I'm sorry you're chubs...maybe have some cereal and a banana for breakfast instead of frozen pizza?
July 26, 2011 6:32 AM   Subscribe

My overweight roommate is growing increasingly depressed about aforementioned extra weight. She makes poor eating choices. Should I say something?

Before you all say "omg no butt out," which is generally my preferred course of action in situations like this, hear me out.

We're in a pretty "strictly roommates" situation (strangers who found each other on craigslist), but we've been living pretty harmoniously together for about a year. She's been "trying" to lose weight the whole time, as evidenced by complaining about her weight on facebook, posting status updates like "just worked out to Sweatin' to the Oldies!" or whatever workout tapes the kids are watching these days, and buying low-cal snack packs. She also makes frequent comments to me along the lines of "man, I wish I could eat ice cream every night" or "gee, you sure do eat a whole lot of chocolate, wish I could do that!"

The thing is, I think she could lose a really significant amount of weight just by changing her eating habits, and I honestly am not sure she really realizes this.

She's a vegetarian, but I have never seen her prepare a single fresh fruit or vegetable. Whenever I make something veg-heavy or overbuy fruit in a fit of "EAT ALLLL THE PEEEACCHESS!" I always offer her some ("hey, I'm making roasted butternut squash, want some?" or "I'll never be able to eat all these nectarines before they turn, help yourself") and she always turns up her nose. She eats takeout (usually thai food) at least every other day. Almost everything she "makes" at home is prepackaged low-fat or low-cal or Fit and Active brand stuff (particularly snack and junk foods like cookies, cupcakes, and frozen pizza). She talks (not necessarily to me, but in general) a lot about how she's "eating right" because she's eating the diet products. (I know her eating habits so well because we both work from home/are home a lot.)

Anyway, I'd like to just be able to ignore her, but I really don't know how to respond to her when she engages me directly. I'm not some paragon of healthy eating (see aforementioned ice cream and chocolate), but (aside from the ice cream) I eat pretty well. I make (aside from the ice cream) almost all of my food, mostly from scratch (which means if I don't want to bake cookies today, I'm not eating cookies today), and am a slim, healthy weight with a positive body image.

Should I say something? What should I say? I absolutely don't want to offend her or make this A Thing, but the guilt tripping about eating my ice cream (which I do in the privacy of my own room) is starting to wear on me.


For what it's worth, we're both solidly adults...she's in her mid 30s. Also, she's really not that fat. She is overweight, though, in a curvy badonkadonk way, but it bothers HER. Not me. Just so that's clear. She can be 400lbs for all I care, as long as she's happy.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
She's guilt tripping you about eating ice cream because she has issues about food. Lots of people do. You are not going to improve the situation by telling her how to eat, or that she's not eating right, or that you know how to do it better. I just can't see that conversation going well.

If you absolutely must explain to her why she's Doing It Wrong, I think you might have a higher chance of success by framing it as a money thing. "Hey, those premade pasta-and-zucchini things are yummy but aren't they super-expensive? I'm making something like it; if you help me chop up the onions, I'll make enough for two!"
posted by yomimono at 6:39 AM on July 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

No. It won't help either of you.
posted by meringue at 6:40 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off? If so, the next time she says "I wish I could eat ice cream," I think you could say something like "You know, I used to be overweight until I figured out how to eat in a way that would allow me to have treats while maintaining a weight I'm happy with. If you want me to tell you about what worked for me, I'd be happy to."

If you have never been fat and lost weight, then sorry, nope. Just treat her like you'd treat anyone bitching about a bad situation - a crappy job, bad commute, etc.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:41 AM on July 26, 2011 [22 favorites]

When she complains, you might ask her if she's considered seeking medical advice from a nutritionist.

Then leave it at that, and don't re-engage on it. She's got to figure it out for herself.

Also, she's not making you feel guilty about the ice cream. That's on you.
posted by jgirl at 6:42 AM on July 26, 2011

Nothing you say is going to help her. It's likely she knows that prepackaged foods are not as healthy as homemade food.

It sounds to me more like she's incredibly insecure about her appearance, which is why she obsesses over it.

