5 Reasons to Stop Complimenting Weight Loss
Updated: Sep 30, 2020
Is it just me or is it almost impossible to get through a single social interaction without comments about weight-loss and dieting popping up?
Whether it’s complaining about jeans becoming 'too tight' after quarantining, or feeling 'huge', or contemplating whether to do some 'detox', the desire to be smaller and the fear of being in a larger body is all around us.
Allegiance to diet culture is so ingrained in our society that when someone loses weight, our instinct is to praise and say, “Hooray!”
Wanting to support our friends and celebrate their successes is certainly noble (and a minimum requirement for any quality relationship), but applauding the sheer fact that someone is in a thinner body may actually be doing more harm than you think. Let me explain why.
Here are 5 reasons to stop complimenting weight-loss:
1. They might be going through stress
Stress is a really weird phenomenon. Let’s call a spade a spade; it sucks.
But it’s also interesting, because it can manifest in different ways for different people (and even differently for the same person at different times). For some individuals, like me, it can foster an increase in appetite. When I’m stressed, nothing can keep me out of my cupboard. Gimme all the chocolate!
For others, however, a stressful season means that food is the last thing on their mind. They may skip meals without even realizing it and if this goes on long enough, they very well may lose a significant amount of weight; but I bet we wouldn’t want to celebrate this weight loss if we truly knew what was going on.
2. They might have a disordered relationship with food
Disordered eating and chronic yo-yo dieting is incredibly prevalent, particularly among women.
It can manifest in many different forms:
Cutting out entire food groups (grains, carbs, fat, etc)
Being fearful of going out for dinner with friends
Thinking about food constantly
Going through restrict-binge-repeat cycles
This, by no means, is an exhaustive list. The point is simply that it is very possible (and actually very common) to lose weight in unhealthy ways; ways that compromise metabolic function, hormonal balance, mental health, immune function, reproductive health, bone density, and lean muscle mass.
Sure, they might be in a smaller body, but at what cost? And is it worth it?
3. They might be over-exercising
This one might seem odd since most of us could use a little more movement in our lives. It’s not that uncommon, however, for someone on a weight loss journey to do hours of cardio every day or be obsessed with reaching a certain number of steps each day.
Having fitness goals is wonderful, but when it is driven by a singular desire to make the number on the scale go down, it can trigger disordered behaviour around exercising. Beating your body into submission to reach a smaller size is not sustainable or healthy.
4. They might have been sick
Have you ever gotten food poisoning or had the flu and spent the better part of a week puking and not eating?
You might have easily lost 5-10 lbs on those occasions, but clearly this is not something to celebrate…especially considering that your body will go back to its comfortable weight as soon as you recover and starting eating normally again.
5. It reinforces fat-phobia
Finally, at the end of the day, complimenting someone’s thinner body perpetuates diet culture. It reinforces the idea that being smaller is ‘better’ or ‘more attractive’ and this is incredibly problematic. I have written posts on weight bias (here) and diet culture (here), so I won’t repeat myself too much.
Keeping in mind that about 95% of people that lose weight end up gaining it back, congratulating someone’s weight loss can simply induce worsened self-esteem when their near-inevitable weight regain happens later on.
What to Do Instead:
Perhaps the person’s weight loss was intentional and they themselves are looking to acknowledge and celebrate their changes. So what can you do instead?
1. Compliment the healthy behaviours
Instead of complimenting the smaller body, acknowledge the health-promoting behaviours they may be doing.
Need some ideas? Here are some examples:
“I love that you’ve started lifting weights!”
“It’s so cool that you’re cooking at home more.”
“I’m so glad that you’re sleeping better these days.”
2. Compliment their energy
Maybe the individual has been a lot more positive lately, or feels less lethargic, or has been more productive in their work.
These are things worth acknowledging and celebrating!
Stay away from reinforcing diet culture, while still acknowledging the positive changes in the person's life. This way, the conversation can stay focused on what really matters.
Stay nourished my friends,