THINK BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH
...TO EAT OR MAKE A COMMENT
“You look so great – have you lost weight?” is a sentence I hear falling out of people’s mouths often times faster than a friendly “Hello”. Although these exchanges can appear to be positive ones, they are in fact deeply problematic.
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who helps people find peace with food, I’ve sat in front of countless clients who have told similar stories of seemingly innocuous comments made about their weight that dramatically changed how they eat and take care of themselves. Most commonly, these comments resulted in a lifetime of destructive dieting, shame and self-loathing. Before opening your next conversation with a body-centric comment, pause and think about how your message might be received.
What are you saying about their body before?
By praising their smaller body, you are in essence telling them that their previous body was bad. As Hilary Kinavey and Dana Sturtevant of Be Nourished say: “Weight bias and stigma is associated with elevated blood sugar, unhealthy weight control, binge eating behaviours and negative body image.” So, if you’re concerned about your pal’s health, skip the thin praising, because all bodies are good bodies.
What if they are struggling with disordered eating?
You might, unknowingly, be rewarding someone’s unhealthy behaviours. By reinforcing that smaller equals better, comments like these can slow down positive progress in healing their relationship with food and their body.
You are making the assumption they wanted to lose weight.
Bodies change for all kinds of reasons – including illness. Remember that someone’s smaller body does not equate to better health.
The attention is focused on the least interesting part of them – their body.
Your weight is not tied to your worth. Bodies change but all the incredible things you have to offer do not. I believe those dishing out these “compliments” are well-intentioned and are probably not even aware of the problems attached to them. But, as Maya Angelou reminds us, “When you know better, you do better.” We can do better.
Collectively, we can take the focus off of our friends’, family members’ and co-workers’ weight. Practice swapping “Have you lost weight?” with “How have you been?”.
Challenge yourself to comment on people’s qualities that are truly worth celebrating.
Speak to their warmth, ambition, creativity, humour, fashion sense, reliability, friendship, intelligence. Remind them that they are a great friend, fun to be around and a hard worker.
Here’s to doing better by digging deeper. To looking beyond people’s bodies, and planting a better body image one creative compliment at a time.
Claire LeGresley is here to help you rediscover your relationship with food. No experience required, we start where you are. For more information, please visit www.clairelegresleyrhn.com