I wouldn't accept the comments about your ice cream, though. That is totally guilt tripping. Sounds like she wants you to be as miserable about yourself as she feels about herself. Misery loves company.
posted by royalsong at 6:42 AM on July 26, 2011

I wouldn't remotely say anything about her food choices or habits - she's an adult, and it's none of your business (as you understand). What I would say something about is how she talks to you about it. If she complains about her eating, just say something non-committal and don't engage. But once she starts in on YOUR eating, I would ask her to quit it, that you don't like to have your eating habits discussed or scrutinized.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 6:43 AM on July 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

She also makes frequent comments to me along the lines of "man, I wish I could eat ice cream every night" or "gee, you sure do eat a whole lot of chocolate, wish I could do that!"

If she's the one bringing it up, I absolutely don't think it is at all out of line to reply. The next time she brings this up, I think you should turn to her and say, "Well, we could talk about why that works for me if you're interested. Want to?"

Then she can say yes or no. If she says yes then you can talk about YOUR eating habits, e.g. "The reason it works for me to eat ice cream sometimes is that I don't eat any other processed foods, ever, and almost all my other meals consist of fresh fruits and vegetables."

If she says no, for whatever reason, "No, that'll just depress me" or whatever, then there's your opening to say, "You know, I'm not a big fan about talking about my ice cream intake either, so yeah, let's just table the subject."
posted by Ashley801 at 6:53 AM on July 26, 2011 [22 favorites]

We're in a pretty "strictly roommates" situation (strangers who found each other on craigslist)

Say nothing. She's more than likely aware that her food choices aren't conducive to weight loss. Actually, she might even be projecting what she thinks you, as someone in the Not Fat category, think about her size. If so, her way of dealing with the shame associated with weight gain is to make the comments listed in your question.

There's really nothing you can say to break through potential layers of self-loathing, fear, shame, depression, etc. Especially cos you guys aren't friends.

Nthing Destination Unknown's suggestion about getting her to help you cook, however.
posted by Ashen at 6:55 AM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Anyway, I'd like to just be able to ignore her, but I really don't know how to respond to her when she engages me directly.

Tell her that her comments about your eating make you uncomfortable. Tell her that your food choices aren't up for discussion. In fact, tell her that her negative body-talk makes you uncomfortable. Tell her that if she has specific requests for support that you can give her, you'd be happy to help, but that she has to ask.

Your discomfort with how your roommate communicates her disgust with her own body is getting mixed up with your sense that your roommate is making unhealthy and unwise eating choices regardless of her weight.

As a curvy "badonkadonk" type myself, if she were me and this were 20 years ago, all these comments about losing weight and her "diet" would be less about the actual (ultimately fruitless) attempt to lose weight, and more about making sure everyone around me knew I was trying, lest someone think I was weird enough to not be on a diet, clueless enough to think I was okay, even beautiful, even (crazy talk!) healthy and fit and physically capable. I made those kinds of comments so that other people -- my mother, and the other girls at boarding school -- wouldn't make them first. You may find that increased communication, especially reassuring her that her comments are not only unnecessary but actually unwanted, will cut down the food chatter nicely, and may do your roommate real good.

Just, for the life of you, don't start directly commenting on her food choices. That just reinforces the idea that diet talk is a valid topic of conversation, and that's the last thing you want to do. I'd even stay away from "home-made vs. frozen dinner" and "cheap vs. expensive" -- as someone who has had her food choices heavily scrutinized myself, even those seemingly rational and neutral topics are heavily poisoned.
posted by endless_forms at 6:59 AM on July 26, 2011 [60 favorites]

The problem is that there are so many ideas afloat about why people have problems losing weight, and how one should go about losing weight. Then there are all those different body and metabolism types that all react crazy-differently to the same type of foods. Why would your version of good eating be "better" in her context?

For example: some people who eat fruit and muesli stay slim and healthy, others, however, don't lose a pound on that trajectory. Some people who are on a low carb diet (low-carb would pretty much exclude mesli and fruit) have strikingly positive effects with that. Others not.

Heck, I've even seen one dude shovel piles of mash and bacon into his insides every single day and he was thin as a rake.

If your roommate wants to understand metabolism in a scientific way, and you're an expert, go ahead. If you just want to tell her that you believe that there's a link between your eating habits and your not being as overweight as she apparently is, just don't, at all.
posted by Namlit at 7:11 AM on July 26, 2011

Don't say anything! My uncle constantly bitches and moans about how overweight he is and goes on and off "healthy" diets all of the damned time -- with intervals of buying out the bakery in between to "reward" himself for "sticking to" his diet. Nothing I say, nothing his doctor says, nothing anyone says will change his mind that it is his actions that keep him overweight. He is convinced that he is cursed by the gods and nature to be overweight because he tries so hard to lose weight.

