Because nobody wants to be friends with an asshole

18th February 2010

Because nobody wants to be friends with an asshole

Journalist Kate Baily wonders why more women don’t come out and tell their fat friends that they look like Shamu and need to speed dial Jenny Craig.  In an article in The Daily Express, she cites a recent study of 3,000 women in which one in five revealed she secretly thinks her best friend is fat but would never dare say so.  Baily writes:

So it seems we can’t even rely on our best friends to tell us when it’s time to quit the cupcakes.

Am I the only one who thinks that’s a crying shame? Whenever I watch TV diet programmes I am amazed that nobody has actually sat down with morbidly obese Jenny and had a word with her.

In that same un-cited study, Baily notes that one in four women “plucked up the courage” to tell a friend she should lose some of her fat ass — thus demonstrating nothing more than 25 percent of women are friends with a jerk — and of the friends in question, 12 percent “went mental” and one in five ended the relationship.  Baily wonders:

Isn’t that just a little, well, neurotic for grown-up women with jobs and families?  Shouldn’t we just be able to come right out and say, ‘You look like a badly trussed chicken in those jeans – go on a diet immediately’?

Right.  I’m willing to bet that Kate Baily doesn’t have all that many friends.

So, why don’t more women point out their gal pals’ flab? Uh, duh.  It’s because A: friends don’t police their friends’ weight or food choices and make them feel bad about themselves; B: your friend is a big girl (no pun intended) and can make her own decisions about what’s best for her and her health; and C: most fat people already know they’re fat, and therefore don’t need nor necessarily want their “friends” to hammer that point home or to offer up unsolicited weight-loss advice.  And should your fat friend ever want that advice, it’s not as if women’s magazines, television commercials, news outlets and even the White House aren’t already mass-churning out weight-loss tips and diet plans complete with fatalist warnings on how you and your fat ass are at risk for any number of so-called obesity-related diseases and are Public Enemy No. 1 to both the environment and national security.

And if it’s a case of emotional/compulsive overeating, binge eating or other eating disordered behaviors, focusing on a friend’s weight isn’t all that constructive or healthy.  Anyone who’s struggled with an eating disorder will tell you that it’s not about the weight — it’s about emotional issues, psychological and/or physical trauma, a need for power or control, etc… — and that weight is but a symptom of much larger issues at-hand.  Telling a friend with disordered eating issues that they “need to go on a diet immediately” is not only counterproductive in that it puts the focus on the symptom and not the cause, it’s also downright rude, callous and virtually irrelevant.  It’s a little like telling your unemployed friend who’s on public assistance that their clothes are shabby and unfashionable and that they need to go on a Saks shopping spree immediately.   As well, Kate Baily suffers from the culturally-driven delusion that not only is fat always unattractive, but that it’s always unhealthy — not to mention, that it’s always malleable.  When I was actively eating disordered, I received copious compliments about my weight loss that only spurred a disorder that damn near killed me.  Now that I’ve regained some of the weight I’ve lost, I’m much healthier and happier for it — something a true friend would already know.

A few of my more health-conscious friends and I discuss healthy foods and recipes and fitness and so forth, but weight rarely factors into these conversations because not only is it not all that high on our priority list, it’s also vapid and boring.  As part of my own commitment to recovery, which includes taking the pledge to end fat talk,  I actively seek to surround myself with people who respect me enough to not  infantilize me by asking if I really need that second helping and who have far more interesting things to talk about than their daily carb intake.  You?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 18th, 2010 at 1:37 pm and is filed under Binge Eating Disorder, Body Image, Body Snarking, Diets, ED-NOS, Fat Bias, Rachel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 22 responses to “Because nobody wants to be friends with an asshole”

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  1. 1 On February 18th, 2010, Alyssa (The 40 year-old) said:

    Can friends tell “friends” like Kate Baily “Y’know, I may be fat, but at least I’m not a raging bitch like you, and people actually LIKE spending time with me! I’m not gonna hang out with you anymore. Later!”

  2. 2 On February 18th, 2010, sannanina said:

    Telling a friend with disordered eating issues that they “need to go on a diet immediately” is not only counterproductive in that it puts the focus on the symptom and not the cause, it’s also downright rude, callous and virtually irrelevant.

    Actually, it could even be worse than that. In the past, any comment that I needed to diet has been a huge trigger for both, food restriction and binge-eating for me – do some degree it still is. A close friend should know this. A not-so-close friend has no business commenting on my weight and/or eating habits in the first place.

  3. 3 On February 18th, 2010, JennyRose said:

    This woman is a real life concern troll and she is angry that more people are not like her.

    Do such people really think a fat person will thank them and say that until that moment they were happy with their lives and their bodies because we live in a society that promotes size diversity and demonizes no one, but now that they have been told that they are fat and advised of the health consequences they will immediately go out and loose weight? Sorry for the run on. It just pisses me off so much when these concern trolls act like fat people just need to have these simple and obvous concepts explained to them by “someone who cares.”

