We had a pretty controversial post on Instagram about this with lots and lots of comments so getting this topic on the podcast felt appropriate!
The reason is was so controversial is because we had a handful of dieters who couldn’t accept the fact that getting compliments for all their hard work is damaging - in a way they may have felt threatened that they wouldn’t be getting the external validation they so desperately need from the world to let them know - “hey you’re body is smaller, you are now worthy and enough.”
Of course this need for external validation was something that was learned from diet culture - dieters aren’t bad or wrong for wanting this validation - it’s just how diet culture has groomed us as humans - no one is bad or wrong but our intention of bringing up this topic is not to demean anyone - just share our opinions on this ….
So what’s so damaging about the phrase “Have you lost weight? You look so good!” ?
- Most importantly - it perpetuates diet culture, it says “being thinner is good, and you’re thinner now so yay, you are now beautiful”. We want to get to a place where losing weight doesn’t get praise and gaining weight doesn’t get “concerns”... it’s all just natural body fluctuation and all bodies are good bodies. If you also are wanting to change diet culture this is a great place to start, keep the positive and negative comments of others bodies to yourself.
- It can negatively impact someone with an eating disorder. That need for external validation becomes so great, that now there is pressure to keep the weight off even if it’s in a very unhealthy and obsessive way.
- There is deep shame when the compliments stop - meaning that someone is no longer losing weight/ maybe gained all the weight back and more and now there’s no more external validation. That weight loss is the only way to get people to notice them - it’s like a hit of dopamine when someone compliments weight loss which keeps you coming back for more - and when the compliments stop it's like a punch in the gut.
- The focus on weight loss to be noticed by others becomes far more important than actually feeling good in your body and creating a healthy relationship with food. It turns into the “I’ll do ANYTHING to be in a smaller body” no matter what it takes - my freedom, my sanity, etc. It becomes the only thing that matters and someone’s life could be revolved around thinking about food, what their next meal is, what they can and can’t have, what the number is on the scale and when they’re getting in their workout- leaving no more room or energy for anything else that actually matters in their life. And this is the danger behind compliments - it can change the course of someone’s life in such a negative manner it’s sickening.
- It is inappropriate to comment on anyone’s body ever. This is crossing a boundary - it doesn’t matter the opinions someone has if it be a positive or negative opinion in their mind - not their body not their business. A woman's body is her own and no one gets to have any ownership around it besides them. Think what you think in your head - but keep it to yourself.
Just a note: This is not about making people feel attacked for weight loss - it’s sharing that focusing on your weight or anyone else’s weight can be a very dangerous line into the misery of dieting and EDs.
As we always mention- weight loss is NOT bad. It’s the obsessive focus around weight loss and changed (toxic) behavior that we are talking about - being intuitive, feeling good in your body and your mind, moving in ways that you enjoy, eating fruits and veggies that you love, and ice cream that you desire - that’s all fabulous - and when you have the intention of living with wellness without the obsession - your body is going to do what it’s going to do.
This is about stepping away from the number on the scale and stepping into how you feel in your body and your mind.
Live your life the way you want to live- just remember to hold the boundary - that commenting on other peoples bodies is unnecessary AND when someone compliments YOUR body for appearing smaller, don’t say thank you, instead regard it as a neutral comment, like you would if someone said, you have a purple shirt on today, “Oh hmmm…”. This stops the idea that YOU see thinness as a compliment, every bit helps shift others’ view on weight loss and commenting on others’ bodies.
Remember that you are enough as you are - in this body that you have today.