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My Fat Friend Needs Help
January 1, 2013 10:14 PM   Subscribe

I have a smart and productive friend, 55 years old, and he is now obese, over 400 lbs. He lives in LA, I live in San Jose. We exercised together before his move to LA 5 years ago, and he maintained a healthy weight. How do I save his life?
posted by breadbox to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just tell him as nicely as you possibly can without pushing him to do anything. "Man, I can't help but notice that you've put on a large amount of weight this year, and I'm really worried about your health. I don't want to see you drop dead of a heart attack, and I don't want to lose you as a friend. if you want to talk about it, or if there's anything you need from me, let me know and I'm there."
posted by facetious at 10:23 PM on January 1, 2013


You can encourage your friend but you can't rescue him from his problem. It is his to solve, not yours.
posted by Sal and Richard at 10:26 PM on January 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Wii sports over the network with him?
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:26 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you know what is driving his weight gain? Drug side effects? Health issues? Depression? Mobility issues? Make sure you understand how this happened before you dive into "solutions". It's not as if he doesn't know that he's gained the weight. It might not also be as simple as "get some exercise" - particularly if this is tied to a larger health issue or a drug side effect or some other such thing. So, if you want to approach him, do so in a spirit of asking questions, not necessarily of swooping in to have "the answer".
posted by anastasiav at 10:27 PM on January 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


Was he morbidly obese in the past? If not, this is over your head. A 50 year old suddenly gaining 200 pounds in 5 years is a symptom of something seriously clinical, and the intervention he needs is his family getting him a complete mental and physical work up.

If it's the case he's returned to a prior pattern of overheating he'd temporarily overcome, maybe you can help him get back on track. Medically supervised diet first though - a 400 pound 55 year old hitting the gym without physician clearance isn't a good idea.
posted by MattD at 10:40 PM on January 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


walking. Ive seen guys drop some serious weight by just getting out for a 30-40 minute walk everyday ... Maybe find him walking buddy on Craigslist? pay them $20 a walk to get him out and moving?
posted by specialk420 at 10:44 PM on January 1, 2013


A lot of this depends on how comfortable the two of you are talking about his weight. What's causing the weight gain, what are his eating and exercising habits? Weight is usually more food based than people want to acknowledge and the more a person weighs, the less attractive working out can seem. Still, I would talk to him and see what he thinks and go from there. Any strategy has to be one that he can get behind. There are lots of programs that work but only if you follow them. Talking to him about what he thinks the problem is and being an encouraging partner are a start.
posted by shoesietart at 10:48 PM on January 1, 2013


Have you asked him if he wants help?

Let's assume he says yes. So, if he can't afford to see a doctor, you could help him by lending or giving him the money to see a doctor. If it turns out his drastic weight gain is related to compulsive eating or binge eating disorder, and he can't afford to work with a therapist to address those issues, you could help him by lending or giving him the money to do that. If he's having mobility issues, you could help him identify physical therapists who are experienced in helping clients with high body weights, and help with the "paying for it" piece if he needs that help. If his mobility is okay, but he can't develop an exercise program that works for his new size, you could help him identify/pay for trainers who are experienced in working with clients who have high body weights.

Assuming he says he wants help, that is.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:51 PM on January 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


I lost weight with the keto diet on reddit and just choosing to live better.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 11:45 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Assuming he is open to suggestions on his eating, I too would suggest guiding him toward looking into a ketogenic approach, which might include joining the reddit r/keto forum. Many success stories there, including among folks of your friend's weight (and greater).
posted by nacho fries at 12:41 AM on January 2, 2013


You can't. The only person who can save his life is him.

If it's medical? It's up to him to work it out. Lifestyle? You can encourage him, and support him, but it has to be his decision to change. If it's a drug side effect? Not much to be done. If he's developed a binge eating problem, then no intervention from well-meaning friends is going to help and will probably make matters worse unless he's ready to address it.

