Start your eye rolling or be intrigued right now. As I'm writing this, I am picking at brunch that I made two hours ago because I wasn't sure of how to start this post. I'm sure that at some point of each of our lives, we looked at someone (or maybe felt up somebody if we're Stevie Wonder blind) and said to ourselves, "Shit, they're kinda big (or really slender)." I'll give you a few minutes to lie to me or yourselves to say that you're always PC and would NEVER have such a thought come to mind. Pardon me as I cough up a sleuth of profanity, you lying bitch. I hope you know that I said this with love. Nevertheless, this very serious Instagram direct message came in last night and I asked if I could respond to her via blog. Simply because I don't feel like she's trolling, let's call her Noli* for blog's sake.
Noli*: Hi Shauntay (or Latoya). I'm not sure which one you prefer. Your page is really inspiring. I shared your info with my friend Danielle* a few weeks ago. As you can tell, I'm a relatively thin white woman. I'm not that sporty but your blogs are so poignant. If I may, can I ask you how to approach something. Please please don't curse me out. I'm not a troll. I swear.
Me: Good morning Noli* and either name is fine. It's just a first and middle name but people go by both. Thank you for the kind words dear and for passing on my page to your friend. Hopefully I'm not too off the wall for her, LOL. I'm an open book, as long as it's coming from a genuine place. Be blunt and ask. I don't bite too much.
Noli*: Thank you. I had to put it out there. I follow your site a lot and while I laugh, I wouldn't want to "piss in your cornflakes" hahahahaha! My friend Danielle* is a beautiful woman. I like her a lot, like attracted to her but I'm concerned about her weight. Is there a nice way to tell her that she's fat? You are very tactful with your way of talking to people through honesty, humor and detail. I don't feel right saying to her that she should lose a few pounds. Plus, I don't even know how to tell her I'm attracted to her. You obviously feel comfortable with the word "fat". I whisper words like that. It's offensive to a lot of people. How do I start a conversation?
There's No Correct Way to Tell Someone They're Fat
Honey, there's no "nice way" to tell anyone that they're fat. PERIOD. This is such a heavy subject, no pun intended, because there's a fine line between concern and pushing an agenda. I'll elaborate by an actual event that happened to me on Tuesday while at the supermarket:
One of my best friends Nikki is getting married in a few weeks. I've been leading a small portion of the wedding party in workout sessions for a few months to make sure we're wedding day ready because shit, we want to be confident that our back rolls are on point. Nevertheless, Nikki and I went to the supermarket to pick up a few things to make dinner in our respective homes. Conveniently, we're in the bread and cupcake aisle, I noticed a childhood friend mother peering at me from around the corner. Honestly, I was a bit freaked out, thinking it was one of my social media followers who didn't know how to approach me (this actually happens...just say hi) but it was Miss Deborah.* I called out to her and she gives me an off putting smile and the first thing she says is:
"Toya! Wow, you got FAT. That's a lot of weight you put on. Your mother said I wouldn't recognize you if I saw you but didn't know it was because you're fat. Wow. But you look good though. How are you?"
Nikki's face screamed out my inside thoughts of "What the fuck did you just say, you nutty bitch?" Instead, astonished by the initial statement, I fumbled on my words and changed the pace of the conversation asking how she's been. Instead of catching the hint, she would give me bread crumbs of her life but continue poking at my fat in a five minute conversation. Even after I tried walking away, she CONTINUED talking about my weight. After Nikki and I managed to disappear from her, I rolled my eyes and my best friend was infuriated. 'How the fuck does someone feel comfortable telling someone that they're fat?' Nikki stated. I hate this word but I could see how much this triggered her just from hearing and watching what I experience from others on a regular basis.
I want to say obviously this is certainly not the right approach but from experience, I learned to never assume what people should know isn't a right approach. Realistically, approach is everything. One wrong touch and you will break the shell of an egg. Once it's cracked, you have options to either cook or waste this product. I'll proceed with what I think is the obvious below:
Sweetheart, Fat People Know That They're Fat
Let's get the hardest thing out the way:
Nine times out of ten, fat people already know that they're fat. Before you even open up your mouth and project your thoughts, we have mirrors and clothing that doesn't fit to remind us that we're larger than the industry's average. We don't need you to verify that our weight is pretty damn hefty. We have to tug it everywhere. If that's not already bad (or in my 'IDGAF' state, very much okay), society reminds us in subtle or not so subtle ways:
Things to Do Prior to the Conversation
I wonder how much you did your research on this subject before asking me. You know, I actually Google searched the question to see how people went about telling their friends and family members that they're fat. Holy...shit. I was scared on how little information is out there and the abundance of shaming that the Internet has to offer. I want you to try this:
Self Evaluation Form for my Intentions:
If you find yourself answering this honestly and realize that perhaps your view of yourself is not healthy, perhaps you want to fix YOURSELF before approaching your loved one. On the other hand, if you think that you both can work on a respective goal together, then maybe you can safely proceed.
i.e. I want to gain weight and build muscle and if you're open to losing weight, we can work on this goal together.
