Ep 9 – Commenting on someone’s weight change – why you shouldn’t

In this episode, we talk about why commenting on someones weight change might be triggering for them. We also look at ways that you can avoid commenting on someone’s weight by talking about something different.

READ MORE: BLOG: Why you shouldn’t comment on someone’s weight loss, BLOG: Help with overcoming food addiction

Episode 9 Transcript

<Silence> Hi, and welcome to the Food Freedom Podcast with me, Claire Feldman. I’m a C B T therapist, hypnotherapist, and eating disorder practitioner. And having recovered from my own history of disordered eating, I wanted to create a podcast where I could bring bitesize episodes to help you with tools, techniques, and strategies to overcome your own food, weight and body image issues. 

Hi everybody. So in today’s episode, I’m gonna be talking about why do we feel the need to comment on people’s weight? The reason why I’ve picked this particular topic is because with every single client that I work with who’s trying to overcome kind of re maybe restrictive eating disorder or binge eating disorder, that whenever they’re working through their recovery and we’re trying to increase nutrition we’re trying to maybe reintroduce feared foods that they absolutely are terrified of, that they don’t want to give themselves permission to eat kind of unconditionally. That the biggest fear that they will have about this kind of sense of giving up control over their eating is that I’m gonna lose weight and will believe in their minds that if they if they start introducing these foods, if they give themselves unconditional permission to eat that, basically things are just gonna spiral completely outta control, and that they’re gonna end up literally the size of a house, they’re gonna be obese, they’re not gonna be able to move. 

And it’s a real intense fear, this fear of gaining weight. And I think it’s really understandable. It is completely conditioned into all of us in society, particularly as females. It’s conditioned into us that kind of pursuing slimness and pursuing thinness is the ideal. And so I just wanted to explore this a little bit more in conversation. The, I guess the why behind why do we as society become so obsessed with what people weigh and why do we feel the need to comment on it as well? And so when I was thinking about this, I was kind of thinking like how often and I’m, I have been guilty of this as well, is how often do we comment? Like when we notice that someone has perhaps lost some weight, that we congratulate them and we’ll say comments like, oh my God, wow. Have you lost weight? 

You look amazing. And like, it just rolls off our tongue and we don’t even consider that maybe it’s not appropriate. We think that it can only be a positive thing if somebody has lost weight. And so we praise and we celebrate them. And then to the opposite of that, if we notice that someone has perhaps gained weight, we tend to not say anything. And so even just in that and not saying anything, it’s that weight gain can only be a bad thing and something that is shameful and something that is frowned upon. And like, even with all the work that I do, I even caught myself a few months back in my gym actually saying the words and asking had my friend in the gym lost weight. And it was one of those experiences where, do you know when you’re saying something and the words are already coming out of your mouth, but, and you know, you don’t want to be asking this thing, asking this question, you don’t want to be saying this thing, but it’s like the words are just spontaneously falling outta your mouth. 

Like I was asking her had she lost weight and in my head, my inside my head was screaming, shut up. What you talking about? Like, don’t do this. So like, we’re all guilty of it, even myself. And I think that there’s a little bit of reflection that’s needed around why, like why are we so obsessed with people’s weight what it might mean to the other individual when we’re commenting on someone’s weight and, and how can we, I guess, just do better? Because really an individual’s weight should be the least important thing about them. So here’s just a couple of little reasons why I think it’s not a good idea to comment on or compliment someone whenever they have lost weight. So the first thing is that, well, it kind of implies that they didn’t look that good before. So whenever you meet someone and you go, oh my God, wow, you lo have lost weight, you look amazing. 

It’s sort of a backhanded compliment because what you’re ultimately saying to them is, oh, well you look so much better now than what you did before. And what that will do is, even if it’s just on a not within the person’s conscious awareness on a subconscious level, what that may do then is create this internal message of, okay, so I do look better with some weight off, so now I’ve gotta do whatever I can to make sure this stays off. So again, internalizes this pressure off. I have got to keep this weight off because going the weight going back on is only gonna be a bad thing and I’m gonna look much worse. The other reason why it’s not a good idea to compliment or comment on someone’s weight loss is something that we’ll often hear just around social media or just in conversations with friends and family. 

Whenever we’re expressing concern over somebody’s weight, we’ll often use the basis of our concern being on health. So we’re like, well, I think that they should lose weight to improve their health. And and, and the message again that will be portrayed publicly is that being overweight can only be bad for your health and, and will almost guarantee that you’re gonna get some terrible chronic illness and die if you’re overweight. But if you’re slim or normal weight, then you’re gonna be perfectly healthy and you don’t need to worry about that. And, and that’s just simply not true. We do know that at extremes, so if you are extremely underweight or extremely overweight, then absolutely there are increased risks to health. But there’s a broad, broad spectrum of people in between that, that that may technically in the b m I be sitting at an overweight or obese, but be metabolically perfectly healthy. 

