What to Do When Someone You Love is Obese and Doesn’t Care

Here’s a question I hear often from people who are concerned about family members or friends who are obese, often morbidly obese: “What should I do when someone I love is extremely overweight and they just don’t seem to care?”

These caring individuals want to know if there is a special way to motivate their loved ones and stoke their desire to live a healthier lifestyle and lose weight. After dealing with my own obesity and talking to hundreds of people about their own weight issues, I have come to this conclusion:

There is no magic answer to this question.

More Harm Than Good

In my opinion it is very challenging to motivate someone else to live a healthier lifestyle. I have faced the fact that most people are not going to change their behavior unless they personally want to change it. They themselves need to be ready and willing to change. The desire and readiness have to come from inside of themselves… not from you or anyone else.

Many people don’t realize this, or maybe just don’t want to accept it. My own grandfather is a perfect example. When I was very young he saw that I was overweight and wrongly assumed that I didn’t care. He did his best to convince me to lose weight by using bribery, name calling, threats, predictions of my “disastrous future,” and more. Unfortunately, all that did was cause me turn to food for comfort and become full of resentment.

This is the wrong way to motivate. If you happen to know anyone who practices this behavior, do me a favor and ask them to stop before it ruins the relationship with the person that they care about.

You see, the person who we assume doesn’t care about their weight really does care. How many people want to be unhealthy and overweight? I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t prefer to look better, feel better and be as healthy as they can be. It is just that sometimes the desire and readiness to change hasn’t hit them yet.

Hard to Change

Overweight people who have unhealthy behaviors already know what bad habits they have and what they need to adjust. But it’s hard to change. I was comfortable with my habits even though I knew they weren’t the healthiest ones, I just didn’t want to change them. My family members and friends loved me and cared about my health, but that wasn’t enough to motivate me. My desire and readiness was just waiting to surface, I just didn’t know when it would happen.

What helped them to surface was a turning point in my life in November 2000, the year when a relative named Shirley passed away due to obesity-related issues in her early 40’s. I could feel the desire and readiness hit me, and when they hit me I knew I could ask for help from friend of mine, a caring person who would keep me motivated and focused on the changes I was prepared to make. This person truly believed in me. Having her in my life was a true blessing.

Back to the original question: If you are wondering what you should do when someone you love is overweight and they don’t seem to care… BE THERE for them. There’s no magic to it. You cannot create their desire and readiness, but you can allow this person to know that you care about them and you’ll be that shoulder they need. Be their true blessing. It will make a world of difference.

Photo by kennethkonica

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  1. I have a friend who is morbidly obese. We have been very close for many years. I have never said anything about her weight because I want her to know that I love her no matter what. But I care about her! And I know she cares about her weight but the trouble is, she’s in complete denial about just how much she eats, and the quality of her food. I’ve struggled with what to say for years. I don’t want her to die young. Any words of wisdom?

  2. For me, it’s like though my friend is obese, her immediate family aside her elder siblings are obese, especially the parents. Now though, all of them live together as adults aside one sibling, and they are ALL gaining MORE weight than before! her older sis is short but used to be skinny, now shes not huge, but she has certainly gained. The friend was always obese since I knew her, but she’s gotten way worse now. It’s like they all got lazier, knowing someone else can do chores…..and they don’t really take turns doing cooking, so oddly, the skinniest one cooks yet they gain weight.

    My hubby saw their fridge and told me “no wonder they are obese” basically. My friend also stays up super late, gets up around average at 9-12 noon. This affects our relationship quite honestly, because often we don’t see each other much from her college (lots of sitting, too….), so when we do, she’s always SO late….like we meet at 2pm on average, and since we live an hour apart and her bus sucks horridly (part of her lateness, but not all of it), we barely get even 6 hours every 2 months. Also, it makes her lazy so it’s harder to invite her out to parks…..but she does enjoy casual swimming, soccer and did attend a gym for a little bit once.

    She is, however, a very stubborn type of person. I can be her best friend because I’m less stubborn or hard-headed, but I need to be careful about how I deal with this issue.

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