“Have you lost weight?” may not be the compliment you think it is. In this post, we’ll discuss the best way to compliment someone on weight loss (hint: you shouldn’t) and why.

Image of a dietitian reading a book, text reads "How to Compliment Weight Loss - Tips from a Registered Dietitian"

“Have You Lost Weight? You look great!”

Has anyone ever said this to you? Or maybe you’ve said it to someone else.

While it seems like an innocent compliment made to make someone feel good, that outcome may not always be achieved. You see, thanks to our diet culture and the image-focused world we live in, we’ve been programmed to believe that thinner is better and more attractive, thinness equals health, and that frankly, we should all be constantly striving to lose a few pounds. So when we see someone looking smaller than we remember, we almost immediately assume they’ve accomplished something positive and that in pointing it out, we are doing something positive.

But that’s not always the case.

There are many reasons why someone’s weight may fluctuate down or up, which we’ll discuss, but it’s important to reflect on the message you’re sending when you compliment someone’s weight loss or body in general.

How to Compliment Someone on Weight Loss:

Short answer: Don’t.

There are a lot of people who have complicated relationships with food and their bodies. Probably more than you know. According evidence compiled by the the National Eating Disorders Association, 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives. And it’s not likely that all of these behaviours and beliefs associated with dieting end in adolescence.

By complimenting a change in someone’s weight, you could be complimenting a struggle with disordered eating habits or worse, an eating disorder. Speaking as a dietitian who has experienced both an eating disorder and struggles with dieting and disordered eating, compliments about my body, weight, and size (while at the time were accepted happily) only fuelled my unhealthy habits more.

Telling someone how great you think they look after they’ve lost weight (whether they lost weight intentionally or not) may also imply that they didn’t look great prior to their body changing or at a larger size. If eventually this person gains weight back, their self-esteem and body image could really take a hit remembering how much better everyone thought they looked when they were smaller.

And contrary to popular belief, losing weight is not something that everyone is always trying to do, nor is it always intentional or under one’s control. Even if it is intentional, it’s hard to know how your compliment will truly be received. This is why it’s important to tread carefully when conversing about someone else’s body, and why I advise you to consider commenting on something else.

Reasons Why Someone’s Weight Might Change:

There are many reasons why an individual may lose (or gain) weight. Keep in mind that it’s not always intentional, and even if it is, it’s not always a good thing. Hence why we want to be wary when considering paying someone a compliment on the way their body looks.

Besides intentional weight loss, other reasons why someone’s weight might change include:

  • An eating disorder or disordered eating patterns
  • An underlying illness (mental or physical)
  • Food insecurity
  • Loss of appetite due to stress, grief, loneliness, etc.
  • Side effects of medications
  • Going through a major life change

As you can see, there are several possible causes for someone’s weight loss, and you should never assume that weight loss is always a positive outcome or something that was achieved intentionally.

Better Compliments Than “Have You Lost Weight?”

If you’re looking to pay a friend or loved one a compliment, there are so many wonderful things you can say instead of “Have you lost weight?” or “You look so thin!” which, as we’ve learned, are not great compliments to give.

Here are some examples:

  • I’m so happy to see you!
  • “I love spending time with you.
  • You’re so kind.
  • I have so much fun when I’m around you.
  • You look so happy, and it makes me happy to see.
  • You’re glowing! You really light up the room.
  • You make me laugh!
  • “I love the positive energy you bring.”
  • “You inspire me.”
  • “You have the best laugh.”

I encourage you to take a step back and think about what you really enjoy about your friends, loved ones, colleagues and peers. Chances are the way that they look is not the real reason you like them. So next time you see them, rather than commenting on the way their body looks or how much it’s changed, try out one of these compliments. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

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