A helpful ghost story:
A nice man, at his wife’s request, ordered my book The Hungry Ghost: How I Ditched 100 Pounds and Came Fully Alive for her Christmas present.
With the order he wrote, “It’s so hard for me as a man to know how to help her. Do you have any advice?”
That inspired some suggestions for how to support someone tormented by overweight:
- Listen without interrupting. When people stop any bad habit, compulsion or addiction, they have a whole lot of feelings with nowhere to go. They may need to release that energy by talking about it.
- Show appreciation, sincerely and often. Tell her how beautiful she is, mention what a nice job she did with something, compliment how hard she’s working at her new regimen. Ten times a day is not too much. Keep remarks sincere.
- Don’t criticize her food or try to tell her what to do, unless she requests your help. If she asks, first say, “What do you think?” Or even, “What do your food support people say?” Your job is never to try to control. Your job is to be an honest friend, not a fixer.
- Curtail your own iffy food behavior. If you like to snack of her favorite binge foods, maybe you could not keep them in the house for awhile? If you’re feeling resistant, ask yourself why you won’t support your spouse this way. As for you feeling deprived, trust me, you’ll survive. And you know what? How you’re feeling? She’s feeling a thousand times worse.
- Encourage her to take care of herself—doc visits, nice walks, fun stuff like museums or movies, coffee with friends. Consider being flexible about her self-care even if it inconveniences you. Particularly if her obesity is advanced, she’s in an urgent life-and-death battle with a terminal illness.
- Be patient. Never stop believing in her. I had two pals who always had confidence in me, even though it took me many years to find the permanent way out of obesity. I’ll never forget that, or lose my profound gratitude.
- Have some fun! Laughing is great medicine. Laughing together is love. Go ahead. Get silly! Wisk her around the kitchen to a great song.
- Help her celebrate her efforts to recover, not just her milestones. The process is not just about reaching a certain number. It’s also about turning the new behaviors into a way of life, one day at a time. Healthy rewards—an extra hour to read a nice novel, skipping some yucky chore for the day—for small incremental changes reinforce them and teach her that she really can do this, and that the effort is totally worth it.