Let's Get Messy Darlin': Possible Ways of Having a Dialogue and Protecting Yo' Neck
If you didn't pay any attention to any of the shit that I was rambling about above, read this part clearly: Whatever response that he or she says, THIS ain't about you. This person is entitled to feeling embarrassed, hurt, emotional and maybe even a bit irrational in their approach. By no means will I say that they're allowed to be emotionally or physically abusive to a point where it's a danger to yourself but you should be able to respect that this is not easy to hear from someone that they care about.
Technique is Everything
Think about this analogy:
A woman is on her cell phone and walking across the street into incoming traffic. The driver has the option to yell out:
A. Move out the way, you stupid bitch!
B. Watch out!
C. You need to be aware of where you're walking.
All of these messages are the same but the technique and approach can be interpreted different ways. Assuming that he or she is rational, B is probably the best approach. Name calling isn't necessary and using C means that giving a directive to the sensitive or hostile personality can get you chin checked.
Nobody is asking you to sugar coat. Correction: I am not asking you to sugar coat but I think you should be firm. solid and don't assume a thing. Yes, vocalize your concerns but please don't do this at a social gathering amongst friends. Try to avoid the melodramatic Alcoholics Anonymous approach if you can help it. Being in a support group for your fatness can be humiliating...take it from this resident fatty who is STILL scarred from a group of family members and friends who did "out of concern" in my own house after a long day of not eating, being suggested to not go for seconds and on her feet for 14 hours of work and culinary school. Humans acknowledge bullshit artists and if you seem like you're shifty, talk as if you know something but it comes off as shady, most times, you're getting called out on it.
Say this mantra: Motivate with love and no pressure from your ego. Be open, my dear. We don't need statistics when we're talking to a friend. Chances are, you're not a health care professional and even if you happen to be in the industry, Are you his/her doctor holding the chart at this moment? Most likely...eh, no. Talk without being condescending. Expect an underhanded comment or two from frustration but be the bigger person in this situation by reassuring that you are only concerned. If he or she tells you that they do not want to talk about this, respect it. Assure them that this is not from a bad place and you apologize if this was harmful to their mind.
Assure your loved one that you are coming in a place of peace and if they're open to discussing it with you, that you want to emotionally, mentally and physically support them ONLY if you truly mean it. We will hold you to your goddamn words and nail you to the cross if we accept your help. Some people need hand holding in the beginning before they're let off freely from the nest.
Every person is different but maybe this approach will help. I tend to do this with children and even when I was a supervisor. I call it a honesty sandwich:
Start off with acknowledging who they are and why you are having this conversation. Be clear in your intentions, even your worries about where the conversation might lead to but what your intentions are. Then go in for the hard stuff that makes you queasy. Be mindful of your body language and choice of words. Don't look for sugar coating shit but don't be a Hallmark card of bullshit. State your feelings, questions and concerns firm and always indicate that there's an option to feel whatever way that they do about the subject. End your statement with reminding them that they're a great person regardless of how they look, feel and who they are to you. Conclude with allowing them to have the floor uninterrupted until they give you an opening to have a healthy conversation.
If there's any portion of this conversation that seems like it is too quiet or the mood is off, seek feedback. Shit, you went this far. You might as well ask how they feel about you bringing up the subject.
And for heaven's sake, please don't do the comparison contest. Holy crap...I hate when someone tells me that they're "not as skinny as me" or the "ugh, but look at me..." game. Really and truly, shut the fuck up. If this person actually takes you up on the help, don't be a contradicting bastard. One nameless individual thought it was nice to bring me a bag of Kit Kats and Twinkies as a form of celebration for all of the junk food that I avoided for months for my 6 month weight loss. Bitch really? Yes, they look scrumptious but I indicated that I respectfully don't want it and here you go, parading around the bag of cocaine to the weight loss party.
Last thing: Know that every rule was made to be broken. Use your judgment. Don't look at this blog as an end all, be all. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for all. I know people who loss a shit load of weight from tough love but have two friends who attempted suicide because of that same shit bag tactic. If your friend is demonstrating habits that are so severe that you have legitimate reason of concern, perhaps you need a well thought out plan with a professional. Please note, I was in social work but I am NOT a professional nor in this field any longer. I'm just a blogger, dear. If you, dear reader, happen to have similar concerns for a child, know that you have to find a really tactful way of talking to children about this subject. Perhaps when I'm at a very transparent state of mind, I'll discuss some of the terrible things people stated to me in my youth when I was trying to gain weight and the polar opposites of trying to lose weight as an adult. What you may look at as helpful can severely harm someone.
Noli, I wish you and Danielle the absolute best. Thank you for trusting me to respond on my blog. You never know...you might be helping someone through our conversation today. If someone happens to be pissed by your question, please don't stress it. We're all entitled to an opinion.
Love and Light,
* Denotes name change