I’ve spent most of my life self-conscious about my weight. Whether I’m in my "ideal weight" range or the "clinically obese" range (though I have serious reservations about any of these labels), I have always seen myself as fat. And, thanks to diet culture, it wasn’t a stretch to see myself as ugly and unworthy because of my size.
My weight has fluctuated over the years, and I’ll be honest: I’ve always loved the attention I get when I lose weight. Neighbours, friends, even the lifeguard at my gym’s pool. Any time someone says, "Wow, you look great!" I glow.
It can be hard work to lose weight. When someone recognises the results of my efforts, I feel validated. But that’s not the end of the story, and we all know it.
The world has taught me for my entire life that the smaller I am and the less space I take up, the more value I have. I want people to notice when I lose weight. I expect them to notice. And I want to hear about it. Compliments tell me more than, "You’ve worked hard and I recognise that."
They say, "You’re more acceptable this way," and, "You’re prettier when you’re thin," and, "This is the right way to be." And of course I want to feel accepted, pretty, and right. Who wouldn’t?
But the fact that we’ve been conditioned all our lives to derive our worth from our looks is a problem that’s been passed on from one generation to the next, causing endless strife.
This is why, while I want to hear your compliments — because I’m so desperate to hear you say how fantastic I look — I’m asking you: Stop. Stop complimenting me on my body. Stop commenting on my body at all. Please, just stop.
There are many possible reasons for weight changes.
Maybe they are battling unhealthy thought patterns. People living with eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder have disordered relationships and distorted thoughts about food, weight, and body image. Outside encouragement to lose weight can be seen as validating these thought distortions and perpetuating their psychological battle.
Or, perhaps they were pregnant but lost the baby before announcing the pregnancy. It happens more often than you might realise; imagine being praised for weight loss while grieving the life you are no longer carrying inside you.