Why You Should Think Twice Before Praising Someone’s Pandemic Weight Loss | HuffPost Life

Given this cultural obsession with weight — specifically, with losing it and/or not gaining it — it might feel natural, even instinctive, to compliment someone who looks smaller than they were the last time you saw them. But, experts agree that such a “compliment” can actually cause real harm. Here’s why:


To be clear: Eating disorders affect people of all sizes. As the National Eating Disorders Collaboration explains, eating disorders occur in people at all weights (although people in larger bodies who engage in dangerous eating disorder behaviors may never actually receive a diagnosis because of their weight). Most people would stop short of complimenting someone who has lost weight and looks extremely thin, because we assume that it’s likely the result of an eating disorder. As Hartley points out, we should apply this same caution to people in all bodies.

“We live in a culture that’s quite fatphobic, and weight gain is often viewed negatively, as a sign of ‘letting yourself go,’” Hartley said. “Meanwhile weight loss is assumed to be the result of ‘hard work’ or ‘dedication.’ Of course, neither of those assumptions are true.”

There are so many factors that determine our weight and how it might change throughout our lives, many of which are out of our control ― genetics, environment and chronic illness among them. And even factors that are (at least somewhat) within our control, like the way we eat and move, don’t affect weight in the black-and-white way that people too often assume. Someone who has been restricting food and overexercising for a long time might gain weight when they start to adopt healthier behaviors (i.e., allowing themselves adequate nourishment and rest).

Countless studies back this up. A 2007 review in American Psychology found that between one-third and two-thirds of participants in weight loss studies end up gaining more weight than they lost. A 2020 review in the BMJ looked at 121 weight loss clinical trials with nearly 22,000 total participants, and found that while most participants lost weight in the first six months, virtually none of them were able to sustain significant weight loss at the one-year mark.

Above all else, weight loss compliments are inappropriate and boundary-crossing. You should never make any comments about a person’s body without their explicit consent, Martin said. You’re likely making them uncomfortable by thrusting their body into the spotlight, even if they aren’t outright offended by what you have to say.

“Bodies change throughout our lifespan, whether it’s menopause, puberty, a pandemic, or a thousand other reasons,” Rosenbluth said. “We’d all be better off if people had the opportunity to feel safe in their bodies regardless of the changes that occur throughout their lives.”

Although it might feel instinctive to compliment someone on weight loss, given the way our culture praises thinness, the best thing to do is not say anything at all. Weight changes are normal, but they have a lot of complex reasons behind them.

This content was originally published here.

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