I gained weight during COVID, but my best friend got healthier. All she talks about anymore is diet and exercise.

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

I put on weight during COVID. I’m not happy about it and I’m working on getting back in shape but it’s slow going and frankly I have trouble sticking with my diet plan or exercising. I wish it was easier for me but it just isn’t. I feel insecure at the gym and I realize sometimes I do eat food because it tastes good, not because I’m hungry. I know all this, and I’m working on it. That’s not necessarily the problem.

The problem is my best friend. She had the opposite COVID experience and somehow over the past two years, she managed to get in great shape and has never looked better, been thinner, or seemed happier. She’s taken up yoga and jogging and is gung-ho about trying some winter sports.

All she talks about anymore is diet and exercise and she is full of advice for me, whether it’s what to eat or drink or what workouts I should try. She invites me to work out with her constantly even though I always decline. I am so tired of her talking about weight, calories, etc. It’s getting to a point where I don’t even want to hang out which is lame because she really is a great friend. She must know how insecure I am feeling and it totally doesn’t help that getting fit was so easy for her. I need to convey that she isn’t being helpful — but I don’t want to hurt her feelings because I do believe her heart is in the right place. Advice?

Wanda says:

Let me make sure I understand: You’re unhappy and struggling to get on track and regain your health, and your friend is offering you actionable advice and inviting you to participate in sporty activities that support your goals? How dare she!

Not to make light of this — I think all women understand how touchy these topics can feel, and I get that her overenthusiastic coaching is totally overwhelming in the worst way. Let’s consider the alternatives. She could be the worst kind of friend, tempting you to make poor choices. What’s more common in these situations is friends are passively sympathetic but generally silent on matters that are so intensely personal. She might wait for you to bring up your weight struggles, and maybe offer some tepid advice, but would generally avoid rocking the boat by saying anything that could be perceived as judgmental.

Instead, she’s actually trying to help. And maybe she is going slightly overboard, but she’s coming from a place of experience. She recently went through her own transformation, and it might have looked easy, but she surely put in the work. If she’s as dear a friend as you say, you can handle this frankly without upsetting her. Acknowledge your struggles with your weight and accountability are real, and while some occasional tips could be useful, really you just need your friend, not a personal trainer.

Wayne says:

Yes, your friend’s heart is in the right place, and like her, I am a firm believer in the many positives of regular exercise. But let’s forget about fitness for a moment and check in on your heart. The lack of motivation to get into a groove, the body insecurity, the frustration with your results, the reliance on food for comfort and escape, and the annoyance with your sweat-obsessed friend — right now, it sounds more like you need to focus on getting healthier emotionally by exploring your anxiety and depression than getting back into great physical shape and keeping up with your best fitness friend’s lifestyle regimen.

Anxiety and stress can create major roadblocks to our life and square goals, even the goal of simple daily functioning. They certainly make it tougher to dig out of a hole and get a positive flow started. No wonder it’s tough to get started when you feel like you’re performing in front of a bunch of other people, including your friend, who seemingly already have it all together. Look, there’s nothing to be ashamed of and no reason to feel alone. More people than ever are going through some version of your emotional struggles right now. The pandemic and its accompanying stress and strangeness has worked a number on everyone to some extent.

Your friend is an outlier in many ways, so comparing yourself to her or trying to meet her expectations will more likely fuel the issues you’re already troubled with and even make things worse. So hold off on the personal trainer and find a counselor to talk things through with. When you’re in a better space and ready to get regularly physical with others, I’m sure your bestie will be there with a training and diet suited plan just for you.