Q. My best friend and I have known each other since we were 5. We are now 22. Neither one of us has ever been skinny, but where I lost 20 pounds when we started college and kept it off through steady diet and exercise, she is now extremely overweight, and I am becoming concerned about her health. Recently we were going up a flight of steps. When I got to the top, I realized she was struggling.
I worry about the strain her weight is putting on her heart and the consequences it will have for her health, but I’m not sure how I can help her.
We are very close and talk about most everything, but we’ve never discussed her weight. I feel like I shouldn’t say anything unless she brings it up. She is an adult and she obviously knows she is overweight, and can thus decide for herself what (if anything) she wants to do about it.
I don’t think it’s my place to lecture her about her weight. She is busy working multiple jobs. I’m not sure how often she cooks her own food. I wish I could see her healthier. Is there anything I can do if she never brings up the subject?
A. Friends ask questions, listen to the answers, tell the truth (kindly) and offer compassionate support. This should not translate into lecturing; it’s the intimacy offered by true friendship.
You could initiate a discussion about weight with your friend by saying, “I’m worried about your health lately. Do you want to talk about weight? You know I’ve struggled with this so much, and I might be able to help if you are open to it. At least we can talk about it if you want to.”
My own experience is that having an “exercise buddy” can be transformative. If you and your friend are able to walk regularly together, by springtime you may be able to jog.
Q. My brother-in-law is truly over the top. Recently at a party he stuck his finger in my drink and then licked it to see how strong it was.
I was speechless, and wonder what the proper response would have been.
A. Sometimes the best response is the first one that occurs to you. This doesn’t work if you are truly speechless, but I never am, so here goes: “Whoa! That was . . . surprising. Do you want this drink? Because I’m going to get another one for myself.”
Q. You ran a letter from “Emotional,” whose family accused her of having a “nasty tone” of voice. Your advice was almost right, but rather than ask her family to impersonate her, which I think could quickly devolve into caricatures or mocking rather than accurate impersonations, it would be better for her family to record her.
Any smartphone can be a Dictaphone. Whenever she says something in a nasty tone, someone should ask her to repeat herself right away, then play back her comment. I bet she’ll be shocked at the sound of her own voice.
A. Your solution is a good one, although asking someone to correct herself in the midst of an emotional moment might also backfire. That’s why I suggested that “Emotional” should initiate this conversation when she was ready to approach the issue with an open mind and a sense of humor.
But, yes, recordings do not lie, and seeing (or hearing) yourself can be a revelation.Send questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.