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Dr. Autumn
Dr. Autumn, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 43
Experience:  Licensed Clinical Psychologist with over 10 years of experience working with children and teens.
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Dear Expert, I have a problem with a friend who has started

Customer Question

Dear Expert, I have a problem with a friend who has started to shame me about two issues -- being early to meet her and my eating habits. My question is more focused on the latter -- my eating habits. My friend is very overweight -- I would say by at least a hundred pounds. Recently, her sister with whom she has a very enmeshed relationship made an insensitive comment about how when my friend goes out of state to visit their elderly mother, my friend is
so heavily focused on the food she ate at restaurants there. Since then, my
friend leaves a couple tablespoons on her plate when she and eat out together -- presumably to show she's in control of ANY comment about my friend's weight or eating habits -- or anyone for that matter. However, recently she
has taken to mocking me if we eat out and I finish everything on my plate --
so much so that I have defensively and irrationally felt the need to explain even though at heart I feel her comment is a boundary violation and a quest to build
herself up -- and her myth that leaving a small amount on her plate proves she
has no problem with overeating -- and at my expense. My plan is to the next time this happens to say, "No offense, however, I prefer you not to make any comments about my eating habits -- it just feels a little too close to the bone for me." And if she persists, to continue, "In all honesty, I have never made any comments about you or any one else's eating habits, and I would like the same respect extended to me." Please let me know what you think of this situation and of my planned response. Thank you.
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Autumn replied 6 months ago.

Hello. I'm Dr. Autumn and I'm happy to work with you on this problem.

Wow, what a difficult situation to be in. It sounds like you have really tried to be understanding, based on your friend's history. And, I believe that your interpretation of the situation is spot on. It sounds like she is feeling insecure, and she is trying to feel better about her own situation by mocking you. If she can tear you down a little bit, then she can feel better about her own situation. This is not surprising at all, given her family history. This is probably a pattern that she has lived with for much of her life, and it sounds like it continues to repeat itself with her sister. It sounds like her sister behaves the same way, tearing her down so she can feel better. However, while it is important to consider her history when you are trying to understand her, it is also very important that her history does not become an excuse for her mistreating you in any way.

It seems like you have been really thoughtful about how you want to respond to your friend. I think your planned response sounds like a good response. Another thing I might consider is talking to her about it at a completely different time. It sounds like she is pretty defensive about her own eating habits. So, she might be very defensive about the entire situation if you discuss it after a meal. Especially if her emotions are pretty high, she might not hear your statement the way you intend it. But, if you mentioned it at a different time, that's not centered around a meal, maybe she would be more open to hearing about it. That being said, you obviously know your friend better that I do, and you should trust your instincts about the timing of the conversation.

Is this helpful?

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Thank you for your thoughtful and helpful reply. I agree that making any comment to my friend at a time away from eating would be a good idea. She's highly sensitive and very hesitant to talk about any issue with any emotion attached to it. Also, another curious thing is she only uses my name when she's shaming me -- and she smiles in enjoyment not seeming to know that her laugh is at my -- a friend's -- expense. I think there's a lot unconscious going on with her here -- however, as a mature woman, as you indicate, I don't think this is an excuse to treating a friend badly. I'm sorry she grew up in an alcoholic, shaming home, however, that was over 40 years ago -- she's had plenty of time to address those issues, which sadly she doesn't seem to have -- by therapy or 12-programs, or even reading about it. Her "solution" is to stuff it all down -- hence the unhealthy relationship to food. Sadly, she's a testament to the proof that that "solution" doesn't work. Please let me know if I'm off the track with any of this. Thank you!
Expert:  Dr. Autumn replied 6 months ago.

It sounds like you are completely on track! We always want to support our friends in any ways that we can, but that should not come at your expense. Even though she is very sensitive, I think that it is important for you to express your needs as well. You definitely want to do it as gently as possible, but I do think it's important for the health of your relationship. Otherwise, you might begin to resent those times with her, or avoid a lot of activities. It certainly sounds like she needs to do some work on her issues. But, sadly, people are often resistant to doing the work, especially when they have learned to live with their experiences for so long. She's lucky to have you as a friend.

Expert:  Dr. Autumn replied 6 months ago.

I hope I’ve provided the information you were seeking. If you are happy with my service, please provide a rating. If not, please let me know so l can continue to help you. Thank you.