Told Her So

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

One of my best friends just turned 50. She’s upset because (in her
mind) she is 15 pounds overweight. She decided to diet and throw
herself into exercise. She joined a gym and started taking any class
she could both before and after work and on weekends: step aerobics,
Nia, Zumba, Spin, and things I’ve never ever heard of. She was really
excited the first few weeks, and then got quiet. It turns out that’s
when she hurt herself but decided to “push through.” What a bad
decision! That’s according to both me and her doctor, who has told her
she now has tendonitis, in both her right arm and both legs, and needs
to totally back off from all exercise, ice, and go to PT. Also to take it
slow when she does start again. But she’s morose because that’s
months away. She’s grumpy and whiney and not taking any
responsibility for the damage she inflicted on herself. I want to be
supportive of her setback but also to make her realize her
responsibility and that she has to do things differently to avoid a
repeat in the future.

Told Her So

Dear Told Her So:

No one likes to be hurt. No one likes to be told, I told you so. Instead
you’re going to have to swallow what you want to say and say what
she needs to hear in a way that she will actually hear it. Like most
people who have committed some form of self-sabotage, your friend is
probably carrying a strong degree of shame and anger at herself as
well as pain and frustration over this setback. Yes, 50 isn’t 40 or 30 or
20. She’s learning that the hard way and you don’t need to, and
shouldn’t, rub her face in it.

It’ll be counter-productive to tell her not to repeat what she did again.
It’ll also be counter-productive to speak retrospectively. Instead, talk
in questions to which the only possible answers will be what she needs
to hear herself say. Things like: What did the doctor say caused it?
What did the doctor say to do now? What did the doctor say to do
about starting to exercise again later? What can you do now? Add
supportive things like: I’d be happy to do your PT exercises with you
and learn the stretching that I need to do too. The hard part will pass
and she’ll learn, or you’ll both get to practice these lessons again.