He knows he is overweight - so does your roommate. She is probably aware that her eating habits are not good and has rationalized them to herself that they are the best for her. There are a bazillion reasons why people do not cook for themselves and prefer prepackaged foods. She probably has a dozen of them. I have a few of my own... and my roommate constantly nags me about my lack of cooking. It's freaking annoying.

As you said, your both full grown adults. Let her make her own bad choices. If her complaining is bothering you, then discuss that with her, but for all that's good in the world, don't tell her how to live her life, and especially don't tell her how to eat.
posted by patheral at 7:15 AM on July 26, 2011

I see no problem and support your setting boundaries for yourself - when you talk about X it makes me feel Y. I would appreciate it if you wouldn't share because it's hard for me or it's XY or Z. I would not tell her what to do or how to live her life. She is an adult with autonomy and the consequences of autonomy. If your generosity isn't opening her up to new choices and your living a "healthier" life (in your view) isn't doing the same, leave it at that.
posted by anya32 at 7:18 AM on July 26, 2011

I completely agree with endless_forms. I know it's not the most comfortable discussion to have, but clear boundaries about what you're comfortable and not comfortable discussing will go a long way. There are people who are obsessed with every morsel they put in their body -- whether they be thin or obese -- and want you to join in their obsession. It's maddening. She simply wants to engage you in her obsession, and I would not allow it. Notice she never asks you for advice, she rather just comments on your eating or bemoans her own situation.

These people have a very unhealthy relationship with food, and they don't even realize it. Don't get caught up in it.
posted by Falwless at 7:29 AM on July 26, 2011

...but the guilt tripping about eating my ice cream (which I do in the privacy of my own room) is starting to wear on me.

This is the issue here, focus on that.

"Hey, when you comment repeatedly about my food choices, it makes me uncomfortable and self conscious. It would help me feel more comfortable if you cut back on doing that or lay off all together."

If you really want to help, invite her to cook with you. Make it a roommate thing, where ya'll cook together once a week or something.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:33 AM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

As a fat person myself, I can say that really a spirit of invitation is all that can help.

Invite her to cook with you, shop with you, exercise with you. Non-judgmental companionship is probably what will help most. Simply being around someone who is healthy about food will give her an example that, I bet, she has not had enough of.

Because she probably sees you as above her (at least in this issue) there is nothing you can teach her without seeming to talk down to her.
posted by cross_impact at 7:41 AM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

She also makes frequent comments to me along the lines of "man, I wish I could eat ice cream every night" or "gee, you sure do eat a whole lot of chocolate, wish I could do that!"

Generally you should butt out but when she starts with this sort of thing, it definitely warrants a response... I'd go with some gentle ribbing like "I wish I could eat takeout 3 nights a week" or "you could if you ate your vegetables". If she didn't take the hint then I'd just come straight out with it or at the very least tell her to shut the fuck up about commenting on your food.
posted by missmagenta at 7:46 AM on July 26, 2011

Your title is pretty mean, and I think even if you couch your advice in the mildest of terms, your roommate would still essentially hear, "I'm sorry you're chubs (and I'm skinny)...maybe have some cereal and a banana for breakfast instead of frozen pizza?"

I know it can be annoying to have someone complain about something in their life instead of fixing it, but it's really not your place to fix it for her. If she is bothering you about eating ice cream/chocolate, I know it's tempting to snark back at her. Try to remember that she's clearly sensitive about food and weight and that she's simply reflecting her own insecurities on to you. I think it's perfectly valid to ask her not to discuss your eating habits because it hurts your feelings.
posted by LizzyBee at 7:48 AM on July 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

Buy her Bob Harper's book or Dr. Phil's Weight Loss Solution book and leave it at that. Those are about wanting to change and using the right tools to lose weight, and if she doesn't even read the book, then let her and her weight be.
posted by bunny hugger at 7:58 AM on July 26, 2011

Ugh. Move. Or, what endless forms said.

