This topic has come up a lot this week, so I thought I’d talk about it. It is definitely tricky! Let’s examine two scenarios: 1. You are interacting with someone who has lost weight, and 2. someone is talking to you about your weight loss (either real or perceived.) As always, these are just suggestions and your mileage may vary.
You are interacting with someone who has lost weight
I suggest that you resist, with conviction, the urge to tell them how good they look now – it sounds like you are saying that they looked bad before. If we want to opt out of a world where some bodies are seen as better than others, then not suggesting that somebody’s body is better because it’s a different size is probably a decent place to start.
Often when this happens people are really excited and expecting a compliment. I know that there is an extremely high chance that they are going to gain the weight back. For that reason I try to comment in a way that will lessen the self-esteem hit if they end up in the vast majority.
If they don’t bring up the weight loss I don’t bring it up. Weight loss isn’t always welcome – it can be from medical issues, medication, stress, grieving etc. and I don’t want to bring up something painful. Plus this conversation is awkward enough, I’m not going to go through it if I don’t have to.
If they bring up weight loss what I tend to say is something like “I’m glad that you are happy” or “You were beautiful before and you still are” or something that is as neutral as possible. While it’s important to me that people be allowed to make choices for themselves including the choice to attempt weight loss, it’s also important to me that I not perpetuate and praise diet culture or make it seem as if I think a body is more valuable or in some way better if it is currently smaller than it was before. Other people feel differently about this, choosing to celebrate other people’s weight loss and of course that’s their right.
If someone mentions your weight loss:
I don’t know about you but I’ve had people do this as a passive aggressive way of pointing out that I haven’t lost weight. So I cheerfully answer “Nope!” On my IRONMAN blog I recently talked about what I would do if I lose weight as part of the training.
If you have lost weight intentionally and you want to support Size Acceptance, from my perspective it would be awesome if you said something like “I’m smaller but I still love my body just as much as before.” or “It’s so weird, I had no idea how many people were keeping tabs on my body size” or “I wish we lived in a world where body size wasn’t a topic of conversation.” It would also be fantastic if you would point out and negate any attempts to make it seem like you are better than fat people who are still fat, or that you deserve to be treated better now that you are thinner.
I look forward to living in a world where bodies of all sizes and shapes are completely respected and celebrated. But until that time I think it helps to be mindful how we talk about these things.
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