The Weighty Matter of Weight-based Compliments
Is it okay to compliment someone based on his/her weight, or can that be damaging?
This has been on my mind a lot recently because I have been the recipient of such compliments. After having my first baby, I quickly lost the weight I had gained during my pregnancy. (I attribute this to genetics because at the time I lost the weight I was not focusing on anything to do with myself at all. I was in full on survival mode trying to figure out how to take care of a baby). People complimented how good I looked for having just had a baby. The compliments made me feel great! I loved hearing them! Oddly enough, though, at the same time I felt guilty that I had lost the weight so quickly. I felt a need to justify, like I did above, why it had happened so easily for me.
When I really started questioning if it was good to compliment people based on their weight was when I started to gain weight. I felt embarrassed. I felt a need to justify. I started worrying about the number on the scale.
This reminded me of something I heard somewhere awhile ago (yes, a very accurate source citation right there, I know) that we teach children indirectly that their weight is connected to how good they look.
How do we do that, you ask?
“Hey, you look great! Did you lose weight?”
Translation to a child: You look good because you don’t weigh as much as you used to.
I love this article by Dayle Hayes, MS, RD called “5 Ways Adults Can Promote Positive Body Image for Children” because I think it could also be titled, “5 Ways Adults Can Promote Positive Body Image for Themselves.” Check out the article here, and apply it to yourself (1), I want to focus on three points from the article:
1) Regular Self-Check of Your Body Image
And might I add, your motivation for staying healthy. Do you feel beautiful the way you are now? If you don’t feel beautiful, why not? Why do you want to change? Is it for someone else? Is it for health? Is it to feel comfortable and confident? This is something we all need to evaluate and keep in check on a regular basis.
2) Focus on Overall Health and Not Weight
Yes, there are unhealthy weights. However, if we would just focus on eating the recommended amounts of foods and get the right amount of physical activity, then we would feel better and probably fall into a healthy weight naturally. A physically active person is healthier than a sedentary person. I remember a picture of an overweight aerobics instructor in my Nutrition 100 book with the caption that read, “Being active—even if overweight—is healthier than being sedentary,” (2). I think if we focus on health and not weight, we will also be happier.
3) Beware Body Bullies
This was meant for children, but I think it applies to adults too. Bullies don’t just disappear after we graduate high school. There are still people who say hurtful things everywhere. Don’t let insensitive comments affect how you feel about yourself. Discuss your concerns with a close family member, friend, or someone you trust if you are a victim of bullying. Don’t let those around you be bullied, and don’t be a bully to others or yourself!
There is no such thing as a “perfect body,” so again, the question remains, are weight based compliments appropriate? What if we know the person has worked really hard to get to where he/she is with weight? Are we helping to motivate, or are we perpetuating the idea that how good we look is based on being a certain weight or size?
This is a weighty matter (pun definitely intended).
What do you think?