I don't think you can engage her on this issue but I think for your sanity, you should shut it down. A long time ago I lived with a bunch of girls, one of whom had a terrible relationship with her terrible boyfriend. After one too many nights of her getting endless sympathy and attention after one of their fights, we all agreed we'd had enough. We told her that she was free to stay with the guy or break up with him but we didn't want to hear anymore about their relationship. Cruel to be kind. There was a part of that cycle where the negative attention was filling a need for her. But, we were college kids. You guys are grown. I'd tell her to dial it back or move. Life is too short.
posted by amanda at 8:01 AM on July 26, 2011

Do not buy her a weight loss book. Those books are a poor source of helpful information, and it would be some passive aggressive BS, to boot.
posted by so_gracefully at 8:10 AM on July 26, 2011 [13 favorites]

You should probably move. You deserve to eat ice cream in peace and she deserves someone who's not judging her constantly.

For what it's worth, being overweight is incredibly difficult and painful and depressing. "I'm Sorry You're Chubs"? That's cruel. Feeling judged and snarked upon makes it harder to make sane choices. You're not incorrect and you've rightly noticed that she's not actually successfully getting where she wants to be, and would be better off if she changed her behavior, but from the tone of your post, you're only going to hurt, not help, if you try to butt in. What I read between the lines here is "I'm pretty sure my roommate is overweight because she's clearly stupid and needs my help to become smarter and more disciplined." It doesn't actually sound to me like you give a whit about her success or failure, you just want her to not annoy you anymore.

So make it about that. You have every right, and in fact should, have a roommate who doesn't make you uncomfortable eating what you want to in your own home. It sounds to me like you both have issues that are inflaming one another. If she makes a statement to you that makes you uncomfortable about what you eat, tell her to cut it out. Don't characterize it or snap back with any judgement though. Just say "please don't comment on what I'm eating anymore, thanks."
posted by pazazygeek at 8:12 AM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

You know what else would be appropriate, and acknowledge what I think she's getting at but not get into a whole thing with her about it: "Yeah, I did get lucky genetically with my ability to eat ice cream. Just like you did with your gorgeous hair/height/ability to learn languages so quickly. I guess everyone gets different little gifts, right?" And then change the subject.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:13 AM on July 26, 2011

I feel for you, this gets frusterating, and people who whine about things they could very well fix themselves is MEGA irritating. But you can't say anything. I think she is just speaking aloud *at* you, not speaking *to* you. Even if you did respond with a suggestion you wouldn't be telling her anything she does not already know-she knows damn well exercise and diet would work but she does not care enough to take any action.
FWIW this type of problem comes in all flavors- carreers, relationships, raising children, personal finance, I could go on.
Responde blandly, or start trolling, either should quiet her down in a bit
posted by Frosted Cactus at 8:17 AM on July 26, 2011

No, don't start trolling. That's not a recipe for success.
posted by mippy at 8:19 AM on July 26, 2011

I'm nonconfrontational about stuff like this. I'd probably just get a mini-fridge and keep the junk food in my own room so she wouldn't even have a chance to see me eat it/ comment on it.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 8:23 AM on July 26, 2011

I know it's tedious to hear complaints like this. It can be a big ol' eye-roller to see someone eat diet junk food, bop for fifteen minutes to a workout tape, and wonder why she's unhappy and not getting results. But no matter how wrong she may be doing it, you're not going to teach her anything. She's just going to hear judgment.

Most of her comments are just her judging herself, using food and weight and exercise as yardsticks. "I wish I could eat chocolate" = "I'm not a good enough person to eat chocolate." "I went to Zumba last night!" = "I did a healthy thing, I'm good." Any response on your part is going to be translated similarly: "You should add fresh vegetables to your meals" = "you are not good."

Address her negative self-talk, and her commentary on your snacks. Next time she speaks with jealousy about your ice cream, mention that it makes you uncomfortable/self-conscious to hear her talk about what you're eating, and you'd appreciate it if she stopped. If she bellyaches about herself, mention that you wish she wouldn't be so negative towards herself.

It doesn't sound like your roommate relationship is at the move-out point, but I think it'd do you good to add a little bit of distance. Anything can be annoying if you're constantly exposed to it for long enough. Is there a coffee shop or somewhere you can work some days?
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:32 AM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

So I am overweight, by the sound of it more so than your friend. And I make bad food choices - where I differ from your friend is that I don't whinge about my shape and I don't guilt trip people about their food choices and I don't delude myself that diet food is good for you. But I know vegetables, a lot less starch and only lean proteins and exercise would be the way to go to lose weight. And anybody watching me eat may conclude that I don't know any better.

