How can I help a very overweight friend lose weight? What sort of motivational or habitual things can I contribute to?
You are a great friend to want to help. Bottom line is that she (or he) has to do it herself. She has to make a long-term commitment and be prepared to make gradual changes in her eating and exercise habits.
It can be pretty easy to lose some weight initially, but keeping it off is the real challenge. The people who succeed at losing weight permanently are those who do it slowly and methodically, making gradual lifestyle changes instead of going on radical fad diets.
This may sound strange, but you can help by letting her know that you like her just the way she is now, for the person she is on the inside. Low self-esteem is a common problem in many overweight people (and normal weight folks, too, for that matter). Sometimes people get into destructive cycles of self-criticism. This creates stress and tension that perpetuate behavioral patterns which may contribute to overeating. Self-confidence, on the other hand, can be a big aid to weight loss.
Be as non-judgmental as possible. Be there for her with your support and encouragement in the way that she needs it — not with what you think she should do. Tell her you’d like to help and offer to do some things together. You might try working together to schedule both of your exercise programs, and then talk by phone on a regular basis about how you’re each sticking with the plan. Keep food diaries and report them to each other.
Perhaps you can also set aside time, say once a week, to help her assess her progress, reconfirm her commitment and determination, discuss setbacks and talk about next week’s challenges. You and your friend may want to do some reading on weight control.