My friend constantly worries about her weight — how can I get her to stop?

Originally Published: April 19, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: February 20, 2014
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Dear Alice,

My best friend has a weight complex. She constantly asks me if I think she's fat and even asks my boyfriend what he thinks of her weight. She isn't overweight and I just wish she would stop worrying about it all the time. Is there anything I can do to convince her she isn't fat?

Sincerely,

Want to help

Dear Want to help,

It can be difficult to hear someone you care about constantly putting her or himself down. Your best friend's constant remarks about weight indicate that she feels uneasy about herself. She may be looking for validation to feel better about her body, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, you may not be able to change the way your best friend sees herself, regardless of how many times you tell her she's not fat. You can, however, provide support in several different ways. This may help your friend on her path to seeing herself in a better light. Here are some suggestions:

  • Express yourself. Let your friend know how her constant worrying impacts you. Does it make you sad or stress you out? Are you concerned that her preoccupation with her weight may be impacting other parts of her life? Letting her know these things may motivate her to look at how her behavior is affecting those around her and, most importantly, her own well-being.
  • Model positive behavior. Make an effort to stop talking about diets and "imperfect" body parts. Challenge media images that unrealistically portray women — to yourself and out loud with your family and friends.
  • Be positive and encourage your friend to do the same. Ask her what she likes about herself. Too often people focus on the negative aspects of their bodies and personalities. Rarely do people tell themselves how much they love their bodies or focus on all the amazing things their bodies can do.    
  • Encourage her to seek support. Speaking with a counselor or meeting with a support group may help her deal with her issues in a healthy manner. Columbia students can make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (Morningside) or the Mental Health Service (CUMC).

Remember, your friend's issues likely go much deeper than the surface. The way a person views her or his body affects self-esteem. A person with high self-esteem has high self-worth and a positive self-image. People with low self-esteem are very critical about themselves. Low self-esteem can have a whole host of negative consequences, including being more at risk of developing eating disorders. Those with severe body image issues may benefit from using antidepressants or cognitive behavior therapy.

Overall, your willingness to help and active seeking out of information is a great start. While your friend's constant questioning may seem pesky, she may be dealing with much greater issues. So equip yourself with knowledge and a positive attitude — she may follow in your footsteps!

Alice