How To Help A Newly Plus Size Friend
Posted by Jen Anderson on
We all wish we'd known more way back when. So when you see a friend struggling to adjust to a weight gain, it's only natural for you to want to take them aside so you can share your hard-earned knowledge. But it's not that straightforward.
Don't Bring Up The Subject Directly
Plus size women (especially newly plus size) are used to unsolicited advice - most of it unhelpful and hurtful. I know that your unsolicited advice would be empowering and life affirming, but they have no way of knowing that from the start. Their senses will be on high alert as soon as they realize you want to initiate a Very Special Conversation. No one can really hear you when they've raised their defenses.
There are a number of reasons why someone would put on weight, most of which are none of your business. Weight gain can be caused by medical problems, and you may want to ask your friend if they've been to the doctor because you're sincerely concerned about their health. The problem is that most of the hurtful, useless advice is wrapped in concern. They've noticed their weight gain and are perfectly capable of knowing when they need to seek medical attention. Medication and injuries that keep someone from exercising may also be the culprit. Or it could just be a matter of getting older, which is a whole can of worms they may not want to think about.
Denial Is An Effective Self Defense Mechanism
Put yourself in your friend's shoes. She's probably absorbed diet culture and fatphobia her entire life. She may even have been beating herself up about weighing "too much" long before her recent weight gain. She may believe with every cell of her being that she won't be plus size for long. Because the alternative is unthinkable to her.
It's probably easy for you to imagine how your friend feels because you may have been there yourself. I can't remember a time when I wasn't told I needed to lose weight, and yet I spent decades convinced that I'd shrink down to a socially acceptable size within the next year. Society tends not to treat plus size women well, and it a lot easier to imagine losing weight than to imagine fixing society.
Think about what you want to say to them, and then keep an eye out for opportunities. Noticing that your friend's clothes are always too tight lately is not a reason to speak up no matter how uncomfortable they look. But if your friend complains about not being able to find clothes that fit, you can start naming brands, websites, and stores she should look into.
If they lament that their doctor has started blaming all their ailments on their weight, swoop in and tell her what a nincompoop her doctor is.
If they confide in you that they're having trouble dressing their new body, share some helpful hints. If it's less awkward, you can send them a link to the post I wrote on just that subject. Also point out that plus size isn't a body shape. If she was pear shaped before, then she's pear shaped now. It's possible she's become an Apple Pear thanks to her tummy. But for the most part, any style rules she followed before still apply.
Set A Good Example
You may be able to help your friend without saying a thing. If she sees you dressed fabulously yet comfortably, not hiding from cameras, and eating unselfconsciously, your confidence will rub off on her. Maybe she'll be inspired to ask you for advice, or maybe she'll just learn to follow your lead.
You are right—it can be tricky for you to bring up the topic before your friend does. And if she has a mother, mother-in-law, or other friends who are tactless, she has already heard about it. Even supermarket magazines and tabloids are constantly reminding us (often with the “help” of Dr Oz,) that there is something wrong with us if we have the slightest curvature in our belly area! Don’t you be like them!