Rose Mattson, RD

5 reasons why NOT commenting on someone else’s body size is the BEST thing you can do

Hi guys! Sorry I have been a little MIA on here recently. I am in the process of revamping the website, and developing 1:1 nutrition coaching materials. It’s super exciting, but also a ton of work. This weekend wasn’t super exciting but I was able to talk to my family for Mother’s Day, which was lovely (Hi Mom & Dad!). Anyways, I hope you had a nice, relaxing weekend!

This week I wanted to talk about complimenting people on weight loss, or commenting on body size in general. I saw a post on insta the other day (yeah-yeah I am now that girl), that made me think. It said something along the lines of…

We compliment people on their appearance because we are afraid to be vulnerable and really connect with one another.

Hmmm. What do you think?

I think it’s almost 100% true. People, in general I think, are afraid to feel their feelings. They are even more afraid of telling others how they feel. And usually, the first thing we notice about someone is their appearance. So commenting on appearance or body size may be the easiest option. But it’s not the best option.

Yummy salad bowl

Let’s play it out. You know when someone loses weight and people are immediately like, “omg you look so skinny, what did you do?!”

Now, pause for a second. How do you feel if that happens to you? How do you feel when it happens to others and you overhear it? What do you feel when you say it to someone else?

Maybe you feel great, and accomplished by your new habits, but also wonder what will happen if you gain some of the weight back. Maybe you enjoy the compliment, but inside you feel like another day of counting calories/macro/points may be the end of you. Maybe you feel like sh*t because your best friend has lost weight, people are complimenting her, and you are still the same. Maybe you feel jealous or insecure when you say it to someone else. Take a minute to think about this, really think.

Do your behaviors change after? Do you suddenly want to go on a diet? Change your body size? Do you find that you are equating your worth to your body size?

This is what I have noticed in practice when someone is complimented on their new body size.

  1. What that person is actually doing is severely restrictive. Maybe they are avoiding social events, obsessively exercising, micromanaging every bite they put into their mouths, and are generally miserable about how they are controlling their body size. This compliment only reinforces their harmful behaviors.
  2. Causes inner panic. This may cause someone to become fearful of any changes to their body size. Events such as pregnancy, and simply getting older may cause someone to hyper-focus on food and/or exercise.
  3. This reinforces the idea that thinner = better. Thin is not better. Body weight does not equal health. Health cannot be defined by your weight.
  4. You are saying that the most important things about that person is how they look, even if you don’t really mean it.
  5. They might be sick and have lost the weight because of the flu, cancer treatment, from depression etc. The fact is, you can’t presume to know.
Dad’s scone recipe

So please, stop and think. Please do not compliment someone on their weight loss. Try to not comment on their body shape, period.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t compliment someones appearance ever. If it’s someones wedding, of course, tell them they are beautiful. If someone has a cool outfit, compliment that. I just think that the act of complimenting body size, in particular, can cause a lot of inner pain.

Here is what you could do instead!

Actually ask how that person is doing, and really mean it. Feel those feelings folks. Be vulnerable. Compliment them on something else. Work, life, adventures, how hilarious they are, how artistic, helpful, smart etc. I know you can think of something. Linda Bacon writes, “it is a sad fact of life that women often bond over commiserating about their flawed bodies or failed diets.” I’ll add – it’s a sad fact of life that our society feels a need to comment on body sizes. Can you recognize this? And how can you change these conversations?

What do you think? Have you had this experience?

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