My weight has yo-yo’d back and forth for 20 years but a year ago I found myself about 60 pounds over my ideal weight and I realized if I didn’t do something serious and soon my health would be impacted even more than it already was and it would only be harder with each pound I gained.
Long story short, I really threw myself into it and for the first time in 20 years, I had real success. I focused on maintaining a very positive outlook on the whole thing and it has even been fun.
What isn’t fun is that Chris, a woman I would call one of my very closest friends, has been unsupportive and almost hostile towards me. She is overweight by about 35-40 pounds and our weight used to be something we complained about and worried over while eating really naughty food!
In the beginning of my new plan she was skeptical but tried to be encouraging, but since I reached my goal and look better than I ever have, she is condescending, unavailable and has mentioned a few times that I will probably gain the weight back. On the rare occasions when we do get together Chris always suggests really unhealthy restaurants and tries to steer me towards fattening food, then acts very annoyed when I make a healthy choice.
My husband (who is very pleased with my new body!) says I should just blow her off, but we are talking about a 30 year friendship. Any advice?
Dear Former Fatty:
First of all, congratulations on your inspirational success at losing 60 pounds. That is something to be very proud of, and I’m sure that most of the people in your life are thrilled with your accomplishment.
Then there are people like Chris.
(I’ve used this before so sorry for the re-run but it’s pertinent)
One of my favorite motivational quotes is by Jack Canfield:
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
You crossed over the river of fear and engaged in a difficult and life-changing process that led you to a better place. Your friend is still on the other side and instead of taking the leap herself she would rather marinate in her own misery, be envious of you and try to drag you back to Shittytown, USA.
It’s hard to celebrate a friend moving to a great new house when you are living in rat-infested government housing.
As the above meme suggests, we tend to view “envy” as a very negative emotion. Nobody wants to be labeled an envious anything, whether it’s friend, lover, co-worker or whatever.
I disagree somewhat. I think envy is an amazing characteristic hardwired into our DNA for the purposes of survival, progression and propagation of the human species. If Caveman Abe hadn’t been envious that Caveman Ben had more bison at the end of the hunt, Caveman Abe would never have invented the spear and we’d all still be living in caves and hunting with rocks. In other words, no HBO! Ack!
Envy can be a very motivating item in your emotional toolbox, but only if you know how to use it. Just as a screwdriver cannot be used to hammer a nail, envy cannot be used if you never elevate it from a feeling into action. And by “action,” I don’t mean bopping on the head the gal who has that Chanel bag and running off with it, I mean working hard to get one of your own.
Irrelevant musings aside, it’s important to consider where Chris is coming from. You and I exchanged some messages last week in which you told me she has always been a very good friend to you and your relationship is much deeper than the common experience of being overweight.
I disagree with your husband that you should just blow her off, but instead think you should practice the difficult art of empathy. When you took on the battle of your excess weight and won, you threw down the gauntlet for Chris and became a daily reminder to her that her weight, her eating and her exercise habits are in a bad state.
You also took away one of your common problems, which can be hard on a friendship. You and Chris have had decades of commiseration on the unhappy state of your dress sizes, and in one short year you both eliminated that touchstone and made her feel even more distressed about her weight.
In addition, you re-ordered what I’m betting was her perception of the CFR (Comparative Fat Ranking) in your relationship. Come on ladies, you know this is a thing. You were always the heavier one so I think it’s safe to say Chris felt superior to you when you were bigger than she was.
When your CFR flip-flopped she started to act weird, but that was nothing compared to the change in Chris when you offered her some of your clothes that no longer fit you, or as you so deftly put it, “my fat clothes that I am getting rid of so I never have the option of getting that big again!”
That was hugely insensitive and may explain Chris’ attitude towards you right now. If she had asked you for those old clothes, sure…but to offer them to her because you are now too thin to fit into them and you never want to be that size (meaning, her size) again? That was a gaffe of epic proportions and one for which you should profusely apologize.
The apology will be awkward but it will be a good opening to a conversation you need to have in order to assess whether Chris can continue to be your friend despite your newfound hotness. Here’s my advice:
1. Invite Chris to lunch, dinner, drinks or whatever. Stay away from The Cheesecake Factory; she has problems enough as it is.
2. After ordering wine (duh) just jump right in: tell her what you told me and cite specific examples of her unsupportive and negative behavior.
I’d especially note how hurtful it is to hear her say you are likely to regain the weight* because you have put your heart and soul into this endeavor and her apparent wish for you to go from success to failure calls into serious question whether she has your best interests at heart.
3. Apologize for offering her your clothes and ask if she has anything she wants to share about how your weight loss has impacted her. Listen, don’t react.
4. Tell her you’d like both your weight and hers to be a non-issue in your friendship and let her know you will need that from her in order to continue being close.
5. Give in and have a few bites of her lobster mac and cheese and cherry pie. Nobody likes a preachy former fatty who treats naughty food like the enemy instead of the rarely-seen and wild friend it should be.
6. Hopefully this will solve your problem. However, don’t be surprised if it does not.
There will always be people in life who will never be OK with their friends’ self-improvement, success and happiness because it either threatens their perception of superiority or it casts light on their own inaction and inadequacies.
When one person grows and blossoms, others may react with anger, envy, fear and self-loathing. Still others may resent being left behind because they choose to stay put in a bad place rather than being inspired by their friends who are making things happen. Hopefully that is not true of Chris, but if it is you should know it’s really nothing personal nor is it a condemnation of who you are as a person and a friend.
*That’s actually true but I think you can beat the odds!