3 Reasons Why You Should Never Compliment Someone on Weight Loss
“You look so good; have you lost weight?” “You’re so thin, you have to tell me your secret!” You may have good intentions, but commenting on someone’s weight is never a good idea. It is harmful to assume that all weight loss is good and that weight gain is bad. These attempts at being nice may communicate messages that you don’t mean to send. Here are 3 important reasons why you should stop complimenting people on their weight.
1. You Don’t Know Why They Lost Weight
It is very possible that the person didn’t lose weight intentionally and that their weight loss may be a result of unhealthy behaviors or illness. Concerns such as cancer, depression, eating disorders, stress, and chronic illnesses can lead to weight change, even if the person doesn’t look sick to you. Remember that someone’s weight tells you nothing about their health, happiness, or lifestyle habits. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that someone wants to look thin or that their weight loss was a good thing.
2. Comments on Weight Can Trigger Serious Health Concerns
Even if someone lost weight intentionally, you don’t know if their weight loss was healthy or done in a safe way. Many of the things that people do to lose weight involve ignoring their body’s needs or harming their body in some other way. Complimenting someone on the results of unhealthy behavior only reinforces their need to continue harming themselves to maintain the weight loss. Many people with eating disorders are secretive about their behaviors, and you can’t tell by looking at someone if they have an eating disorder, so it is never safe to assume that someone’s weight loss techniques are healthy. For people who struggle with eating disorders or body image concerns, well-intentioned comments about weight can fuel disordered behaviors or lead to a relapse.
3. It Reinforces Diet Culture and the Thin Ideal
Uninvited comments on someone’s size are always inappropriate and intrusive. It’s not our place to comment on someone else’s body. And complimenting someone on weight loss communicates that you believe that some bodies are better than others. Telling someone that they look better at a lower weight also says that you prefer the thinner version of that person. We know that 95% of people who diet will regain the weight they lost, and comments on their smaller size can lead to guilt and shame when weight is regained. If you want to compliment someone, focus instead on their internal traits, rather than their appearance. Choose compliments that reflect your values and focus on the things about someone that are truly important.
Brought to you by Dr. Michelle Mannia, a clinical psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist in South Bend. For more information, visit drmichellemannia.com