So if a well intentioned flat mate were to point out to me where I go wrong I would be slightly taken aback - then I'd thank you for your concern and ask you to mind your own business. If I felt indulgent I might baffle you with dietary knowledge that is at least comparable to yours and highlight that knowing and doing are two different things.

But your flat mate sounds quite touchy on the subject, she has food issues and she'd be hurt and offended. Given her aparent food issues she'd probalby start to obsess about both your and her food choices even more and you will never have a peaceful co-existence again.

So set boundaries about the guilt tripping re chocolate and ice cream - that's not on. And don't feel like you have to eat them in your room either. But don't talk to her about her dietary choices unless she specifically asks you for input. And even then I'd refer her to a dietician because the message, should she really be ignorant, would best come from somebody she doesn't see all the time.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:45 AM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

The thing about being overweight and unhappy about it is this: you read all the diet books and the news articles and the nutrition labels. You know the points values of every food you eat. You know about good fats and bad fats. You know tricks and tips and cheats and substitutions. And you know what you eat.

Knowing is not the problem. She knows that diet frozen pizza won't really balance out Thai takeout. It's not yet worth it to her to do the hard work of intentionally eating healthy. But she is unhappy, so she's complaining. Treat this like any other annoying roommate habit: address the behavior you want her to change.

Don't say anything about her food choices unless she asks you. But do speak up if she's saying things that make you uncomfortable--don't get defensive or explain why it's ok for you to eat ice cream, just, "It makes me uncomfortable when you comment on the amount of food I eat." If she's just commenting on her own food choices, don't engage.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:53 AM on July 26, 2011

Just ignore her comments. It probably does not make any sense to engage her. It's a losing proposition.

People are always looking for engagement, and if you ignore her negative behaviour she will stop.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:57 AM on July 26, 2011

Address the guilt tripping issue with her, as she probably is clueless as to how that makes you feel.

Everyone seems to think they know the best way to lose weight, but unless she specifically asks you for advice, mind your own business. You could say something along the lines of "you know, I really see you're putting in an effort to eat right. Have you considered talking to a registered dietician?" but that would be the most advice I would give.
posted by inertia at 8:57 AM on July 26, 2011

I absolutely don't want to offend her or make this A Thing

Then don't say anything, because what you've written here comes across as really judgmental and condescending. Maybe she picks up on that vibe from you and makes a big deal about her attempts at losing weight so you'll see that she's at least trying.

But don't offer to "help." It's not your job.

the guilt tripping about eating my ice cream (which I do in the privacy of my own room) is starting to wear on me.

Then the problem is yours. If she starts in on your food choices, tell her it makes you uncomfortable and do not engage her further. Neither of you should have to put up with a housemate who comments on what you eat.
posted by corey flood at 8:59 AM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

If she engages you directly, try reflective speaking. Basically, repeat whatever she says to you, without engaging (not quite the point of reflective speaking, but you are not a counsellor). She feels that she is being heard (and she is) and you do not have to engage.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:00 AM on July 26, 2011

If she starts in on your food choices, tell her it makes you uncomfortable and do not engage her further.

This is good advice.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:00 AM on July 26, 2011

Pretty much brush off anything she says other than a clear, explicit and direct request for advice. In other words, don't tell her how to change her eating habits in order to lose weight unless she asks you something very like, "How can I change my eating habits in order to lose weight?" And even then, I'd really suggest taking a few minutes to think about how best to put it.

For anything other than that, she's dealing with issues that are bigger than you are and far bigger than your ability to tender aid.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:10 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

The OP is saying she would 'like' to ignore it, but since her roommate keeps making her self conscious of her own eating, the question is about how to negotiate an annoying roommate, not whether she should ignore it or not. One option she was considering was to help her. The question is not about getting the roommate to lose weight, it's about getting her to stop saying annoying things and let the girl eat her food in peace.

I think the best option is to look at it just as any other annoying habit a roommate might have: slamming the door, music too loud, etc. And address it from the same place. "Hey, I really like to eat in peace and sometimes your comments make me feel self conscious while eating. Would you mind doing that? Thanks."
posted by Vaike at 9:25 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to ignore the food/weight aspect and view this as a Chronic Complainer Complains Constantly Because It's Fun situation. Well, maybe not fun, exactly, but rewarding in some way. Complaining is a way to seek attention, sympathy and validation from family and friends, and when the complainer gets what they seek, it reinforces the complaining behavior.

