We live in a culture that is obsessed with getting thinner and thinner. Since having recovered from an eating disorder, I am especially sensitive to certain “key words” that I often hear from people around me. I could be completely focused on a book or engrossed in my work at my job but if someone down the hall says words like diet, weight, calories, etc, my ears perk right up. Something I have noticed is we love to give people the “Have you lost weight?!” bit. I have seen people glow from such questions and I have also seen awkward interactions in the case where said person did not, in fact, lose weight. This question makes me uncomfortable for several reasons. For one, why are you paying that close attention to someone’s body? Especially in the instance where it is not an obvious, dramatic weight loss, when someone notices a 10 pound weight loss, I think that is borderline creepy. As if I didn’t have enough things to worry about, now I have to worry about people eyeing my back fat closely for fluctuations? Stop staring at people! It’s rude.
In the grips of my eating disorder when people commented on my weight loss, the validation gave me such a high. It only motivated me to keep losing dangerous amounts of weight. So when you are complimenting someone on a weight loss, you are possibly perpetuating an eating disorder. I know that sounds dramatic and sure, not everyone suffers with an ED, but it is too risky to assume everyone is safe from the harm of one.
Sometimes the weight loss is completely unintentional. One day, my friend and I were in the elevator with an elderly woman we worked with and she was commenting on my friend’s weight loss and then started speaking about her own personal weight loss. She said she had recently lost a significant amount of weight but it wasn’t because she wanted to– it was because she was very ill. This really put things into perspective for me. How awkward to think you are giving someone a compliment when first of all, they didn’t even want to lose weight in the first place, but second of all, they are ILL? “Thanks. I have cancer.”
Giving compliments make you feel wonderful! It makes you feel good and it makes the other person feel good. Let’s just focus on what the person has to offer on the inside, or, compliment them on their awesome accessories or outfit. Leave something as intimate as a person’s body as a whole out of it.