The Weight of Words

I hadn’t seen my FOFriend, Tara, for a few months, during which time I’d put on more weight than I’d like to admit. I’ve been working 10 hours a day and picking non-stop at the cupcakes, layer cakes, biscuits, doughnuts, cornbread, muffins and cookies that David brings home non-stop. (He swims 60 minutes a day, so his pastry diet doesn’t hurt him.)

Anyhow, Tara and I were walking out of an evening event we had both recently attended, and the first thing she said was ‘You look heavier.’

“Wow, you think?” I wanted to say, sarcastically, but held my tongue. Interestingly, I thought her face looked a bit puffy when I first saw her, like she had been drinking a tad too much. No need to say anything, I reasoned. If she’s been drinking too much, she knows it. Even if she doesn’t, my telling her probably won’t get her to stop.

I was still thinking of Tara’s remark the next day, so my ‘high school self’ emerged and I dashed off this email:

Hi Tara,

Last night, you made a point of telling me I look heavier. That was the first thing that came out of your mouth. No one needs to tell me that I’ve gained weight. I know I’m heavier and I have recently lost six pounds on a sensible diet, so I was even heavier than what I am now.

I appreciate your honesty, but sometimes it really is unnecessary. I’m pleased I lost some weight in the last month, so your statement wasn’t very motivating. I didn’t think I needed an intervention.

Tara immediately emailed back that she was “concerned about my health” and would never ever want to upset me. I assured her that my health is in good shape, I probably won’t die with 20 extra pounds and I intend to lose them.

Tara and I continue to adore one another, but her comment got me thinking about our motivations when we pick at, criticize or condemn the actions of someone we love. We’re all guilty of one or the other transgression—sometimes intentionally, sometimes not—but I suggest we need to think twice before we indiscriminately open our mouths and act like petulant teenagers.

When I told my sister, Shelley (who has lost a ton of weight in the last couple of years and looks great) about Tara’s comment, she told me her own story: “I recently ran into a former co-worker when I was at the mall and the first thing she said was, ‘Oh my God, are you sick?’”

While getting older is liberating in many cases, that’s no reason we need to abandon the good sense we picked up along the way. When we were teenagers, we talked behind our friend’s back if she gained weight. Blurting it to someone’s face doesn’t make it more acceptable, just because you’re FOF.

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  • I love the fact you kindly but directly told your friend how her comment made you feel. So many times these days we remain silent and allow those in our life to cross personal boundaries and then hold grudges for those comments. Good job and thanks for sharing.

  • Mick

    If she is a close friend and not a casual acquaintance she was voicing concern for/to someone she loves and trusts. Is it preferable to lie by omission or otherwise to close friends and family? Would you be in this tizzy if she asked you if you had lost weight?

    Certainly it is rude to make this observation to a person you are not close to or voice it loud enough for others to overhear, but between REAL friends, I expect honesty. If your friend had felt safe enough to say something to you earlier, you might have only 5 pounds to lose now.

    As Mae West said “Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.” Pull up your big girl panties and own it instead of expecting your friends to lavish false praise on you. And if you need a suggestion for a civil reply: “Yes, I have gained weight, but I am happy to say I am on a diet and have successfully lost six pounds. I’m working on it!”

    • Jan

      Could not have said it better myself and agree with you Mick.

  • Thank you Geri for bringing up this topic. I make it my policy to never look or comment at my girlfriends weight, if they bring it up which they do all the time my standard line is that I never notice peoples weight. It’s time we women stop thinking that we our weight, weight like the stock market fluctuates daily. Lets move on and talk about more interesting topics.

    • Hi Kathi,

      You’re welcome, Kathi. I concur wholeheartedly with your advice.

      Happy weekend,

  • I like the excuse “she’s old” for being rude. I’m sorry bit at what age did all sensitivity to others go out the window ?

  • Barbara M.

    I wouldn’t have taken it so hard if it was a really great friend who might be a bit blunt. I like my friends that way; not my enemies, lol. I am awkward and say stupid things, but always try not to be hurtful.

    • Hi Barbara M,

      She is a good friend and a bit blunt, which I do like. But, as I say in the blog, telling someone she gained weight/smokes too much/drinks too much (things like that) won’t likely have an impact. I think we usually need to come to these realizations ourself before we can make changes.


  • michelle

    Good for you for letting her know how it made you feel-maybe she’ll think before saying those types of things next time. I had a co-worker who expressed every thought and criticism that crossed her mind, always prefacing it with, “I know I would want someone to tell me, so…” Ironically, I misspelled her name once and she never let me forget it. Can you imagine if I told HER she looked heavy?!

    • Hi Michelle,

      Pretty funny about her name.


  • Deb

    Bravo! This needed to be said. Self appointed truth squads in the name of friendship is something I can live without. Most of my life I was “built for comfort rather than speed” and people were quick to pick on that. Now that I have lost weight, people ask I am OK. I think its a matter of manners and we know that those are in short supply.

  • Jacquie

    Seems like just common courtesy. Sometimes friends, or family, say the cruelest thing that they would say to an enemy.

  • Donna Hart

    Well said!

  • Debra

    – Just last week I posted a recent photo of me on facebook -a woman I have not seen since high school made a comment that I had slimmed down since high school – high school was 40 years ago.
    What is so great is the flood of comments that came after with friends saying how I ALWAYS looked great etc. I actually received a few phone calls asking who the $%#$ was – So I think it’s just a select few who measure peoples worth by their size. By the way – I weigh the same as I did in high school!

  • Judy Meidel

    Momma always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything”.

  • Linda

    When I was really sick and had lost a lot of weight, a good friend asked me-very pissy- if I had not been eating on purpose/anorexic….even after I had told her I was sick and the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me for several months. i was diagnosed with a thyroid disease. I started to put on weight again and was diagnosed with type II diabetes. I cut out carbs and lost weight. She made a comment about my weight again when she saw me. She was jealous I had lost weight, but could have cared less that I was sick both times I guess.
    She’s not my friend any more.

  • marsha

    A much-needed post – thank you! I remember being taught that it was rude to make “personal remarks” other than to compliment someone. It would not be a bad thing if we all observed this rule.

    • agree, marsha! i wouldn’t even tell my daughter if she had gained weight. people lose weight, stop smoking, drinking etc. when they are ready. we don’t need the peanut gallery chirping in. 🙂

  • Laura Lewis

    Great post!

    • thank you, Laura. greatly appreciate your comment.