I read an article this morning entitled ‘Think Twice Before You Praise Someone for Losing Weight’ by Yashar Ali. You can have a peek at it here. She basically discusses how we compliment people when they lose weight – but often we don’t know the reasons why they have lost weight. She proposes it could be unintentional, due to stress or sickness. It could be the first signs of an eating disorder. And if the weight loss is due to the latter, compliments are sure to perpetuate further eating disordered behaviour. Telling someone that they look fantastic, and to keep up the good work on the weight loss could be offensive, and doing more harm than good to the individual.
So say the weight loss is related to an eating disorder of some sort – whether that be Bulimia or Anorexia. What sort of thoughts would go through the individual’s head if you compliment them?
– Weight loss is good.
– I should lose more weight.
– Everyone loves me more when I am smaller.
– How do I hide my weight loss?
And so forth. I used to pretend I was oblivious to my weight loss: “I haven’t really lost weight, what are you talking about?” – because so many who have eating disorders will hide their bodies under baggy jumpers and loose clothing, afraid someone will take away their control and make them stop losing weight, and I had that fear too.
Hopefully, it’s obvious to you that the few thoughts I mentioned above are unhelpful – thus the original comment “Yay you, you’ve lost weight!” is completely unnecessary and most inappropriate.
So what else can you do? Ask them why they lost weight. Tell them you care about them, regardless of their body shape. Focus on characteristics, not the outward appearance – because whilst you’re not the causation of the eating disorder, you’re still adding fuel to the fire.
In other news, I took this photo this morning:
and my first thought was “Holy Dooley, my arms are huge!” Then I realised this: they look a lot better in the photo above than what they used to. And I don’t care if you think they’re fat.
They’re my arms and they do me a lot of good.
And I like them as they are.