Should you rethink how you praise weight loss?

Should you rethink how you praise weight loss?

If you have ever struggled with maintaining a healthy body weight, you probably have found yourself looking to others for inspiration. You may have even congratulated someone on losing weight. Even if it’s well-intentioned, complimenting a person’s weight loss can be hurtful.

“While a weight loss remark is meant as a compliment, it could make someone uncomfortable, suggesting their value lies in their appearance and not in their character,” says Kimberly Turner, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Aurora Health Center. “It could even imply that their slimmer version is somehow an improvement to their previous body.”

It’s commonly thought being overweight is purely a personal responsibility, but weight management is much more complex.

“A person’s weight and health absolutely depend on one’s personal choices,” Turner says. “However, there are several other factors that play a role in body size. Many of these can’t be controlled, such as family history, genetics, race and ethnicity, health conditions, stress and even socioeconomic circumstances.”

Weight stigma, a form of discrimination based on a person’s weight and size, creates personal obstacles that can be tough to overcome. Studies show that weight stigma can have a negative impact on a person’s social life and overall quality of life – sometimes even causing weight to be regained.

What if weight loss isn’t intentional? Should you bring it up?

“There are many unhealthy causes of weight loss, like developing an eating disorder or exercise addiction,” Turner says. “Grief from cancer, losing a loved one or having an illness can also cause unintentional weight loss. Since we don’t know how a person lost weight, it’s best to avoid commenting on their appearance and avoid potentially harmful assumptions.”

Here’s what can you say instead:
  • Ask open-ended questions like, “How have you been?” and “How are you doing?” This gives them a chance to share their experiences and feel less like you’re being intrusive.
  • Avoid making judgments and try to wait for them to bring up the recent weight loss. If they do, ask how they feel about the weight they have lost or what inspired them.
  • Reframe your compliments. Try “You look happy” or “You seem really confident lately.”

Turner also recommends praising other qualities rather than focusing on weight loss.

“It’s important to remember that just because a thought comes to the mind, it doesn’t mean you necessarily have to say it. But if you’re compelled to give a compliment, try to shift the focus away from weight-related comments, so you can promote and prioritize positive health, well-being and inner beauty that could help boost someone’s confidence and continue fueling their road to wellness.”

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About the Author

Amber Thompson
Amber Thompson

Amber Thompson is a marketing graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. In her free time, Amber enjoys passion-filled projects including blogging and photography. Amber loves spending her free time reading journalistic columns, listening to motivational podcasts and discovering creative recipes to get her young son to eat his vegetables.