  4. 4 On February 18th, 2010, Rachel said:

    @JennyRose: Right. It’s like, “Wow, is that why I have to shop in the plus-size department for less fashionable clothes that cost more money, get the stink-eye by service personnel at stores and restaurants, have to pay for two seats on Southwest or risk being forcibly ejected from the plane, get paid less money and am charged more for health care? I had NO IDEA it’s all because I’m fat! Thanks SO MUCH for pointing that out! I’ll go have liposuction immediately!”

  5. 5 On February 18th, 2010, Mikuto said:

    Recently a friend said to me “I would be friends with you no matter if you weighed 100 or 500 pounds.”

    That was more valuable to me than anyone concern trolling my weight ever could be.

  6. 6 On February 18th, 2010, Diana said:

    More excuses for fat shaming. It got so bad when I was a kid that I literally could not go five minutes at a social gathering without someone “reminding” me I was fat. You know, just in case I forgot and ate something in public.

    Fat shame DOESN’T WORK. There are studies confirming this. This isn’t about the fat women, it’s about a person who commits social violence still wanting an excuse to commit social violence.

  7. 7 On February 18th, 2010, Rachel said:

    @Mikuto: My husband told me something similar early in our relationship. He said that he would love me whether I weighed 1,000 pounds or 100. It’s now going on five years since we met and we’re more in love than ever.

  8. 8 On February 18th, 2010, Rachel said:

    @Diana: “Social violence” is an interesting term for this kind of body-snarking for it certainly unleashes its own brand of emotional violence on the recipient. And as sannanina noted, it may even influence further physical harm by way of triggering destructive behaviors.

  9. 9 On February 18th, 2010, Twistie said:

    “In that same un-cited study, Baily notes that one in four women “plucked up the courage” to tell a friend she should lose some of her fat ass — thus demonstrating nothing more than 25 percent of women are friends with a jerk — and of the friends in question, 12 percent “went mental” and one in five ended the relationship.”

    Wow. Four in five continued to be friends with the asshole. Only 12% were emotionally solid enough to call the asshole on her shit…which is what I assume Baily means by ‘went mental.’

    BTW, thanks, Baily, for adding fuel to the fire for calling obesity a mental disorder, not to mention casually treating mental illness as a handy metaphor.

    Can we say Epic Phail?

    With friends like Baily, who needs enemies?

    My friends sometimes – when asked – give their honest opinions of my most recent haircut and whether or not a pair of pants I’m wearing is actually as flattering as I think. They would never tell me I look like trussed poultry and need to change my entire body to fit their ideals of what a body should look like. That’s how I know they’re my friends.

  10. 10 On February 18th, 2010, Lisa said:

    “…focusing on a friend’s weight isn’t all that constructive or healthy.”

    *fist bump*

  11. 11 On February 18th, 2010, Willow said:

    My self-esteem has been on vacation today, and your post called it back home, so to speak. Thank you so much for this post.

    Telling your friends that they’re fat & need to lose weight mirrors romantic relationships in which one partner tells the other partner that s/he is fat and needs to lose weight. Whether it is said by a spouse or by a friend, the advice to lose weight reflects gross insecurity on the part of the advice-giver, and a lack of empathetic connection with the advice-receiver – if you truly care about the person, why would you hurt her/him by saying that s/he is too fat? (Serious health problems are a different issue – the article you posted about seems to refer to telling someone that they’re too fat from the perspective that fatness is unattractive.) I love my husband whether he’s 100 pounds or 500 pounds – the body will always change. I don’t love a body, in other words; I love a being.

  12. 12 On February 18th, 2010, Healthy Amelia said:

    I think the argument about not saying this type of stuff to someone with an eating disorder would be lost on someone like Kate Baily. The response would probably be like, “well, duh, I’d NEVER say that to someone with an ED”. Of course and first of all, how would you know if someone had an ED? They are often hidden. But even more importantly, it’s not like there are people with eating disorders and normal eaters. I just read a list of warning signs for ED and I fit over half of them when I was dieting (WW, Jenny Craig…) No one would have thought I suffered from disordered eating of any kind. I was just going with the flow of cultural expectations and “sensibly” trying to lose weight – all of those behaviors were positively reinforced. Now that I know how detrimental that was to my mental and physical health, I often refer to myself as a recovering WW. I in no way minimize what people with true, diagnosed EDs go through. It is not the same at all. But there is a spectrum and this type of concerned “friendship” can hurt anyone.

  13. 13 On February 18th, 2010, Keira said:

    I was lucky, in that throughout high school (when I was obese) my friends never commented on my weight. Actually, no one in my grade ever used the ‘fatty’ taunt (or any of its cousins). The only time any of them commented on my weight was when I was too thin. (which I actually found helpful because I was in the midst of the ED delusion that I was still fat).

    As I say to Miah (the 8 year old I look after), the whole world isn’t a size 6-8 (AU sizes so 2-4? US). And, there are more important things than having a friendship based on how big/small they are. And, it’s NOT polite or nice to point out how big someone is to them (she has told me I have fat legs, wobbly, chubby, fat tummy etc…) because it hurts their feelings. You can think it in your head if you have to but keep it an inside thought. And, you never know, something might happen and you may put on some weight…would you like it if people commented on it.
    (Miah: “Oh, mummy would NEVER let me get fat. I’d rather die.” *sigh*

  14. 14 On February 18th, 2010, Bree said:

    Why don’t more women point out their friends’ flab?

