Don’t Comment on Weight
I would like to tell (or remind) people, that commenting on people’s weight, is almost always problematic, and can often be damaging and/or dangerous.
For anyone who has had issues with eating disorders, dysmorphia or body image, any comments about weight can be very triggering for their mental health and overall wellbeing. Weight comments can contribute to the forming of such problems too – no matter how benignly intended.
Weight related jibes and put downs, are obviously hugely problematic, and part of a wider social problem. But so too are weight related compliments, which are almost always ‘backhanded.’ If a compliment has fatphobic, patronising, dismissive or other such implications that shame or ‘concern-troll’ any particular body type, they are not actually compliments and do not feel like compliments, and they can play into some nasty power structures and mental health issues around body image, weight, health, food, autonomy, power etc. They can also trigger and contribute to disordered eating patterns and body image issues.
Regardless of the expressed attitude to ‘good weight/ bad weight / neutral weight,’ shifting the focus of an interaction away from ‘the person’ and onto ‘the weight of the person’ is part of a wider narrative that is very problematic, often dangerous, and riddled with all sorts of nastiness. If you can avoid playing into it, please do.
Validation based on weight loss, things that frame fatness as bad and thinness as good, gender stereotypes about acceptable shapes and sizes, things that patronise or validate people of any size because of their size, can all contribute to eating disorders, dysmorphia, and excessive focus on weight and size and shape; which hugely damages quality of life, is very bad for mental health, and can be part of a dangerous picture.
You cannot tell who has got ‘enough armour’ to be able to handle weight comments (eating disorders and body dysmorphia are not generally visible as they are mental health issues and can look very different on the outside from person to person). So basically, if you respect people and want them to feel good and be mentally and physically healthy, just don’t comment on their weight.
If you respect and care about people, don’t comment on their weight. Unless, I suppose, you are a body positive, fat positive, informed, up to date, respectful, well trained, caring, compassionate doctor; who understands eating disorders, the importance of mental health, and the actual impact or non-impact of weight, and weight comments, on specific physical and mental health issues; and are treating a specific health issue for which mentioning weight is definitely 100% relevant and not a way of brushing somebody off. If you’re not in that sort of incredibly specific and considered scenario where it is vital to bring it up, then just don’t comment on people’s weight. It’s almost always problematic, and almost never helpful or pleasant. And can contribute to dangerous mental health issues.
If you disagree, that’s fine, sort of. Just don’t talk to me about my weight then, and leave it at that. Except, if you could avoid damaging other people with your weight comments too, I’d appreciate that! I’m not interested in what you think about my shape or size, and I would rather you show you are interested in me, my experience, how I feel, how we can connect, and our whole selves.
One other side issue that’s related – being aware of how your own self-talk out loud about your body impacts those around you. If you are making a negative comment about yourself, which implies to somebody standing near you, that you want to look less like them in order to be ‘acceptable’, that can also be quite damaging! I know I was guilty of a lot of out loud negative self talk in the worst years of my eating disorder, and I’m sure that had a negative impact on people around me. Sincere apologies for that. And I can quite often experience it now the other way around – if somebody four sizes smaller than me is bemoaning they have too much fat and ‘need’ to get thinner, for example, right next to me, the implications of what they think of me are loud and clear. Whilst discussing yourself is different to discussing others, anything you say that frames some body types as better or worse than others, can impact the mental health of those around you. Be aware of it!
Something to think about, if you haven’t, or be reminded of.
So in conclusion – don’t comment on weight. If you want to show someone you care, find a better way to do it! Thanks for your time considering this.