Even a well-meaning comment about someone’s weight or eating habits is likely to raise defenses, and it can make him or her feel scrutinized and judged, says Jennifer Kromberg, PsyD, a Torrance, Calif.-based psychologist who specializes in eating disorders. That’s a quick way to shut down communication.
Even if people joke openly about their weight, she says, this doesn’t mean they’re comfortable with it. For some, being addressed directly about body size can trigger disordered eating. It’s more helpful to stay focused on their overall health.
Meanwhile, beware of the temptation to use health concerns as a pretext for discussing weight. “Look at your motive for bringing the subject up,” she emphasizes. “It really should be about their health. There’s nothing wrong with being at whatever weight you’re at if you are in good health.”
Kromberg also cautions against “educating” your friends and family about weight-related matters, given how emotionally charged these topics can be.
“It’s dicey to get into tips,” she explains. “A weight issue is likely to be more complex than a simple matter of diet and exercise. So, empathy is the rule. Think about how you would want someone else to approach you on a topic that’s very sensitive for you.”