In working with clients, I hear a lot of stories about other people making unsolicited comments about their weight, whether well-intending or not. These could include things like:”You look good!” or “You look so much better!” or “How’ve things been going? You look different!” The same is true in times of struggle, whether a person gains or loses weight. Regardless of the context or intent, all of these comments focus on the person’s weight, shape, or size.
To illustrate how completely off the mark these comments can be, a friend in college once lost a significant amount of weight in just a few weeks because she acquired a parasite while on a mission trip in Haiti. She received countless comments and even compliments about her weight loss even though she was extremely ill: vomiting, diarrhea, constant nausea and eventual surgery. I think everyone would agree that her physical state was the furthest thing from healthy. The same is true with other causes for weight changes — especially disordered eating.
Let’s get something straight: weight loss isn’t something to praise; weight gain isn’t something to criticize.
In my own recovery, I got a lot of comments about my weight. Most of them were out of concern; some of them were positive…at least initially. None of them were helpful.
Even today, when I’m happily living in a healthy body, I get comments about my weight. Again…most of them are positive; none of them are invited; all of them are unnecessary. A person’s body weight is the least interesting thing about them.
One particular story I do want to share on this subject has to do with the totally wacko idea about the intersection between women, sexuality, and body weight:
A colleague of mine asked me recently if I’ve been keeping up with running lately because of the heat. (Chicago has been brutal.) He knows I like to exercise, and we’ve had conversations about our respective workout preferences in the past. After I answered, he then said, “Wow, that’s pretty good. You know, a lot of girls kind of let themselves go after they get married. They’ve already got the guy.”
This sufficiently pissed me off, and so I’m going to rant a little bit. First of all, my exercise habits have absolutely nothing to do with “getting the guy.” I’ve been exercising the same way for years, and was exercising that way for years before I even met my husband.
Secondly, I did not try to lose weight, change my weight, or in any way control my weight with regards to my relationship status. I easily and effortlessly maintained my weight through intuitive eating and exercise in the same 5-10 pound range before I met my husband, after we started dating, while we planned our wedding, and now that we’re married. When my weight changes, it will be the consequence of normal and healthy transitions into motherhood (hopefully one day), middle and late adulthood, and beyond.
Thirdly, I fully trust that my husband found me beautiful and attractive for reasons completely independent of my body’s shape and size. I’m sure he appreciates my female form, but the mark of our love is that he’s after my heart. The same is true for my own desire for him. While I’m absolutely attracted to my husband, I’m way more in love with who he is — a strong, faithful man of God — than I am to what he looks like. (#eyeroll)
Anyway, I have a few takeaways.
- It’s absolutely unreasonable to assume anything about a person’s life based off their shape or size
- Likewise, it’s completely inappropriate to make comments to them about their weight changes unless you’re both a) expressing concern and b) close to them
- Can we please stop thinking that women (or men) are looking to win affection because of their waistline?
I’d love to hear your thoughts: have you been the recipient of unwelcome comments about your body? How did you respond?