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Best Gift for Overweight Friend or Partner: Encourage Weight Loss


If you have an overweight friend, partner, or other loved one and you are concerned about his or her weight, give a gift from your heart: encourage him or her to lose weight. When delivered with sensitivity, heart-felt concern, and understanding, encouragement to lose weight could well be the best gift you ever gave someone.

Bringing up the “fat” conversation can be tricky

Do you have a good friend, partner, or family member whose health may be in jeopardy because of excess weight, yet you are too afraid to tell them? You are not alone.

A recent poll commissioned by the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk (ICCR) and supported by the National Obesity Forum found that although most people are worried that an excessive waistline may be harmful to a loved one’s health, many of them are afraid to approach the subject with their friend, partner, or family member.

Yet their silence could be far more harmful than voicing their concerns. People who carry too much fat around their waistline, also known as intra-abdominal (visceral) fat, are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, blood clots, and stroke.

Visceral fat is not like other body fat, called subcutaneous fat. This intra-abdominal fat surrounds the internal organs and is more difficult to lose because it more deeply embedded in the body. Unfortunately, visceral fat is also more dangerous to your health than is subcutaneous fat.

What the poll said

The poll surveyed more than 2,000 people and found that 59% of people said they were worried that the excessive waistline of a loved one would result in serious health problems. However,

  • 31% of men and 10% of women said they would shy away from telling their partners they should lose weight
  • 23% of women and 8% of men would shy away from telling a close friend they needed to drop some weight
  • 42% of people ages 18 to 24 would shy away from telling a loved one they should lose weight, compared with slightly more than one-third of people ages 24 to 44, and about 25% of those older than 44

What to say to an overweight friend

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How would you tell a loved one he or she needed to lose weight? According to Professor David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum, “as long as you do it sensitively, discussing it with them now could help them avoid critical health risks later down the line and could even save their life.”

Keeping Haslam’s suggestion in mind, individuals might begin by saying something like, “I really care about you and like to have you as my friend/partner for a very long time, so I hope you don’t get upset when I encourage you lose weight for the sake of your health.”

Initiating the conversation with the person who needs to lose weight should be done in an environment where you both feel calm and safe, and where you can easily and gently voice your encouraging words. And as we all know, losing weight is a challenge, so you might offer to join them in the weight loss effort either by changing your eating habits and/or exercising with them.

You could also provide some factual words of encouragement. According to the ICCR, numerous studies show that people who lose as little as 5 to 10% of their initial body weight can reduce their abdominal fat by 10 to 30%. A healthy waist size is no larger than 37 inches for men and no more than 31.5 inches for women.

So if you have a friend, partner, or other loved one who is carrying too much abdominal fat, the best Christmas gift you could give him or her is the encouragement to lose weight. No wrapping paper or ribbon required!

International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk
National Obesity Forum

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons