We live in a world where our body is constantly up for discussion, where social media dictates our current beauty standards, and those around us tend to comment on our physical appearance. As quoted from the Associate of Size Diversity and Health, “Weight stigma sits at the core of our society’s way of looking at the world.” It’s tiring for us to keep up with the current beauty standards, and it’s destroying our body image. Losing or gaining weight is hard work, and although many people may want that hard work to be acknowledged, commenting on that reinforces that thin is good. So here are three tips to consider before commenting.
What you should, and should not say:
So how do you compliment a family member, friend, or significant other that has recently lost or gained weight? Simple, try not to discuss their body.
1. Ditch the word “weight”
For many of us the word weight can have a negative connotation. If you’re complimenting someone to let them know they look great due to their weight loss, this now implies that they didn’t look great prior to their weight loss. By commenting on this recent weight loss, it reinforces the current beauty standard that being thin is good or ideal, and having fat on your body is bad. It’s important to realize that weight can be a trigger for so many people. We have no way of knowing if their weight loss, or weight gain was on purpose or not. Commenting on someone’s weight can add stress, or even reaffirm their own negative thoughts about their body image. You may be meaning to say something positive about their appearance, however you don’t know if the weight fluctuation is causing them feelings of any anxiety or depression. Regardless of how well you know the person, you still may not know their personal struggles. They may struggle or have struggled with an eating disorder, be under a great deal of stress, or be on medication that could be causing weight gain or loss. The body talk refocuses their self- worth on their appearance, so it’s best to leave body talk out of the conversation, as their body is not up for discussion (it’s also best to leave out the word skinny, or fat, as these have a negative connotation as well).
2. Have some compliments on hand that are not centered around ones’ body!
We live in a diet-heavy world, and I’m sure oftentimes when you want to compliment someone it’s in regards to their body. Whether you’re trying to say that they look thinner, but you mean they look great, because they look happy. It’s best to have some non-weight centered compliments ready ahead of time that you can provide to those around you! When choosing a compliment, you can try to think of things they’ve achieved apart from the scale. Some non- body- image- related compliments include:
"You look great today!"
"You look so happy!"
"You light up a room."
"That color is perfect for you."
"Your skin is glowing."
"I like the confidence you have in yourself."
"You bring joy wherever you go."
3. Offer support
In an effort to not let diet culture take away from your mental health and emotional well-being, you can offer support to one other. Brittany Pizzio, a Registered Dietitian quoted in Philly Magazine, stated “The problem with appearance-related feedback is that maybe that person is grappling with food and exercise. Or maybe they aren’t, and this sets off a lightbulb like, ‘If I look great now, what was going on with me before?’ I think that sets us up for equating our worth with what we look like, which can really convolute those relationships with others and then with food and body image and exercise within ourselves. I would encourage people to ask someone how they could provide support because we can’t know.”
Some phrases you can use with a friend or loved one could look like this:
If you have a friend who is similar to you and also struggles with their weight, “I know losing weight can be frustrating, I have felt frustrated as well. What sort of support can I offer you?”
If you have a friend that exudes confidence around their body image, “You appear to have a healthy body image. Do you mind sharing what you have done to get here?”
These open up conversation to discuss steps they have taken to gain confidence, or support you can possibly offer them to help in their journey to gaining body positive confidence. No matter where you, or your loved one is in their journey, we can all learn from altering how we choose to compliment those around us in an effort to be a more positive support to those we care about.
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Written by: Tiffany Robertson, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern