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?
Mommy to my amazing 6 yr old dd, we , and 27 weeks and have been sick the whole time so far, grrrrr!!!!!!!
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.
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.
She does probably need some assistance. I know my weight and depression were intertwined. Good luck, you seem to be a caring friend
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.
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.
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.
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!
Andrea , wife to K , mother to
I agree that if you can't talk this person out of it, warn your friend.
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.
Proud Mama to DS1 09/07 , DD 07/09 , and DS2 06/11 . Feeling more and more blessed with each day!
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.
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?
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!
I like the letter, but before sending it I'd give Jane one chance to cancel. Tell her that you think this event will be incredibly hurtful and harmful to Anne and that if she insists on going ahead with it, you are going to warn Anne about what's coming. And *then* send the letter.
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?
There is a difference between Jane's idea and the typical intervention. An intervention with an alcoholic or drug addict usually involves family and friends withdrawing anything they do to help the addict/drinker continue with his habit, and refusing to be inconvenienced by it any longer. This is only fair, because while friends cannot force another person to stop drinking, they are certainly entitled to refuse to lend the drinker money, bail him out after a DUI, or lie to his boss for him. The difference is, they are talking about things which affect them directly.
In the case of Anne, I assume her weight has no direct effect on Jane's life. Jane's idea is not an intervention, it is plain old fashioned meddling, of the most intrusive and overbearing kind.
Also, I'm wondering why someone would even think this is a good idea. Maybe because confronting someone in a crowd makes it easier than having a true heart-to-heart one-on-one. Jane might be honestly concerned about Anne, but has no idea about how to bring up such a delicate topic in conversation. So instead of working that awkwardness out, she goes for the battering-ram approach. There's strength in numbers, so going in to confront poor Anne in a pack feels safer. But this is all about JANE feeling comfortable, not Anne.
If Anne is fat, she knows it. The media pumps out anti-fat messages every day: so do rude people in carparks, horrible people in supermarkets, people everywhere. The last thing she needs is her friends attacking her. Weight gain is VERY largely genetic and diets have been proven to, on the whole, not work long-term (in fact, most people who diet actually end up weighing more than those who don't). It can also be due to medical conditions, in which case Anne probably knows about hers already.
I can't think of anything less likely to make me change my behavior on any matter than an intervention. They're an us-against-you aggressive ambush that prove people have been gossiping behind your back - fun. I don't know enough about them in drug/alcohol situations to say if they ever work or not, but they certainly don't sound friendly and I'd probably cut off communication with anyone who tried such publically shaming tactics on me.
I think you should strongly impress upon Jane the desirability of flinging herself under a bus before putting her so-called friend through such an event. Ew. Ew ew ew.
If decomposition persists please see your necromancer.
She spent a part of our conversation trying to convince me that this really was something positive and life-changing for Anne. It turns out Jane has spoken to Anne on numerous occasions about her weight, but it has (according Jane) "no effect", so she felt that this was the next logical step to try to get Anne to change.
I tried to offer my two cents about just loving and supporting Anne for who she is, and letting her fight her own battles on her own time and in her own way. But I'm sure it fell on deaf ears. Jane was too into feeling sorry for herself that her fabulous idea was shot down by everyone. (I had to try hard to not sound like this )
Maybe I should have had more faith in everyone else that this would never get off the ground. I just don't know most of this group of friends, so I honestly didn't know what the reaction would be. So I've been thinking this morning about it and where to go from here. Should I even mention this to Anne? I don't think so. I don't think anything positive could come from her knowing such a plan was ever discussed. (Although she might be pleased to know that Jane was the only one who thought it was a good idea.) And, you know, I should give Anne credit... she'd probably just laugh at her life-long drama queen friend for cooking up such an insane idea, especially if Jane has been badgering her about her weight for a long time. But... who knows.
My plan is not to say anything to Anne about this party that never was. I don't plan to talk to her about her weight. If she wants to talk about it, that's fine... but I woudn't know how to bring it up in a way that wouldn't be potentially hurtful, so I won't. Is that burying my head in the sand? I don't know. I do know she see's a doctor with some regularity. I think the doctor is far more equipped to have these discussions with Anne than I am. I'm equipped to be her friend and accept her exactly as she is, and I hope she is willing to accept me (flaws and all) too. Jane would say that being a true friend isn't just about acceptance, it's about loving the person and wanting what's best for them. I guess I get that on some levels.
This whole thing has just reaffirmed to me why I've never really connected with Jane. I know she and Anne have a long history - but who needs friends like that?? Drama, drama, drama.
Thanks for your responses!