#24 – I Don’t want to be the ‘FAT Friend’

This one breaks my heart. I’ve had numerous iterations of the ‘fat friend’ conversation but two stand out. The first is Louise (not her real name). This happened a few years back but I remember it vividly because 5mins into the consultation Louise was in floods of tears.  I’d begun by asking if she had any specific goals: “I want to lose weight.” A pretty standard response. I probed asking if there was a specific reason why. “Because all my friends are skinny and I hate being the fat friend.” Louise knew EXACTLY why she was there. As I paused considering my response Louise continued: “I’m at the point where I dread going out with my friends. I’m often in tears trying on clothes beforehand, I feel uncomfortable posing in photos and I dread being tagged on Facebook the next day….” She poured her heart out.  We’re not talking wiping a tear away discreetly, we’re talking sobbing. It’s not unheard of for clients to shed a tear but this was a full blown heart on the sleeve (literal) cry for help.  – – – – – The second is Jane (not her real name).  I worked with Jane for over 3yrs as her Personal Trainer. We were introduced by a mutual friend and I was tasked with strengthening her core after a series of lower back injuries. Jane was initially shy but once she started lifting there was no stopping her. She went from being aghast that I suggested anything heavier than 3kg dumbbells to pulling 50kg off the blocks for reps – an absolute superstar. About a year into working together Jane asked if I’d help with her nutrition. This is the dream as a PT – a client who you can train 1-2-1 and support with their diet – I was excited to get started. We did the consultation at Jane’s house. After a cup of tea and a catch up I settled into the formalities. Me – “Ok Janey, what’s the goal?” J – “I want to lose this (grabs her stomach grinning).” Me – “You’ll have to do better than that – WHY do you want to lose it?” J – “I don’t know…..it’s silly really…” (notable change in tone and posture). Me -“Go on, you can talk to me.” J – “Well….I saw myself in a photo with the girls and…oh Andy this is silly…” A – “Hey, it’s ok…talk to me”. J – “I can barely look at myself in the photo, it’s hideous, I can’t shift this weight and I’ve tried so hard. The others can eat and drink what they like and don’t gain a pound. If I so much as look at a dessert…” Jane was in tears, I was shocked.  Someone who I’d seen twice a week, every week for a year, exhibiting genuine despair at something I was completely unaware of. – – – – – Louise is in her early 20s. Jane is in her early 60s. They’re completely different people in many ways but the word that links both in my mind (in the scenarios above) is DESPAIR. The belief that they are powerless in their predicament. This feeling can seemingly occur irrespective of age. I often wonder how many people are walking around feeling exactly the same but are too terrified or ashamed to speak up. If you’re reading this now and you’re experiencing something similar please reach out. It’s going to be scary BUT also liberating. It’s going to be uncomfortable BUT also empowering. Speak to a friend. Speak to a family member. Speak to a professional (Hi!). Just make sure you speak. Put yourself out there and things will get better. You’re not powerless. Things can change.  If you take action things WILL CHANGE.