The best you can do is support him. Like people up thread have mentioned, he knows he's fat. It's hardly something that has escaped his notice.
posted by Jilder at 2:58 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah all this "it's not your responsibility, he has to decide for himself" talk is just bullshit. Obviously, if he's resistant, there isn't much you can do. Ditto if there are underlying physical or mental health issues. But it is possible that this is something that's crept up on him, about which he is deeply ashamed, and over which he feels a deep and crippling powerlessness. If that's so, a loving word from a good friend, followed up by sustained attention, could do a lot. So give that a try and if he stonewalls you, then console yourself with the realization that you've done your best.

The fact is that exercise alone isn't going to do shit. He needs to get his eating under control and then begin increasing his physical activity as his mobility increases. If you've got cash to burn, you could buy him a Withings scale and a Fitbit. Setting up an online account and tracking it with him could establish a baseline of accountability that, if he's willing, would give him a measure of control over his weight. More importantly, if he has an iPhone, an app like Lose It would help him track his calorie intake and, again if he's willing, let you check in on his eating patterns.

If he's in a rut, the main thing is to get some positive momentum going. Set a goal with him to lose 25 pounds. My guess is, unless there are underlying physiological problems, those pounds will drop off in a few months once he begins counting calories. With that goal met, you can start strategizing over the long term with him as an active ally.

You're a good friend for wanting to help him out this way. People get obese for all kinds of reasons, but they get thin again for one reason only: because they make a material commitment to consider their body in terms of its intake and expenditure of calories. Getting there takes the cultivation of all kinds of new habits. The technology is there to help out, and kind attention from friends can do a lot too.

Good luck.
posted by R. Schlock at 4:44 AM on January 2, 2013


Nthing - NO ONE gains this kind of weight just by eating a little too much pizza and drinking a little too much beer. Any "intervention" talk should begin by asking him if he minds talking about it and finding out if he's seen a doctor. If not, he's got to start there. Men have amazing powers of denial about medical issues, and I think one's 50s can be a particularly bad time for that.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:25 AM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


My daughter got into a habit of making her weekly phone call while she was walking. So that's one practical suggestion - you could set up a phone date with your friend where you each go to a park or a treadmill and you chat while walking for 30-60 minutes. Come up with some interesting stories or movie reviews or something, so you're not always talking about diet/weight. It might turn out that you do more talking than he does, but keep in mind that one of the indicators of exercise intensity is whether or not you can still talk while you are walking.
posted by CathyG at 6:46 AM on January 2, 2013


Did he ask for your help?
posted by decathecting at 6:51 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you get him to join Weight Watchers? Their new 360 program is designed to address the multiple factors involved in weight problems including environment, habits, etc. and is focused on working with human nature as much as possible instead of against it.

I've only just started but it seems promising. They've got pretty good online tools, apps and the like, and the physical meetings are great for providing structure, accountability and support. He can get a monthly pass for around $50 or pay a smaller amount weekly when he attends his meeting.

He might even be able to find a new exercise buddy at a meeting.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:23 AM on January 2, 2013


I lost weight with the keto diet on reddit and just choosing to live better.

If someone is 400lb, chances are they don't know what 'choosing to live better' actually involves, and it's more of a job than just putting down the pies or walking up the stairs rather than taking the lift.
posted by mippy at 9:11 AM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Putting on that much weight in 5 years is pretty extreme, so like several people have said already, it is probable that he has an underlying medical issue. If you are the type of close friends who can talk about these things, you can ask him about his health, but be gentle about it. People can be very sensitive about weight issues.

If he does ask for and want your help, I would suggest: go to the doctor for a full physical, including a thyroid panel and other bloodwork to determine if it's a medical issue contributing to his weight gain. If he is medically cleared to begin a weight loss program, walking is a great place to start - no equipment needed, and southern California's weather lends itself to outdoor activities, like walking around the neighborhood, pretty much year-round. I'd also suggest Gary Taubes's book Why We Get Fat so that he can get some ideas on what and how to eat. (YMMV, many obese people have metabolic syndrome or are on their way to it, and this book helped me immensely.) If he is then cleared for further exercise, I know a fantastic trainer in L.A. that I can recommend - please MeMail me for contact info.
posted by bedhead at 9:57 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


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