How to Support Women Who Struggle with Eating and Weight


Today marks the beginning of Healthy Weight Week 2015. The week when many people realize those New Year’s diets are destined for failure, or already have failed. Notice we say the diets have failed, not the people. That’s because diets don’t work — something so many people realize already. Yet time and again, they start new diets, often because they don’t know what to do instead. 

Healthy Weight Week is designed to change the focus from weight to health, which means we can say goodbye to weight loss diets forever and start focusing on what supports our health. Weight loss diets not only don’t help most people lose weight permanently, they end up gaining it. And their health often suffers, too. 

We hope you’ll follow the blog each day this week for posts on many of the issues that are important to health for women who have struggled with eating and weight. We start the week with a post by Shiri Macri, licensed professional counselor and behavior lead at Green Mountain. Shiri talks about the issue of support — it’s critical to success in overcoming eating and weight struggles yet many people don’t know how to support others who are struggling.  

Supporting Me Means...

Tools For Our Successful Journey Towards Healthy

As we embark upon a journey towards health, it’s essential to have the proper “tools” with us on our path towards success.  These tools include many things – a movement plan, a balanced nutritional plan, maybe new thoughts and behaviors we’re experimenting with.

Additionally, having the support of friends and loved ones throughout this process of change can be invaluable.

Imagine a child learning to ride a bike.

Can the child learn on their own?  Not easily.  Do we expect the child to get it on the first try?  Of course not.

And when the child falls, how might we respond?  Imagine saying: “Why can’t you get this? Give it up.  You’re terrible at bike riding.”  Ouch!  The child probably would give up, especially if those giving the advice are people the child loves, cares for, and admires.

Use Words of Encouragement

Instead, we usually offer words of encouragement, understanding, and compassion.  It may sound like: “It’s ok.  This is hard.  You can do it.  I’m here for you”, etc.

Having healthy support can be so important when trying to make a positive change in our lives.  This doesn’t always come easily or naturally to those closest to us, so it’s helpful to provide some guidance.

First, what does support actually mean?  Technically it means:

“Support (verb)        1. Bear all or part of the weight; to hold up  2. Give assistance to; To enable to function or act”

How to Help Women with Eating and Weight Challenges

Here are a few ways to talk to friends and family to help them understand how better to support us when we are learning a different approach to self-care than the misguided path of dieting.

1 This is my path, be understanding of it.

  • Though you may not agree, please accept that I’ve chosen a non-diet approach towards health.  It may take longer, but I’m worth the time.
  • Respect that this is a very personal journey. Please be considerate of comments and conversations about my body and my eating.

2 There are many successes to be acknowledged.

  • It’s really not about numbers on the scale or a tape measure, but instead, changes in how I move, my positivity, mindful eating skills or coping.  I’m happy to tell you about these if you’re interested.
  • Please be patient when it comes to body related changes.  I’ve learned it takes time for long term changes. They aren’t always reflected in body size but they can say something about my health.

3 Trust my choices.

  • I am purposefully making many of my food choices and working on eating freely and mindfully – whether it’s veggies and dip or chocolate cake.
  • Give me space to make mistakes without judgment.  I’m still learning.

The “Supporting Me Means” infographic in this post also lists other ways. We hope you’ll share the infographic in your circles to help others understand what true support is. Note: The points are relevant to supporting ourselves in this journey also.  

6 responses to “How to Support Women Who Struggle with Eating and Weight”

  1. Harriet Krivit says:

    Too much focus on weight and generalizing a very individual problem around eating food. Like most physical and psychological disorders (many subconsciously driven), there are degrees and these conditions often remain chronic no matter the treatment. People including medical, assume because I appear and am of a normal size for me, have no idea of the varied daily lifelong effort I put into staying comfortable and healthy AND, LOVE AND ENJOY ALL FOODS. Would love to hear your story re: your own path, Shiri…thanks for the post.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for this excellent article! I am now really enjoying peace with food after years of battling with food, weight, etc. I am very grateful to read this. Thank you.

  3. Beth Turchi says:

    Harriet – Amen! I too am of a “normal” size. When I did my stay at green Mountain last September, I thought some of the women there would be annoyed that I was attending the program despite my size but I was met with understanding that some women, like me, have a life-long struggle with food, binging and body image. I struggle with it every day.

  4. Harriet Krivit says:

    Beth…thank you! “I struggle with it every day”… too. There are rare respites…an oasis of being without the “monkey on my back” but they don’t relate to any particular mood or situation. And they don’t last. It really helps to know I’m not alone.

  5. AmberLynn Pappas says:

    The person I have the most difficult time supporting in their food choices is my mother in law. As a fitness professional she comes to me for advice on healthy eating, but then, as soon as she hears about the latest weight loss gimmick runs right away from what I have to say and straight toward the “quick fix”. It is hard, over time, to put your faith in someone who is not willing to stay the course. How do you support someone who continues to make poor choices under the guise of wanting to be healthier?

    • Michele says:

      “How do you support someone who continues to make poor choices…?”
      Try to be patient, & not judge. She has confidence in you as a Fitness Professional, & seems to value yr input.

      Now, no offense meant: there is an abundance of Experts who could really use the gentle reminders in the article.

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About the Author

Shiri Macri, MA, LCMHC

Since 2004, Shiri’s approach as a therapist for treating binge and emotional eating is holistic, focusing not only on the presented issue at hand but also considering overall health. Working in this way often includes mindfulness-based approaches. Now as a trained MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) teacher, Shiri’s love of mindfulness and meditation practices are at the forefront of her blog writings and recordings. Shiri is the Clinical Director at the Women's Center for Binge & Emotional Eating, affiliated with Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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