You haven’t seen your friend in a while and you notice that he/she looks different. Your friend lost weight! What do you say? “You look great” can be taken as “you didn’t look so hot before” or “wow, this is the exact response I was looking for!”. Maybe someone’s weight loss is because they are sick, not because they are making an effort to purposely lose weight. That can be tricky if you tell someone they look great and in reality they’re suffering with extreme stress which is wreaking havoc on their entire spirit, mind, and body, but “they look great”. Everyone is different so how do we know how to approach someone who has lost weight or their body has changed? Not that you have to walk on eggshells and be super sensitive, but we do have to have an awareness of the person rather than his/her body.
According to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, these are the top five things you probably shouldn’t say to someone who is losing weight.
- “How much more do you have to lose?” This is problematic because it assumes they couldn’t possibly be happy with where they are now. Different people have different weights at which they are comfortable, so who are we to judge?
- “You probably don’t want to eat that, right?” Foods that are high in fat or sugar are often vilified. A person who is actively losing weight might have it built into their plan to enjoy or indulge in those foods occasionally. The last thing you want to do as a support in their life is increase food anxiety or induce guilt about eating certain things. Trust them, and don’t critique their food choices.
- “You look so much better than before.” This is clearly not the most helpful thing to say to someone, but it does occasionally slip out of our mouths. Avoid comparing their appearance from before and after. Chances are, they’re already doing enough of that in their own head. If they want your opinion, they can ask!
- “You’re just going to gain it back anyway.” This statement conveys a lack of confidence in your loved one’s ability to maintain weight loss and could be very discouraging to hear. It’s disheartening even if you meant it as a joke.
- “Wow, you look so good!” This is the real kicker. People say this all the time and usually have nothing but good vibes they’re trying to send. This can be interpreted in many problematic ways, though. People often wonder what was wrong with them before or why everyone is noticing their body. This well-meaning statement can cause body-image issues to surface, which can – in the worst case – trigger an eating disorder.
So what DO you say? You say something POSITIVE about him/her as a person and ask how they’re genuinely doing. Find things to compliment him/her on other than the size of their body. A lady in class said the best compliment she received was “you look so happy and strong”! THAT is a game changer compliment! Super empowering, personal, and motivating! Be that person to share positive “non-body” compliments with someone.