Q: There’s a woman in our office who is obviously getting heavier. I’ve also struggled with weight and would like to speak with her. I’m not sure how to start the conversation without offending her. Your thoughts?
A: She is well aware she is gaining pounds and almost certainly it is difficult for her to acknowledge. In general, the allure of food is considerably more beguiling for women. (Men tend to be tempted by sex.)
Many women, therefore, face the daily struggle of eating too much and feeling guilty or frustrated. Our society — in particular the images presented on television and in movies — tends to value women who are extremely slender. These standards are virtually unattainable for most women and this adds to the anguish.
According to one report, about half of North American women are on a diet. There is considerable pressure for women to lose weight and, no doubt, your co-worker is living under its influence.
(It is possible, although unlikely, she is completely at ease with her current weight and it is of little concern. The fact she is getter heavier would make this assumption doubtful.)
We can all enjoy “comfort food” and certain meals or snacks may relax us and serve as a treat at the end of the day. In her case, the situation may be similar, although there could be issues outside the workplace that are negatively affecting her emotionally.
She may be finding solace in food to the degree that is she eating to excess to “escape” from a difficult situation, such as a troubled marriage, wayward children or the need to care for an aging parent.
You may be aware of some of her circumstances although, based on your query, I would sense you are not close.
Your interest in sharing diet successes with her is laudable and I’m sure your motivations are good, but, as you imply, she could be offended if you are not careful.
Could you imagine being friends with her? She will be more open to your counsel — and respect you as an individual — if she sees you as someone who genuinely cares.
I’d recommend you allow a friendship to grow and introduce the subject of her weight, and your experience, as a natural part of a conversation.
I believe you empathize with her and would like to help her lose weight.
First, earn the right to speak through a friendship with appropriate levels of trust and confidentiality. She will appreciate you when she knows you have her best interests in mind.
Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to email@example.com.