A client recently asked me “is it ever OK to talk to someone about their weight?”. We had been discussing her feelings around her body and the messages that she received as a kid growing up. This client was in the process of trying to understand how her parents apparent concern for her health had set her up for a lifetime of believing that her body was wrong. If she couldn’t receive this message from her parents, could she receive it from anyone else?
The answer to the question “is it ever OK to talk to someone about their weight?” is long and complicated. The short answer is no, it is never OK to talk with someone about their weight.
By talking to someone about their weight you are assigning value to that person's body based on its size. A comment of “You look so good! Did you lose weight?” sends the message to a person that them being attractive is dependent on the size of their body.
In turn a comment of “What happened to you? I thought you were doing Weight Watchers” sends the message that they are not capable of managing their food and that their body screams “I can’t control myself around food”.
Even if your comment is rooted in the desire to give a complement, think before you speak. If you want to give a complement, what can you say that doesn’t involve their body? Sharing an appreciation for their friendship, sharing a fond memory, or talking about how important they are to you will go a lot further than a comment about their weight.
If you are genuinely concerned about the person and their weight first ask yourself if it is your place to bring up this issue. Chances are this person is already aware of their weight struggle. They probably have already had a well meaning friend or family member comment on their weight. They are probably already struggling with shame. Society is not subtle in its messaging to people about their bodies and their sizes.
Check your assumptions. Is your comment about their weight rooted in the belief that something is wrong with them. That their weight equals a mental health concern, a lack of control, or some other issue that you don’t know to be true.
Before speaking to someone about their weight, ask yourself what your real concern is. A common one I hear is “I’m worried they’re depressed, they’ve gained so much weight”. Yes, sometimes people eat emotionally. However not everyone does. The concern in that statement is not about the person’s weight. The real concern is they are depressed. Rather than talking to the person about their weight a more effective approach would be to talk with them about the underlying concern, “I’m worried you’re depressed. You just don’t seem happy”. Commenting on a person’s weight is more likely to add to any emotional burden that they may or may not be struggling with and is more likely to shut them down and close off communication.
In my practice I speak with many women of all shapes and sizes who have learned at one point or another that something is wrong with their body. I work with women to unravel those stories that they have heard and sometimes created about themselves and their bodies. I help them to work through their fear of being seen in the world and help them to find value, confidence, compassion and self love for the person they are today.
Are you ready to start feeling good again? Call today and schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation to learn more about therapy might be able to help you with your own relationship with your body.