How many times do you think you’ve said the phrase
“Have you lost weight? Wow, you look amazing, well done!”
Too many to remember I bet and listen I have done it too. Even as recent as a few months ago I found the words “have you lostttttttt” rolling off my tongue in some sort of out-of-body experience. Completely knowing that it isn’t aligned with who I am at all but yet somehow, out it poured.
It’s understandable why commenting on someone’s apparent weight loss is perceived as a compliment. Everything in our society portrays slimness as the ideal, a goal to be chased and revered over those lucky ones who attain it. We hand out certificates in clubs to those who have dropped the most pounds in a week (by whatever means necessary) and have before and after pictures plastered over every form of social media.
The message in society is that slimness is good and weight gain is bad. It’s that black and white. So we’re very quick to rush to compliment someone why we can see they’ve lost weight but are notably hushed when the opposite is true….unless you’re just straight up rude.
A few reasons why it’s not a good idea to compliment weight loss:
It implies they didn’t look good before their weight loss
Complimenting weight loss not only perpetuates the thin ideal but also infers that they didn’t look as good before. This can create an internalised pressure to maintain weight loss at all costs and can lead to disordered eating behaviours. As humans, we’re essentially hard-wired to want to please people, fit in and be accepted. If we’re praised for what we weigh we may fear becoming outcasts if the pounds creep back on.
Not everyone that intentionally tries to lose weight (aka diet) will develop an eating disorder. However, it is a significant preceding factor in the development of an eating disorder.
Weight loss doesn’t necessarily mean healthier
Within the ‘thin ideal’ is also the belief that being smaller unequivocally equates to improved health, which isn’t necessarily true. Unfortunately, this weight bias still plays out in medical settings every day where ill-based advice is given to patients based on the outdated body mass index (BMI). In reality, weight is just one aspect of our health and there are many other factors which will influence it. Factors such as genetic conditions, sleep quality, hydration levels, physical activity, mental health, and socio-economic status, all impact our health. This is why a more integrative and holistic approach is needed.
Focusing on health-promoting behaviours such as stopping smoking, increase hydration, get adequate sleep, increase protein and vegetable intake and daily movement can significantly improve our health markers, regardless of what happens on the scales.
Focusing obsessively on weight loss through restrictive eating or over-exercising in the pursuit of ‘health’ isn’t conducive to health.
There may be pain behind it
Grief, relationship breakdowns, ill health and severe stress can all contribute to unintended weight loss. What you are praising might be an extremely low point in that individual’s life.
I have had so many clients tell me that they were often praised when they were sickest with an eating disorder or experiencing extreme stress in their life.
The bottom line is – don’t engage in this type of commentary and instead focus on the non-appearance-related conversation. For example, asking questions like “How are you?” or “What have you been up too?” This allows the other person to open up as much as they feel comfortable but also opens the possibility of more meaningful conversation.
Practice complimenting others on things that you love about their personality or demeanour. This has a more profound impact on individuals’ self-esteem and leaves you with feel-good fuzzies too.
If you are struggling with weigh loss or overeating in the UK or Ireland, please get in touch to see how I can help you with your Food Freedom journey.