We’ve all done it. We’ve all seen a friend or family member who has lost a noticeable amount of weight and the first thing we say is, “You look great!” Or we scroll through Instagram and double tap on all the transformation photos and congratulate the posters on their weight loss. It all seems rather innocent, but body-based compliments, especially those centered around weight loss, aren’t doing anyone any good.
Before and after photos and compliments about weight loss are really only accomplishing one thing: keeping us firmly rooted in diet culture and fat phobia. Diet culture would have us believe that being thin is the only way to be healthy and beautiful, and that we should make ourselves the smallest we possibly can, no matter the cost.
Only complimenting someone when they’ve lost weight reinforces those ideas.
Telling people “you look really good!” based on their weight loss implies they didn’t look good before. Praise and congratulations on before and after photos only makes those people who still look like the “before” feel like there is something wrong with their body. And both of those things reinforce the idea that we are only worthy of praise and recognition if we are actively shrinking our bodies and getting closer to society’s ideal body.
There are also situations of illness, eating disorders or times of stress to consider. Sometimes, people lose a significant amount of weight not because they wanted to, but because they’re seriously ill.
Not only do weight loss compliments keep us stuck in the diet culture mindset, but only complimenting people on their appearance (hair, clothes, makeup, etc.) creates the illusion that our bodies are the most interesting thing about us, that if we aren’t putting effort into our appearance we are someone unworthy of being complimented.
You may be wondering how to compliment people, if not on their appearance.
Positive Praise Takes the Place of Body-Based Compliments
The list is literally endless and includes positive traits, accomplishments and how that person makes you feel. Here are just a few ideas:
- I love how passionate you are about (insert their passion here).
- Your laugh is contagious.
- You inspire me to be a better person.
- You have such a positive energy.
- You are so thoughtful.
- You are such a good listener.
- I love your authenticity.
- You’re so talented at “X.”
- Your perspective is refreshing.
- You are such a great friend.
About the Author: Paige Fieldsted is the author of the highly acclaimed book Confessions from Your Fat Friend. She is also a blogger and body positivity advocate who believes all women deserve to love and appreciate the body they are in right now, and that people of all shapes and sizes are worthy of love and respect. Paige lives in Utah with her husband John, sons Mason and Logan, and Willy the pug. When she’s not writing, you can find Paige dancing and singing in the kitchen with her boys, doing yoga, hanging out with family or reading. Learn more about Paige here.