Let’s get real for a moment… unless a person solicits input on their weight, it’s entirely unhelpful to comment on it. Rarely, when someone gains weight, do they notice for the first time when it’s pointed out to them by another person.
A great rule for politeness is NEVER to acknowledge any physical trait that cannot be immediately changed. If someone has food in their teeth, for example, it’s nice to let them know as quietly as possible. A waistline, however, isn’t adjusted with a simple look in the mirror. Still, some people can’t help but comment on the size of people’s bodies, and honestly, words hurt! These comments add anxiety to social situations and damage trust between people.
So, what can a person do if they’re on the receiving end of these comments?
- Even if you think the other person is “well-meaning”, acknowledge within yourself that they have said something hurtful.
A friend, parent, or partner commenting on your weight may think they are coming from a place of care. In fact, they may be attempting to provide you care the only way they know how; even though this “care” has negative effects on mental health and self-esteem. Before you rush to justifying their comment, acknowledge YOUR feelings.
2. Understand that size is not the end-all-beat-all indicator of health.
Bodies are incredibly diverse. While weight is generally an indicator of health, it’s extremely unlikely that the person commenting has more information about your health journey than you do. Old standards, like BMI, are starting to be reconsidered.
3. Consider the source.
Often, comments about other people’s bodies will tell you more about the speaker than the receiver. If you have expressed no anxiety about your weight, the comment likely represents anxiety the other is feeling to stay trim.
Depending on your appraisal of step three, choose one of the following:
4. Attempt to adjust the speaker’s behavior, using “I statements”.
If your relationship to this person is valuable to you, speak your feelings clearly and attempt to redirect the energy. Consider the following responses: “I know that you care about my health and I appreciate your effort, but *I* feel discouraged when you focus on my weight. Maybe you could join me on a walk, so we can use your support more effectively,” “Mom, I understand that you’re speaking from love, but *I* feel this has put up a wall in our relationship. Maybe it would be better if we only talked about this when I feel I need your input.”
5. If all else fails…abandon ship!
This is not the implication that everyone who comments on weight should be shunned, but get real… if every conversation between two parties is about one party’s appearance, there’s not much relationship going on! Just as people are tasked with protecting and preserving their physical health, a person has to make decisions to protect their mental health. If you’re already in the process of losing weight or you’re more than happy at the weight you are, it’s unnecessary to have the same conversation over and over, again.