    Because true friends don’t give a rat’s ass whether the people they hang around with are 100 or 1000 lbs and they know what a person weighs is none of their business.

  15. 15 On February 18th, 2010, Elizebeth Turnquist said:

    BTW…hella funny title.

    This reminds me of a sad moment in my life that was totally my fault. I had this friend that started doing “casual” drugs. And I made a big fuss about how I disproved and I was worried about her health. So, she stopped being friends with me.

    And, as much as I feel I couldn’t back down from saying something I believed, I also feel like she had every right not to be friends with me any more becasue I was judging her. I was not accepting of who she wanted to be and, based on how I was acting, she knew full well that wasn’t going to change.

    If someone acted towards me, the way I acted towards this friend, I would totally kick them to the curb. Because, yeah, if I have a choice in the matter, which I almost always do, I don’t waste my time with people that give me shit about who I am.

    I don’t care if my weight is a choice or not a choice. It’s my body and my life and you either respect me and accept me…or you don’t.

  16. 16 On February 19th, 2010, Krystal said:

    Mikuto and Rachel, I agree. My husband and I have been married for almost 12 years and we both have some disordered eating. Me, bulimia, but he has been 100 pounds up and down and it doesn’t make a bit of difference in the amount I love him. Growing up in a family that was very vocal and judgmental about weight/body/looks, I feared I would be destined to be the kind of person to say these hateful things to my husband/kids. But, I am happy to say I have much more important things to discuss with my family :)

  17. 17 On February 19th, 2010, Lori said:

    I think your title about sums it up. ;)

    Even granting the premise that fat people are fat because they have bad habits, would Baily be so shocked that people don’t confront their friends about other bad/destructive habits? Does she want a world where we walk around telling our friends “You know, smoking is bad for you?” or “You really spend too much money” or “You ought to stop sleeping around so much”? Because that sounds terribly unpleasant. I spend enough time policing my son’s behavior, I have no intention of doing it with my friends.

    Certainly there are times when you need to say something because a person is in immediate danger. But taking the car keys away from a drunk friend is different from concern trolling a friend about their drinking habits. Most people are aware of areas in their life where they are struggling, and nagging isn’t going to do anything but make them feel more shame. (Again, this is granting her premise that being fat is the result of bad behavior. As it actually is, pointing out to a friend that they are too fat is about as productive as pointing out to them that they are too short.)

    I lived with a good friend who had bulimia for a year. I didn’t know what to do, but certainly telling her “Hey, you’ve got a big problem” wasn’t going to help. She was fully aware she had a problem. As a friend, I figured the best thing I could do was just be her friend. When she was ready to get help, she did. You can’t concern troll another person into changing their behavior, and you certainly can’t concern troll them into changing their body size.

    Isn’t that just a little, well, neurotic for grown-up women with jobs and families? Shouldn’t we just be able to come right out and say, ‘You look like a badly trussed chicken in those jeans – go on a diet immediately’?

    I just don’t understand this logic. Because we’re adults, we should be insulting towards our friends? How about, because we’re adults, we should have the restraint and maturity to not say every judgmental, petty thing that comes into our heads? It sounds to me like Baily is very, very angry that she can’t go around telling all her friends who fat and ugly she thinks they are without them getting upset with her. If that were me, I would wonder why telling other people I think they look terrible was such an important thing for me.

  18. 18 On February 19th, 2010, Rachel said:

    As a friend, I figured the best thing I could do was just be her friend.

    Absolutely! Just being there as a source of support does much more good than “reminding” a friend of how bad they look or atrocious their behaviors.

  19. 19 On February 19th, 2010, Shannon Russell said:

    Who are these fat people who don’t know they’re fat? Especially among women. Isn’t it more common for thin women to think they’re fat than for fat women to think they’re thin?


  20. 20 On February 19th, 2010, amelia said:

    so this is a little off topic but…. i substitute teach and almost every single day that i sub i get asked by at least one kid if i’m pregnant. seriously, i love my belly. i am perfectly happy with my size and shape and am proud of being the chubby woman that i am. but being asked if i’m pregnant in front of a class on a regular basis seriously gets to me. why do people have to have such an issue with a woman with a belly??

    unfortunately the response, “hell no! its a beer belly, not a STD” isn’t appropriate.

    mostly i just tell them that i’m chubby and proud of it. but i don’t always feel that way in the moment.

  21. 21 On February 19th, 2010, drummergrrrl said:

    ‘You look like a badly trussed chicken in those jeans – go on a diet immediately’

    Or, maybe …. just maybe …. instead of losing weight, you could just go BUY OTHER PANTS.

    Strange how we think we should fit the world instead of the world accommodating us. Just another example.

  22. 22 On February 20th, 2010, FatNSassy said:

    I would be willing to bet she was paid to say that, and it was clandestine marketing.

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