Saturday, July 5, 2008

The 3 Hs

The problem: How to deal with people who talk constantly about weight, weight loss, and/or dieting.

What this problem can be:

-Triggering

-Sad

-Annoying

-Unhelpful

-Angering

-Any or all of the above

A lot of the time this person in question is someone you love, respect, or call a friend. So it gets tricky. And sticky. And well, downright icky.

I tend to suggest the 3 Hs.

The 3 Hs:

-Humor

-Honesty

-Heart to Heart

Let me explain. Let’s say the person in question says, “I can’t believe I gained 5 pounds.”

You could laugh and say, “You probably just need to go to the bathroom,” and soften the situation with a little humor, making light of it, and therefore letting the person know it’s OKAY, but at the same time not getting into it with them if it would make you uncomfortable or be triggering.

Let’s say the person in question says, “I am so fat.”

You could respond with, “Of course you’re not fat. You are beautiful just the way you are. That’s one of the reasons I love you.” It’s honesty. And people sometimes shrink away from it because it feels so serious and so open. And because people without eating disorders don’t always put it out there like that. But if you DO care about the person saying this, then combat her negative comment with something REAL.

Another example is this: Let’s say the person in question says, “I need to go on a diet.”

Your response could be, “No you don’t. A diet isn’t necessary to make you feel better. It isn’t the answer.” There’s some more honesty for you. People don’t usually talk frankly and poignantly like this with one another. But sometimes, it’s the best thing. Sometimes the person with whom you’re having a conversation needs to hear it. You might feel strange giving so bold a reply to their comment, but it takes the conversation in a different direction—a non-triggering direction, an empowering direction, a GOOD direction.

On to the last H. Let’s say the person in question says, “I’m trying to lose weight. I only ate a salad and a diet Coke last night,” and goes on to detail their food intake or their pride in dieting—even if it’s NOT unhealthy.

You’ll be doing yourself a favor if you have a little heart to heart and say, “I don’t want to blow off what you’re saying because I am listening. And I want you to feel like you can talk to me about things, but it’s really hard for me to hear details about food and dieting. I want to be honest with you about this for my own good. I don’t have a problem with you, I just have a problem that I’m working on. I hope you can understand.”

You’re not apologizing. You’re being truthful. You’re worrying about yourself first, as you should. And you’re still being a good friend. And you can be as vague or as open as you feel you need to be when having the little heart to heart. If the person knows about your eating disorder history, it might be easier, but even if the person doesn’t, there are still plenty of ways you can say what’s written above without revealing more information than you’re comfortable with. If the person asks something you’re not happy answering, you have simply to say, “I hope you won’t mind, but I don’t really want to talk about that right now. But let’s keep talking.” These kinds of things are difficult, but once you learn to do them, you’ll be much better off and much better equipped to handle what gets thrown at you in this life.

After all, using the 3 Hs is better than just sitting or standing there quietly, listening to comments like these, feeling triggered and trapped. Am I right? You might be surprised how much your own voice thrown into the mix makes a difference. You also might be surprised about how easy it really is when you start saying something back. These weight/weight loss/dieting conversations happen far more often than you might like, so learning how to handle them is a definite must.

7 comments:

Fanatika said...

Found your blog randomly and I'm glad it happened. Loved it. :)

Congrats on your wedding and yeah, the purpose this comment was a lil crackie on the tricky weight loss issue.

'Stomachs are not meant to flat'. ;)
(Oh no I didn't say that!)

Jessica said...

I just clicked on the link from your signature on the orange...andI'm glad I started reading your blog! You are a great writer and you write such helpful things. Congrats on starting up the ANAD meeting! I go to one in my area and it's incredible...I am going to talk with our group leader about possibly running it when she's not available sometime down the line (it's a weekly meeting but she travels for work usually about once a month or so, so it's often cancelled), or co-facilitating a weekend family-and-friends-based meeting.

Anyway, lots of props to you for the blog and starting up the meeting and everything! You can bet I'll be checking back here more often :)

~Jess~

(aka JessK)

Arielle said...

Fanatika,

Thanks for the compliment! Glad you enjoyed your visit. Stop by again soon. :)

Much love,
Arielle

Arielle said...

Jess,

Thanks for dropping in! Glad you did! I appreciate all the nice things you had to say and it's so nice to know you've found my blog helpful in some way. :)

I'm excited for the ANAD meetings and agree they can be very helpful. A few years ago, before I was recovered I loved going to a support group. Support is a much needed thing throughout recovery!

And the Orange is amazing as well. I absolutely love being a mod there and I'm so glad you are a part of it.

Stop by again soon!
Much love,
Arielle

Alexandra said...

Love you arielle :)

Arielle said...

Alexandra,

Love you right back. :)

Much love,
Arielle

Jen Daisybee said...

I really like this advice. Thank you. I am recovered from anorexia, as far as many symptoms go, but twenty years after I was hospitalized for it, I have a friend who is constantly talking to me about how she doesn't eat anything. She seems to think this is perfectly ok to do even though I have explained that I have a history of anorexia. I think she assumes this because I'm overweight now, and I'm bigger than her, so she feels she can brag to me for some reason about not eating, and feel better about herself. It's really hard for me to listen to it, and I am glad just to know I'm not alone in this. I'm also surrounded by coworkers who talk about their weight and dieting and calories all the time. It drives me crazy. Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone.