Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

When (if ever) is it appropriate to comment on someone's diet and exercise choices?

Asked by nikipedia (27726points) March 9th, 2011

One of my favorite advice columnists posted recently about commenting on spousal weight gain. Do you think it’s appropriate to point out to your spouse that his/her habits are causing weight gain, and it bothers you? What about a boyfriend/girlfriend?

Or, what about a close friend who complains about being overweight but continues to make bad choices? Is it appropriate to say something in that case?

I was thinking about this advice column this morning as I watched an overweight woman fish a donut out of a pastry box this morning. I know it makes me a jerk to judge total strangers, but I just don’t understand what would cause someone to make a decision like that, and I wonder what would happen if the people who care about this woman said something.

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26 Answers

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Weight just isn’t as big a priority as it is for others.

theninth's avatar

Never. NEVER to a stranger. You don’t know the person. You don’t know their history or medical history or anything about them.

And unsolicited comments to a friend or family member is also an incredibly bad idea.

If someone comes to you and asks for advice that’s different.

marinelife's avatar

It would not help and might hurt for you to say something.

Weight is just like anything else about a person. People persist in doing things that they know are bad for them.

You would not want someone to correct your vocabulary or your continuing to run in the face to foot pain and instructions to rest.

What about someone commenting on your drinking habits?

It is the same thing with weight and exercise.

buster's avatar

I say call them out if they are a friend or family member you care about. If its a stranger or an old stubborn man like my father that is set in his in his ways and I know won’t listen or just don’t care I wouldn’t waste my breath.

Mikewlf337's avatar

Never! It is none of your business what someone eats and how much they exercise. If it is your spouse or family member then it is ok.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Save for maybe a S/O (because you need to be physically attracted to them), I don’t think I ever would. It’s not like they don’t know they could stand to loose a few pounds, so I just sound like some pompous ass who thinks they need to be saved by me and my white horse.

tinyfaery's avatar

If they ask, it’s appropriate. I also feel if someone constantly complains to me about their weight yet does nothing about it, they are open to my comments.

buster's avatar

It kind of is my business though when I pay taxes that pay for peoples medical bills that they brought on themselves by abusing their body by being lazy and eating crap.

bob_'s avatar

The second someone bitches moans complains about his or her weight, it is appropriate to say something about it.

JmacOroni's avatar

Only if they ask for your opinion and/or advice. Otherwise, not at all.
It really is less about willpower and more about biology. Someone that is already overweight or obese chooses to eat the donut partly because they have higher levels of chemicals/hormones that make them want that donut.

buster's avatar

@marinelife Im not sure I understand.

kevbo's avatar

My guess is you’ve never been there, and possibly you haven’t experienced any number of issues that can lead people to medicate with food. She might be lazy, or she might be on the other side of the slippery slope that causes addict-like cravings for sugar and carbs. Hopefully it is obvious to you that the equation includes more variables than the ubiquitous availability of nutrition information.

I think if the quality of a marriage is suffering, then it’s okay to go tough love on the offending spouse. Anything less, in fact, is sort of shortchanging the marriage. At the same time, I think people need to get a grip on their physical aversions to body fat and realize how much conditioning goes into finding fatter bodies unattractive.

Also, people generally operate like thermostats in making these kinds of changes in that they are reluctant to do so until the circumstances become more uncomfortable than they are willing to tolerate.

nikipedia's avatar

@marinelife: To the contrary, if I misused words I would prefer to be corrected, and if the people who cared about me thought my drinking habits were a problem I think it would be acceptable to raise the issue with me in a caring and nonjudgmental way.

The thing that’s hard about weight, though, is that presumably these people know that their decisions are impacting them negatively, yet they do nothing about it. I wonder how effective a push from an outside source might be in changing their behavior.

JmacOroni's avatar

@nikipedia I doubt it would be effective at all. The only thing it would most likely achieve is making someone feel even more isolated and unattractive.

SpatzieLover's avatar

When it is appropriate:

When they ask your opinion.
When they ask you for help.
When the person in question is your child/SO/parent and you think they need help (this must be done delicately as to not damage their esteem).

All other instances would most likely be inappropriate.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@nikipedia The world basically tells me several times a day how ugly it thinks I am. “No one wants to fiddle a fatty”. “Next up: A “new” study on America’s obesity epidemic (no, we won’t shut up about it until you loose some fucking weight, you slob!)”. “I’m sorry, our department store doesn’t think your money is green enough to make clothes that fit you”. “We were worried that you hadn’t thought about the obesity epidemic in several hours, so we created another news story about it!!”. “Look, it’s canned laughter on our sitcom about how hilariously fat a skinny person is now that they’ve gain 3 pounds due to pregnancy”.

Hearing how I need to loose weight just makes me feel shitty, avoidant, and like I should eat more (but in secret). Most of my loosing weight comes from not thinking about it.

Taciturnu's avatar

Agreed with many people on here.

Never ever to a stranger.
If someone complains incessantly about their weight, I think it’s okay to speak up (gently).
If someone asks you for assistance, it’s of course, warranted to give your input.

Since your question relates to a significant other, I think it should be brought up if it is a problem for you provided it is done in a loving, respectful manner. I come from a variety that believes you should really love the person inside, but I realize that doesn’t always translate into physical attraction. There are many people who marry slim spouses and are not attracted to large people. I think you should try to maintain what you were physically at the time of marriage, while recognizing your metabolism/lifestyle is going to change, childbearing will alter your body, etc. Some flexibility is required, unless you’re planning to upgrade your spouse every 5–10 years… There should be some unspoken limits. (Telling your wife she could lose a few because she’s gone from a size 2 to a size 8 after four kids would NOT be okay in my book, nor would telling your husband you want him to hit the gym because he lost the 8 pack you married him with.)

I know someone who was in a relationship for 17? 18? years. Something like that. In that time, she gained 85 lbs. About 10 years into it, he explained the problem when she hit 200, that he was losing the attraction for her. She didn’t make any efforts at that time to lose weight and the remainder of the relationship was sexless. He wasn’t attracted to her, she felt rejected and medicated further with food. It wasn’t a good scenario.

The other instance in which you should address this with your spouse is when it is affecting their health. I have addressed my husband’s eating habits with him on numerous occasions having nothing to do with his size. (With a 29–30inch waist, I would be happy if he gained a few. It’s hard getting him to understand that chocolate is not a food group and a pound of steak with bread and cheese do not constitute a balanced meal.) If your spouse has health issues that lead to a debilitating illness that could have been prevented, they are then your problem. No one plans to be a burden on someone but reality is that it happens all the time. As much as someone can love their husband/wife, they want a partner, not a dependent.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Only after they have asked for advice on the issue.

marinelife's avatar

You are not paying for people’s care.

nicobanks's avatar

I think it’s appropriate when:
(1) You’re very close with the person OR the person has asked you directly
(2) You’re doing it to help them, and thought ahead of time the best way to achieve this
(3) You’ve taken every step possible to alleviate their discomfort/embarrassment

tranquilsea's avatar

I don’t know that I would even answer if my husband asked. Most people know they are overweight, they know they aren’t making the best food choices, and they know they should be more active. I don’t think there is anything I could say that would make them make a change and as others have stated what ever I say would probably make things worse.

That change has to come from within them.

Now if my husband or friend told me they were joining a gym to become fitter I would volunteer to go with them to support them.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Unless they’ve asked me to point it out or nag them to do better then I wouldn’t do it at all. My fiancee and I have an agreement to help each other be healthy since we’ve both had periods of signifigant enough weight gain to where we were treated terribly, felt awful and never want to go through that again. Even though… we are careful as to how we talk to each other about overeating, bad choices, skipping exercise days, etc.

Seelix's avatar

When is it appropriate?

When they ask for your opinion.
When you’re a health care professional.
When it’s a close friend or family member and their practices are obviously causing them physical harm.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I think it’s also important to remember that lots and lots (and lots) of people use the “I’m concerned for your health” as a disguise for simply hating on fatness and fat people. So unless I know you really, really, really well and I know that you are truly concerned for my health and not even a little bit is for your own personal gain, I’m probably going to think you’re just using a line on me.

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