Carolyn Hax: Jealousy over a friend’s weight loss

Columnist December 19, 2011

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My good friend has recently lost a lot of weight, and I am happy for her accomplishment. However, I can’t escape the sense of jealousy I have when our mutual friends constantly applaud her on how great she looks, and how it annoys me to read her daily updates on Facebook on how far she’s run or what skinless boneless healthy meal she’s cooking up for dinner.

I suppose part of this jealousy stems from the fact that despite my best efforts (a rigorous exercise regimen and restructuring what and how much I eat), I have gained weight. Also, I used to be “the skinny one” of the two of us, so that’s probably affecting my attitude.

I guess I’m asking how I can keep my jerk tendencies in check while I’m around her. I’m frustrated and want to be happy for my friend, but I feel like a failure compared to her.

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Weight loss jealousy

I don’t think annoyance with someone’s “daily updates on Facebook on . . . what skinless boneless healthy meal she’s cooking up” is an ailment in need of a cure. It’s a symptom of the ailment of having a friend who has lost all perspective on what is worth sharing about one’s day. I admire her hard work and self-discipline, too, but not her evangelism.

You do seem particularly susceptible to annoyance here, too, and that’s a problem you can address. That you note you “used to be ‘the skinny one,’ ” that you’re measuring your worth against hers and that you covet the attention she’s getting all suggest you’ve got body consciousness where your self-image should be.

If you’re able to see this about yourself, then maybe that recognition will be enough to start detaching your self-worth from your food intake.

Unfortunately, though, after food has stopped being yummy fuel and started being a vehicle for comfort/control/one-upsmanship/whatever else, it’s notoriously difficult to go back — especially if one or more of your key relationships has relative thinness as a foundation.

So, if you find you’re unable to tune out your weight preoccupation, then an exploratory conversation with a therapist who specializes in eating and body-image issues might be a productive hour to invest.

Dear Carolyn:

A week or two after my wedding, my godmother found out her job is being eliminated. Because of her age and skill set, it will be difficult if not impossible for her to find more work, and her deceased husband left her pretty much nothing to live on.

Just the other day we got a wedding card from her with a sizable check. What can I do here? I can’t in good conscience cash it; I know she’ll need all the money she can save. But I feel like any version of “We can’t accept your gift” will be hurtful.

D.C.

Then accept it. She knew about her job when she wrote the check, so treat her like an adult and trust her to know what she needs.

You don’t have to spend the money on yourself. You can save it in case she ever needs help, or to buy her gift cards for holidays — and if she never needs your help, then honor her by enjoying the gift.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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