Wow, you’ve packed on the pounds! Excuse me? What? Really? This is what a man said to me the other day after he looked me up and down with a silly grin on his face. You see, I needed to gain weight; seeing as I was dying of starvation just a few months before. Even so, his comment ruminated over and over in my brain. My people-pleasing mind told me that he didn’t mean it in a bad way- he’s just old… He doesn’t know how to give a compliment.
My eating disorder mind took it as a slap in the face. I wanted to use behaviors to “fix” that weight gain fact that he had pointed out to me. Thankfully, my wise mind had other plans. It told me that it was a highly inappropriate comment that should never come out of his mouth or anyone else’s. Here’s why…
1. It is never okay to comment on someone’s weight. Ever.
I am going to make a bold statement- It is never okay to comment on someone’s weight. Good, bad, or in between. Just not okay. Ever.
I firmly believe this statement. “society lies to the world by saying that if you achieve ________ weight then you will be happy”. Then you will be beautiful and whole. Well, guess what? Weight does not determine those three factors. I was what society deemed as the “perfect weight/size” for all of my teen and adult years. But on the inside I was miserable. I was empty, burnt out and lost. I didn’t feel beautiful or worthy. That body that I had placed my worth in was failing me. All that was left was the shell of a woman. It was not until I turned away from perfecting my body that I was able to live in it.
2. Any comment on weight can be detrimental
As I struggled with the comment from the man about me “packing on the pounds”, I got a sad message from my neighbor. She struggles with overeating and has been working hard to get back to a weight that is healthy for her. This lovely woman told me that the comments on the other end of the spectrum are just as hard. She says that when people say, “Wow! You look great!” or “You’ve lost weight, you look fantastic!”, that it makes her feel is like she was not beautiful before when she was a different weight. Comments like these make her feel pressured to continue to lose/maintain, even if she feels good how she is.
3. Instead, value people’s character/morals/dreams etc.
For those who think that the statement “you should never comment on someone’s weight”, is severe, here is my argument. I worked HARD to “pack on” those pounds. I gave up my everyday life to go to treatment, I left my family, and I made it my J-O-B to recover. That takes guts, grit, and courage. Don’t tell me how good I look or how much weight I have gained, tell me you respect my determination. Tell me you are proud of my progress. Tell me you look up to my decision to better myself and create a better life for my children. That I look joyful. Tell me you are so glad I am present and connected…. all those things that have ZERO to do with my weight.
4. How to give a real compliment
For the drug addict who gained weight in treatment- instead of telling him “Whoa, you got fat!”, tell him, “Damn, I am glad you are alive.” To the woman who lost weight to better her health- don’t tell her “Wow, you look so good!” Tell her “Gosh, I can see the joy all over your face. I am glad you are feeling good about yourself!” To the woman struggling with bulimia who fought hard to kick her purging habits, don’t tell her “Your face looks amazing now!”, tell her “I am so glad that you are able to be here and present with us at the table. I love your company!”
There is always a way to compliment someone without commenting on looks or weight.
I promise you, the comments centered on character and love will truly connect you with a person. Comments like these show that you value who a person truly is on the inside. It’s these kinds of comments that will stick far longer than any comment connected with how they look on the outside.
Best compliment I ever received?
Brooke, you are a bad ass.
– Liz Corbin
Yes, Liz, I am. Bad ass at recovery!