And equally, we might have people that are in the normal BMI range that are metabolically very unhealthy. So we can’t automatically assume that being a specific weight or being a specific size will guarantee health. And certainly I noticed from my own personal experience, like I’ve had a lot of people who have been obese, they’ve maybe fluent another country, have had gastric surgery in order to reduce weight in the belief that if they dropped a lot of weight, then things like their arthritis their chronic pain, that these conditions that they’ve been told by doctors or other people has been very much contributed to by the weight that they’ve then lost all of this weight, but actually their arthritis, their chronic pain, you know, these conditions actually have not improved that there’s just been other factors that have been influencing it or causing it. 

Now, I am saying this, and I’m not saying that what we eat isn’t important. I’m not saying that looking after yourself exercising and things like that isn’t important, of course, that those things are important. My point is, is that your weight is not, you know, a guarantee of health. What is likely to increase your health and reduce your chances of chronic illness is by engaging in health promoting behaviors. So health promoting behaviors are things like making sure that you’re getting seven to eight hours good quality sleep a night, making sure that you’re drinking plenty of water every day, that you’re making supportive nutritious choices, that you’re prioritizing your protein, and you’re getting as much color in your diet as you possibly can, perhaps that you give up smoking or reduce your alcohol intake or that you increase your daily steps each day. Those are all examples of health behaviors that it’s absolutely a great idea that we engage in, but those things can improve your health markers and improve your metabolic fitness without necessarily impacting or being about weight. 

So when we get people kind of expressing concern about someone’s health and, and using their weight as being the reason why we just need to really question that and dig a little bit deeper because it might be more actually around the internalized weight stigma that we know exists and that we can’t deny that it exists. So that’s the second reason why it’s not a good idea to comment on people’s weight or to use to dangle the kind of the health carrot above it, that there are other ways that we can manage and support our health. And then the final thing is that there may actually be pain behind someone’s weight. And that goes for both ends of the skills, whether someone has gained a lot of weight or whether someone has lost a lot of weight. So again, complementing, for example, someone on losing weight, what you might not actually know is that there could be great pain behind that. 

Perhaps they’re experiencing grief, maybe they’ve had a relationship breakdown, maybe they’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness, or maybe they’re just under severe stress, that issues like that actually can have a significant impact on our weight. And so, although it’s completely unintentional and it’s, it’s intended to be a positive statement, that what you’re saying, what you actually might be doing is giving praise for something that potentially is causing extreme distress to that individual. And certainly I know for some clients that I’ve worked with with eating disorders, they’ve often told me that they have received the most praise about their looks when they’ve actually been their sickest with their eating disorder because aesthetically, because they are wearing size eight clothes or they look wonderful and slim, that that is being given a great big tick of approval by peers, friends, people around them. And again, that’s just reaffirming that I need to maintain this and I need to stay at this low body weight despite the emotional turmoil and the distress that I’m in. 

So there you go folks. That’s just a few reasons why, personally, I think we we need to stop commenting on someone’s weight because we’re just perpetuating diet culture. We’re perpetuating this message that that’s all we actually really care about or that it’s the most important thing in a person’s life is what they wear or what clothing size they’re wearing. And we know that this is absolutely not the case. If you have been that person like I have been as well, where we’re praising, congratulating, clapping people and saying, oh, wonderful, well done. Isn’t that brilliant? Of course, you know, have a bit of compassion and understanding for yourself. It’s really understandable why you do that. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to do as a society. But just try to be more mindful of the fact that unless someone’s actually really inviting your feedback or inviting your praise, you don’t often know what is behind that weight loss. 

There could be pain behind it or there could be disordered eating behaviors going on that you are praising and that you are congratulating completely unintentionally, but it still can perpetuate that cycle. So my advice is just unless it’s invited or welcome, just try to steer the conversations away to other things. And the other thing is also about steering conversation to things that maybe are deeper or a little bit more meaningful. So rather than commenting on someone’s appearance, you can be asking, you know, just asking, how are you what’s going on for you right now? How are you feeling? What are you, you know, what are you up to at the minute? Actually asking more open questions like that is probably gonna invite in a much deeper connection and conversation with someone rather than the whole superficial about what they physically look like. 

And there’s ways to compliment people and there’s way to praise people in so many other ways that are not about their weight shape or size. So we can be complimenting on the color of clothes that they’re wearing. You can be complimenting something about the aspect of their personality, their humor that you really like, or something that you really admire in them. A trait perhaps that you really admire in that individual. That there’s plenty of other ways that we can give compliments and that we can give praise that’s without having to comment on someone’s weight. All right? So that’s my little rant on the soapbox. Today. I would love to hear if you have any particular thoughts or comments about it. Please do leave them in the comments below. And I look forward to talking to you soon. Bye. 

So guys, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you enjoyed it. And ’cause this is a new podcast, I would love to get your feedback on how you have found it and hear any suggestions you have either for improving the podcast or even topics that you would like to be discussed in the future. I really would love and appreciate to hear from you. So feel free to drop me a DM on Instagram or send me an email. And also if you would like to find out more about my services and ways that you can work with me, check out my website, which is www.eatology.co.uk

Otherwise that is it for now. Goodbye and I hope you tune in again soon. Take care.

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