It is like honey for your ears when someone says that you’ve grown leaner or lost weight. Have you been on some special diet? Or perhaps that new exercise regimen seems to be working for you. For someone like me, who cries tears of blood every time I’ve to exercise, being complimented (which never happens, because the weight is strong with this one.) is like a soothing balm on my sore muscles. But if you come to think of it, such compliments come based on the assumption that everyone wants to lose weight?

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • We often pay others compliments on their weight loss, assuming they wanted to lose weight.
  • However, weight loss could be unwanted due to sickness or mental health issues.
  • In such cases, weight loss compliments may feel like a barb in the heart to the person concerned. 
  • Before paying any compliment of weight loss, try to assess the person’s situation and state of health first.

We just assume that everyone wants to lose weight and grow thin.

In a tweet, fashion blogger Amena Khan has pointed out, “Telling someone they have lost weight is not a compliment! It is intrusive & based on the assumption that everyone wants to lose weight!” This is something almost no one pays attention to. That losing weight is seen as a compliment speaks a lot about our perception of health and desirable body type. Ideally, we see someone who is thin as fit, beautiful and attractive. It is almost the norm that a well-endowed person can never be beautiful. But once you lose weight, people automatically start complimenting you on how great you look.

However, just because most people associate being lean with beauty and attractiveness, it doesn’t mean that is a perception among everyone. There are people who are comfortable with their weight and love their body as it is. Just because our definition of perfection includes lean body, doesn’t mean it is the right one. Besides from the point of view of being healthy, there is a lot more to wellness than losing some weight. And sometime this so-called amazing weight loss could be a result of being unwell or falling on hard times.

Many mental health problems and diseases like diabetes lead to weight loss.

Sometimes people are just too ashamed to speak about a relapse of eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia. Sometimes they have hit a rough patch in their marriage or at the workplace and the resultant stress and depression has led to a weight loss. Many times these factors may not be in control of the person in question. They may be trying to stop their weight loss, but failing at it. In such times, what you think as a compliment may feel like a barb in the heart to someone.

So then what should we do? Should we stop complimenting people on their weight loss altogether? But there are a lot of people who genuinely care for such compliments, as they have been working very hard to shed some extra kilos, for whatever reason. The key is to pay attention to your friends before blindly passing compliments sheerly based on how they look. Do they seem happy? Do they have a history of health issues? Have they been talking about separations or being under too much stress?

The key is to pay attention to your friends before blindly passing compliments sheerly based on how they look.

So instead of asking ‘have you lost weight?’ perhaps you should be asking ‘how have you been?’ to people you actually care about. Often such small talk is a way to striking a more relevant conversation. So don’t just go around assuming that if a person has lost weight, he or she may like to be complimented. Be more interested in how they are, instead of how they look.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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