It use to be that politics, religion, and money were the big taboo topics that we tried to stay away from in the presence of good company. Now it seems weight and similar conversations about health have been added to that list. Don’t get me wrong conversations about money still make my skin crawl and I’ve listened to enough talks about making America Great, Gay or Mexico again to know it can hijack the mood of any party. But why are we moving away from conversations about weight? I believe that most of us don’t have the tools to have discussions about weight; this may be because we are afraid of saying the wrong thing, or we don’t know what to say. So, we stay quiet. As Americans, we are at our best when we pool the collective genius of the people around us. America is a nation founded on ideas and discourse; different people from all walks of life weighed in on issues that mattered to them. And as the US inches its way up the scale every year, it’s time we learn how to talk about weight.
1. Missing the Punch Line
During a recent nutrition consultation, I Had a client tell me about her eating habits and the conversation quickly shifted to weight. Trying to keep with the light-hearted nature of the discussion the client made a self-deprecating joke about her weight and eating habits. She laughed. And in turn, I just sat there, as steely-eyed and stoned-face as the day I paid 3 dollars for an avocado. I know she wanted me to laugh, but I couldn’t; one because I didn’t find her health funny, and I needed to communicate this early on. Two, I didn’t have that kind of relationship with this client yet. So, my first piece of advice for talking about weight is to take it seriously. If talks about weight loss and weight management get shrouded in a veil of self-depreciating humor, we rob ourselves of the austerity weight management deserves. It’s ok to keep the conversations light-hearted, but don’t undersell the importance of what you are discussing.
2. A Constituency of 1
Theodore Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s also wildly misleading. Too often when we talk about sensitive issues like weight we speak regarding what has worked for us, and this is not wrong. Speak your truth, just don’t market it as gospel. What worked for me can likely only go so far another person. Try to listen when someone works up the courage to talk about their struggle with weight issues. More often than not the solution isn’t, follow this meal plan because it worked for me. Why we eat or why we eat too much or too little involves more than something as prescriptive as assigning a meal plan; Something deep-seated and not casually revealed to us when reflecting on how we saw a change on the scale.
3. Assume Positive Intent
I am a firm believer that 20% of your message is what you say 80% is how you say it. It’s easy to be put on the defensive when someone starts talking about weight; especially if you’re not familiar with them or their intentions for you. My advice here would be to assume that most people that are brave enough to have a conversation about weight are usually trying to help in whatever way they can, What you do with that advice is ultimately up to you. Assume positive intent, and if it is clear that someone has mean or malicious intent then quickly remove yourself from that situation. In short, Americans are already silent on so many important issues like race, income and gender inequality. Let ‘s not add one more thing to the list of things we don’t discuss. Besides Americans may be getting bigger so why can’t that mean we are also just getting closer.
To Your Continued Success,
1 thought on “How to Talk about Weight”
Don, this is an excellent and thoughtful article.