Right from the jump I'm going to say that the friend I'm talking about is not your super model statuesque friend who hates on her gorgeousness to feel more relatable. I know that everyone -- even the fit and beautiful -- have hang-ups, and I fully agree that they are entitled to them.
But this is for those of you with friends who have average bodies. Average bodies they can't get comfortable in. Average bodies they hate.
The friends you love beyond measure for their giant hearts and ginormous brains, for their depth and humor and unconditional love and loyalty. The friends you love so damn much that you genuinely cannot see them as anything less than radiantly beautiful, whether they're a size 6 or 16 or forever yo-yoing in between.
Because the thing is, when they feel out of shape or fat or ugly, you can't tell them that.
When they've gained 10 or 20 pounds because they just had a baby or they've been depressed or broke a leg and couldn't run or bike or even walk for months on end and they feel like crap, you cannot say, "You look great!" Because they know they look "great" to you. They know that no matter what they look like, you'll think they look great. And not because you're trying to blow smoke up their imperfect ass, but because you love them and so when it comes to them, size really doesn't matter.
But don't tell them that. Don't tell them that you didn't even notice their weight gain, or if it really, truly doesn't look like they've gained any weight (or they really do look great by anyone's standards) don't tell them they're crazy.
Because they feel crazy, but not the making-shit-up kinda crazy. They are feeling the I-want-to-crawl-out-of-my-skin crazy. The I'm-stuck-in-this-body-and-I-want-out kind of crazy. And it doesn't matter if their body is amazing or if it's a prison of their own making -- if they've been eating cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every damn day -- or if it's just hormones (hello PMS) or some condition like hypothyroidism.
It doesn't matter why they feel insecure and uncomfortable and defeated. They are just feeling that way. And they're telling you, not so that you'll lift them up and make them feel better, but so they can acknowledge a very special and persistent type of frustration we women are hormonally and culturally primed for. They love you and trust you and so they're speaking their shame and discontent aloud to you.
You just have to hold some space there for it.
And maybe one day they will come to peace with their thick thighs and lumpy middle or their flat ass or funny teeth or veiny legs. Maybe they'll learn to see themselves the way you do. Or maybe they'll let all of the crappy feelings motivate a change -- they'll stop eating the things they shouldn't eat or start working out or quit drinking or get lipo or take up transcendental meditation.
But whether or not they do won't depend on your insistence that they don't look as bad as they feel.
Or maybe they do look that bad and you're the kind of friend who goes the tough love route and will tell them, straight up, that they are looking a little squishy and it's time to hit the gym. But even if it's true, it's not helpful.
Let us not diminish our loved one's feelings, however ridiculous they seem to us, for they are feelings. And we cannot control them.
So when your friend tells you that she's hating her body, don't tell her she looks great. Tell her what you really mean when you say that: Tell her you're sorry she feels that way. Tell her you love her.