As a culture we’ve agreed that there are certain words and phrases that need to be abolished. So much so in fact that we don’t even say the words in polite company. The N word or R word comes to mind, as does the phrase “that’s so gay“. There’s another phrase I’ve had enough with and I’m hoping that as women and moms we can all agree to stop using it.
“Have you lost weight?”
I despise this phrase. Truly. I think the intent of this comment is complimentary, but at least for me, it’s anything but.
I was a chubby kid. Some would say fat. I’ve always had a curvy figure. Even as a two-season athlete in high school I still carried some extra pounds. I’m assuming it’s because most of the food I was eating was making me sick, I just didn’t know it. Once I hit college I slimmed down and despite some bouts of disordered eating (more about that some other time) I’ve maintained a mostly healthy weight. However, I have a family member who for YEARS every time he saw me, multiple times a year, would say “You look great, have you lost weight?” This double comment I find particularly offensive, as if to imply I looked bad before. Every time I would answer no, and every time I’d get met with the same response, “Are you sure?” Yup, I’ve got a long-standing addiction to the scale (more on that some other time) so I’m pretty sure. Finally on a day I’d had enough I responded with, “I’ve been the same weight for a really long time and I think you have a mental image of me as a larger person. I’m glad you think I look great, but can you please stop asking me if I’ve lost weight?” The comments ceased.
Recently I got a hair cut and my stylist made the same comment. I see her once every 4 months or so and therefore it could be likely the last time she saw me I was bloated, or higher on the scale, but hardly enough for her to notice. I think she was trying to be complimentary, but again, it’s just not. The issue I had with this one was that she had her teenaged daughter with her. I think this is a terrible message to send to our kids, girls or boys. The idea that you are only worthy if you are thin, or can only be complimented on your weight really irks me. We’ve created a culture where women only feel “normal” if they are trying to lose weight. At least that’s how it feels to me. I’ve worked extremely hard to get to a point where I don’t fixate on my weight in an unhealthy way. One “have you lost weight” comment sends me right back to that disordered you’re-not-good-enough-if-you’re-this-size thinking. It needs to end.
So what do you say to someone who truly has lost weight that you want to compliment, or someone you think looks good? Well, for starters I think you should only compliment someone’s weight loss if you know for a fact they’ve lost weight! Kinda like not asking a woman if she’s pregnant just because she has a belly. I had a colleague who lost at least 50 pounds and I never said anything other than “you look great” until he shared that he had to buy all new pants, and then I said “you’ve been working really hard and it shows”. That seems like a much more genuine compliment. One of the best body compliments I’ve ever gotten was after I posted on Facebook this picture of myself finishing my 3rd half marathon.
Someone said “you look really strong”. That felt awesome. Being strong doesn’t denote a specific weight category. I have been focusing on having strong bodies with my girls a lot more and they seem to like being described in that way too. We talk about healthy eating, healthy activities, and working out as ways to build strong bodies. I’m hoping that I can instill this value in them at an early age so that they don’t struggle with body image as I have my entire life.
So the next time you see someone who looks good, feel free to tell them. I’m sure they’d love to hear it. Just don’t ask them if they’ve lost weight.