When someone in your life is in the process of losing weight, what should you do? Should you draw attention to the weight loss and applaud the person, or should you de-emphasize it and avoid talking about it? The knee-jerk reaction is often to compliment and praise people for how great they look and for all their hard work. But is hearing those things truly helpful?
As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I’ve worked with hundreds of people who have successfully shed pounds. To my surprise, many of them have related the same message: They don’t like it when people notice and talk about their weight loss. They don’t want to be complimented, praised or even have attention drawn to them. Instead of having every conversation revolve around their pants size, they want to talk about other things with their friends and loved ones.
For people on the sidelines wanting to show support and love, it can be hard to understand why someone wouldn’t want to hear words of encouragement. It can be challenging to put yourself in that position and understand how someone might misinterpret your well-intentioned comments.
There are people who love to get positive comments and feedback about their weight-loss progress. Not everyone is sensitive to words of encouragement, but it’s more common than you’d think to have a negative reaction.
Let’s dive into the top five things you probably shouldn’t say to someone who is losing weight.
I don’t think we should feel like we have to walk on eggshells around one another. I do think we can increase our awareness of others’ experiences and try to focus on people, not their bodies.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t talk about each other’s weight at all; you never really know what someone is going through. Someone could be losing weight due to secretly dealing with a cancer diagnosis, they could be struggling with an eating disorder or they could be going through an extremely difficult time with their mental health. People you’re trying to support can sometimes equate your compliments about their weight loss as an indicator that there was something wrong with them when they weighed more.
Even when someone enjoys and appreciates hearing the positive feedback from people around them, there’s a chance of developing problematic eating behaviors as a result of the affirmation. A straightforward effort for weight loss can lead to obsession, restriction and disordered eating, triggered by compliments that are twisted into motivation for unhealthy behaviors.
If you notice someone in your life has lost weight, ask them how they’re genuinely doing. Compliment them on how happy and confident they seem. Draw attention to their strengths as a human being, and convey unconditional love and support. Avoid conversations about food, weight and body image unless someone reaches out to you asking for help and support with those issues.
Written by Paige Smathers who is a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in helping people heal their relationship with food for www.myfitnesspal.com