I don't know if this will work in a roommates-but-not-friends scenario, but when there's a real emotional bond involved, an effective way to shut down the behavior (without destroying the friendship) is to ask conversationally "so what are you going to do about the problem?" This says "I hear your complaint but I'm not going to cluck and fuss over poor little you - you're a grownup and I know you're capable of solving your own problems. Because hey, you're not actually asking me for advice, here."

My mom is a world champion complainer - kvetching is her primary form of self-expression and it's maddening to hear about the same problems over and over. Any solution I offer gets a barrage of objections and more complaints; what she really wants is sympathy and validation that "yes, your problems are just so overwhelming and you are so noble and heroic to endure them". Eventually I realized I had the choice to withhold the reward and make her accountable for her actions: what is she doing to SOLVE these problems?

The conversation becomes a sort of dialectic:
Mom: Problem problem problem!
Me: How are you going to solve that?
Mom: I can't! Nothing works!
Me: Why not?
Mom: Blah blah dumb justification blah blah.
Me: Sounds like you need to try something different, then.
Mom: Can't!
Me: Why not?

Eventually Mom realizes she isn't get any warm fuzzies out of this, and she drops the subject. Over the years she's really dialed down the kvetching, but I don't know if I've "trained" her or it's just a change that comes with age.

So with Roomie, try asking her what she's doing about her problem (weight management), knowing full well she's not going about it the right way:

Roomie: Wish I could eat ice cream every night!
You: Why do think you can't?
Roomie: I'm trying to lose weight, duh!
You: Why do you think you're having trouble with that?
Roomie: Blah blah lame reason blah blah.
You: Sounds like you need to try something different, then.

Just keep on being friendly but a tad skeptical, not rewarding her with sympathy or validation ("I know! Losing weight is SO HARD!") Losing weight isn't easy but it's possible, and you support her in this goal but you're not going to give her a soft landing when she fails.

She's an adult with agency and she has control over her life choices. If she's not happy with the results, she needs to take responsibility for her actions. In reality, she'll probably just redirect her complaining to other more rewarding friends, but at least you won't have to hear about it as much. Good luck!
posted by Quietgal at 9:36 AM on July 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

I don't think you can say anything directly to her, but what if you found a good nutrition book and casually left it around after you finished reading it? It doesn't have to be a diet book per se, but something that will open her eyes a little. She truly might think she's eating healthy since she buys "diet food," and maybe needs a little subtle guidance.
posted by katypickle at 10:47 AM on July 26, 2011

I don't think the roommate is so dumb that she can't find her own information about diet or exercise. The world is awash in info about how to go about loosing weight.

Trying to get her to loose weight is like buying a new car because the one you have has a flat tire. Her weight isn't any of your business (and I agree that the title is really uncalled for), but if she's making you feel uncomfortable that is and you should use some of the excellent suggestions up thread to address the comments not the person.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:58 AM on July 26, 2011

I'm in the "don't say anything about her weight" crowd, and also in the "tell her that her comments are making you uncomfortable and ruining your ice cream" crowd.

I wanted to bring up something else, though, which is that she may be saying these things as a way of sort of bonding with you. Many women have been socialized in such a way that getting together and talking about how horrible their bodies are is a bonding experience--it seems to be indicative of trust (I trust you so much that I'll even point out my flaws to you!) and wanting to find a shared experience. The women in my office--especially, I've noticed, the relatively slender, size-ten-and-smaller women in my office--do this every day, gathering in the break room and talking about the size of their thighs and how bloated they are from supper last night. (Many of these women are between a size two and six--there's nothing bloated about them.) My mother and her sisters, all of whom are very slender, get together and talk about their poochy bellies and flabby arms and how they've gained three pounds.

This isn't something that you have to do anything about, necessarily--it's not a way in which I'm comfortable engaging with people, so I don't--but if you wanted to be more friendly with her, or if she seems sort of friendless and you wanted to be kind, you could try pushing her to relate to you in other, non-body-hate-related way.
posted by MeghanC at 11:04 AM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I totally agree with endless_forms. Setting boundaries in this situation with a little assertiveness is a great idea. However, from your wording, it seems like you have some anger and contempt. I'm not saying I don't identify or that it isn't understandable, but it would be helpful for you and her to cultivate at the least a more neutral or even caring attitude when you do assert yourself to her. You might have to try very hard and be super conscious and present. But, since you do sound frustrated and she does sound very insecure, you might make it a point to be as sensitive as possible.
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:25 AM on July 26, 2011

I've had the same sort of thing happen to me with various people; usually, I say something about how I do a lot of exercise (which is a big part of the reason I'm in good shape despite the occasional splurge). Sometimes, the other person wants to talk about that, so I end up giving tips without saying anything judgmental.

