Hey, so you probably haven’t heard about this yet because you have more important things on your mind, like whether to cut some bangs or how long leftover Chinese food stays good in your fridge, but some guy who is a British weight-loss expert has declared today Britain’s first “Warn a Friend They’re Fat Day.”
Charming, right? The idea is that people should pull their tubby friends aside and break the news that a) they are fat, b) this is bad, and c) they should do something about it. And then, I guess, they have a few awkward moments and possibly stop being friends anymore.
But our pointedly nameless weight-loss bro from Britain is not satisfied to restrain his efforts to a precious stone set in a silver sea and wants to bring the hurt feelings and resentment to the former colonies as well, so is asking Americans to participate too. Good times on the friendship front all around!
Before you spend your day vigorously tackling the warm soft flesh of every fat person you know so you can explain their fatness to them, it might be worth asking three questions about said friend first:
1. DO THEY UNDERSTAND LANGUAGE?
Do they read newspapers? Do they browse websites? Do they peruse magazines? Do they watch television? If they comprehend words, spoken or printed, in virtually any form of media, they are probably familiar with the concept that health issues that may be correlated with fatness. I can’t speak for the U.K., but in the U.S. this information is inescapable; even CNN runs a regular (and often curiously boilerplate) former-fatty-of-the-week column in which a recently slimmed-down individual lists their prior problems and extols their improved health. It's tough to name a mainstream publication that doesn't delve into the civilization-destroying horrors of obesity from time to time — I mean, if for no other reason than that shit sells.
Point being, the idea that weight has health consequences for many people, and that intentional weight loss for the improvement of health is something people often choose to do, is not exactly a KFC’s-eleven-herbs-and-spices-level secret. Even your own personal fat friend, whom I can only assume you think has all the intelligence of a box of hammers if this is a question you need ponder in the first place — even she probably already knows about it.
2. DO THEY WEAR CLOTHING?
Maybe your fat friend lives in a very wide cave far away from the Internet or the Daily Mail and thus is completely unaware of all the generous public service the media is doing to spread knowledge on the chilling dangers of people fatting around all over the place. Unless she lives in that cave totally naked, she has probably had reason to shop for clothing in the recent past. And when that happened, odds are good that she noticed that there was a LOT of stuff that simply doesn’t fit her. In fact, most things probably didn’t fit her. Pretty much everything was probably too small.
Depending on the degree of not-fittingness she ran into, she might have found herself having to go to a special store where special clothes were set aside to accommodate her awesome girth. Now, again, unless your friend is extraordinarily vapid, it has likely occurred to her that the reason she must shop in a special store is because she wears a larger size than many people do, which even the weakest critical mind could reason out to signal that, hey, I must be fat!
3. DO THEY GO OUT IN PUBLIC, EVER?
Because of people like Weight Loss Dude In Great Britain, lots of people already feel totally entitled to make observations about people’s bodies, and not only of friends, but also total strangers! These are truly the selfless soldiers in a War Against Unhealth! They will alert you to your fatness unbidden. They don't even ask for compensation; the warm knowledge that they have successfully assessed and announced your fatness in public, ideally in front of other people, is its own reward.
So if your fat friend ever leaves her very wide cave with her clothes on, she has probably been instructed on this issue before. If she's taken public transportation, she's probably noticed that her ass is a bit bigger than the seats, and that other passengers are frequently, even vocally annoyed by this. If she's passed through a crowded bar, or a small store with close-set displays, or looked for a seat in a restaurant, she has been conscious of the fact that her body doesn't always easily fit in spaces other people's do.
4. ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT YOUR FAT FRIEND IS A PERSON, AND NOT A SACK OF LAUNDRY THAT YOU MISTOOK FOR A PERSON BECAUSE YOU FORGOT WHAT HUMANS ARE LIKE BECAUSE NONE OF THEM WANT TO BE AROUND YOU BECAUSE NOBODY WANTS TO PUT UP WITH YOUR UNINVITED OUTBURSTS ABOUT THEIR BODIES AND THEIR HEALTH?
The laundry sack won't be able to speak, and probably hasn’t moved from your bathroom in a few weeks. That’s how you’ll know the difference.
The problem with “Warn a Friend They’re Fat Day” is that it is exceedingly rare for fat people to not be aware that they’re fat. We simply don't live in a world where fat people are allowed to forget for very long; to be honest, we don’t live in a world that is particularly easy on fat people in general. And most fat people are not fat simply out of stubbornness. It seems clear that the overwhelming majority of fat people would prefer very much to be otherwise.
The problem? Significant weight loss is very difficult for many fat people, if it is even possible as a permanent solution. It's not difficult in the sense of being a mild inconvenience easily adapted to; if that were true, a lot more people would be losing weight. It is difficult to the extent of often requiring extreme vigilance and restriction, especially in cases where said person has already lost and regained a lot of weight in their life; it demands a reframing of priorities in which losing pounds and maintaining that loss becomes a major part of one's daily life.
And if a person wants to make that decision, they are allowed to! Everyone should be free to make private autonomous decisions about their bodies. But not every fat person wants to commit to that, and — unpopular opinion alert — I don't believe they should be pressured to do so. Actual science says that nagging people you’re close to about losing weight will ultimately make them fatter anyway, so who are you really helping here?
If your friend asks you, "Hey, am I fat?" or "What is your considered opinion on my expected lifespan?" then feel free to pontificate at length. If you have a previously agreed-upon familiarity on such topics, you can probably feel comfortable bringing it up. But unless this is an understanding you both already share, then please don’t “warn” your friend that she or he is fat, today or any other day. Let her raise the subject with you if it’s on her mind. By forcing the issue, you have no idea how you may upset or hurt her, no matter how good your intentions are — you may lose some of her trust and ultimately her friendship in the process.
And if you’re a true friend, you won’t want to do that.