talk this person out of it, warn your friend.
post #16 of 122
I also think it is a horrible idea. It sounds humiliating and insulting, and not helpful in the least. I understand hurting for friends with unhealthy habits, and worrying about their effects, but esp. WRT weight, I think any intervention type of thing would just be shameful. There are other ways to offer support without judgement and humiliation.
post #17 of 122
I don't know if someone else has mentioned this or not, but interventions usually include a place for the person to go for rehab. In your friends case it would have to be an eating disorder place or a place that specializes in this kind obesity help. If you your 'friends' are planning to confront your overweight friend and not offer her this kind of help in the way of prearranged care and care for her children and time off her work, etc.... it will be disasterous. What are they thinking?
post #18 of 122
I would definitely tell "Anne" that this intervention is being planned. What a humiliating, degrading way to communicate with a friend. I have a very good friend who is obese - very obese - and she knows damn well how it affects her health and well being. She knows that it may kill her someday and she knows that everyone is concerned about her - she is not ignorant as to what constitutes good health - nobody needs to point out the obvious to her.

I am quite certain that most people with a severe weight condition know darn well what the status of their health is. What they need is loving support and kindness when and if they decide to make some changes.
post #19 of 122
This idea is so horrid that I actually felt the blood draining from my face as I read your post. The potential for this to be a screaming disaster is overwhelming and wow, I personally would never count people who thought this a good idea as "friends" again. I mean seriously, we're going to throw you a party, get prepared for a GREAT time with friends, then sandbag you and tell you we think your a failure and threat to yourself in front of everyone - oh yeah, and we care too. Definitely NOT a good idea. Just NO! (Considering I'm looking at more than a couple to lose, I know I would be devestated if my so called friends did that to me!)

ETA: I was telling DH about this. His reply was rather blunt and direct (more than me LOL!) but he agreed this was probably the worst idea he's EVER heard.
post #20 of 122
Originally Posted by Ravenlunatic View Post
I don't know if someone else has mentioned this or not, but interventions usually include a place for the person to go for rehab. In your friends case it would have to be an eating disorder place or a place that specializes in this kind obesity help. If you your 'friends' are planning to confront your overweight friend and not offer her this kind of help in the way of prearranged care and care for her children and time off her work, etc.... it will be disasterous. What are they thinking?
If this were a plausible, real, intervention idea instead of a humiliation fest, it would be quite small, would include a place that Anne can go/needs to go regularly for treatment, and would involve all the friends having pitched in to pay for the treatment or get it covered by insurance, would cover her childcare for treatment and exercise with cost and schedules all worked out, and would involve a medical professional.

We looked at doing a real intervention for my anorexic mother, but literally that was immediate family plus her best friend, and we had talked to her doctor about where she could go, though he couldn't give us info on her personally. And even there, we decided not to, because if she didn't want to change, it wouldn't make any difference. Her doctor convinced her to get a GI tube by "proposing it for different health reasons," so she's finally put on some weight after at least 2 decades in literally child-size clothes.

In the circus version it sounds like Jane is proposing though, this is just going to be a sideshow act, humiliating and horrible. And she won't even get a TV makeover, new wardrobe, fitness classes paid for, etc. I've never seen the TV show, I'm just guessing that they do *something* to make it worthwhile for the intervention-ees!
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