I agree that you should make your discomfort known, but if you still want to offer advice, you might be okay if you use a friendly attitude and stick to 'me' type statements. One caveat: I'd try to maintain a nonjudgmental attitude towards her if you try this, because, as you know, it is a delicate situation.
posted by jennyesq at 11:27 AM on July 26, 2011

Please don't do what Quietgal recommends. That's just mean. If you don't want her to complain to you, have the guts to tell her that.
posted by dame at 1:37 PM on July 26, 2011

What strikes me about your post is how your roommate is eating in a pattern almost guaranteed to cause weight gain. Low-fat diets don't work (IMHO). Fat and protein together cause a feeling of satiety, 'low-cal' fat-free products cause a cascade of insulin plus the leptins in grains turn off the full feeling in our digestion. Probably one of the worst health hoaxes is the 'low-fat' diet plan as marketed by the big food combines.
I don't see how you can influence this in the slightest. If you look at eating patterns around the world, people eat fresh food that's not engineered frankenfood and they stay relatively slim. US type people eat high sugar crap full of corn syrup and get bloated. Pretty obvious relationship there but it seems to escape the vast majority of obese people, including your roommate.
You could tell her of course that her nutritional knowledge is weak or wrong, but that would create defensiveness. She probably is emotionally addicted to the sweet rush and the fact she can cram down a ton of this stuff. Sorry if this comes out harsh. Hard to believe that people think fresh fruit is lame, but have you ever eaten a nectarine after eating something sugary sweet. It tastes boring and kind of dull.
You could also leave some good nutritional books lying around. Paleo diet stuff informs a lot of my choices though I'm far from being strict about it. Grains, especially wheat, combined with sugar and low-fat....basically a ticket to being overweight. Just my semi-informed two cents worth, your mileage may vary.
posted by diode at 9:15 PM on July 26, 2011

As a fat woman (I'm taking it back), I can honestly say that I would NOT respond favorably to someone, especially someone who isn't fat, trying to give me diet advice. She's a grown adult, she can make her own choices, and if she truly does not know how to lose weight she could research it herself if she really wanted to. She doesn't eat Thai food and avoid healthy food because she doesn't know better, she does it because she likes Thai food and doesn't like peaches. Personally, I think your roommate needs to get over the whole weight loss thing and just live her life. If she isn't unhealthy WHO CARES. Contrary to popular belief, being fat isn't an automatic death sentence. Giving up on losing weight was the healthiest decision I ever made, I actually eat better now than I ever have before.
posted by evilcupcakes at 11:24 PM on July 26, 2011

I'm a skinny person whose diet is shit. I can go days without even looking at a fruit or vegetable. I've had not-so-skinny people lament that they can't eat the same things without gaining weight, and I don't know what to say, because I didn't choose my metabolism any more than they did. If you can eat ice cream and chocolate and she can't, that doesn't make you better, it makes you a fluke of biology.

By all means, address the constant complaining, but don't make any suggestions out of a misplaced sense of superiority.
posted by desjardins at 10:34 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

And FWIW, while I think there are a lot of valid reasons for not giving her any advice at all, I don't think "she already knows that her diet is making her the size she is/she's eating the food she's eating because she likes it" are necessarily valid reasons.

None of us can possibly know what she knows about diet and nutrition. None of us can possibly know what food she likes and whether she likes the food she's eating. I remember my mom throughout my childhood eating gross diet food that she hated, she wasn't doing it because she was addicted to anything about it. It didn't work and I'm fairly certain she had no idea why.

I think the general public in the USA is generally extremely ignorant about nutrition. Shit, I couldn't tell you what a leptin is, I'm fairly certain the first time I heard that word was in this thread. That's why I think it's best to, when she brings it up, ask her if she wants to talk about it, because it's really quite possible that she WOULD want to talk about it and would be interested in what she could do differently. I just think it's best not to assume either way.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:20 PM on July 27, 2011

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