The “Wow, you’ve lost so much weight!” Observation is a term that is as old as time. It’s so deeply anchored in our psyche that it could be a kind of greeting, “Hello, you’ve lost weight.” Followed, perhaps, by “Send tips!” If the person is overly enthusiastic.
Some would argue that complimenting the weight loss does not have any deleterious effects. Isn’t it a tried and true way of showing support to say “Bravo”? The arguments would all be true if losing weight were the be-all and end-all of our lives, which it, Newsflash, isn’t. Although the compliments make you feel like it is.
Not all bodies are created equal or function the same. And yet we make little effort to acknowledge this and give way to the universal myth that thin equals “fit and beautiful”.
There is really no need to talk about weight
As someone who currently fits into these conventional categories, I am aware of how easy it is for me. When I want to shop, I get my size in the store, and that speaks volumes in itself, especially at a time when people are exposed to “Oh, you don’t like that,” fat taxes and many other forms of crazy fat phobia . These problems remain a reality for a number of people, and not enough is being done to root out these problems. I can see how easy it is for me.
Growing up, however, was my personal hell. As a child, I was referred to as “healthy” by “well-meaning” relatives and strangers when I was around eight years old. When I was nine, I was worried about how I looked. Fast forward to age 12 and I was on a “diet” every now and then.
Most often, this has meant that no meals will be missed (or tried) in a strict boarding school environment. At 13, I had joined the school’s marathon team, my own Weight Watchers in the early hours of the morning. Any adult with an iota of sanity would have told me that this was all fake, not required, and that I was actually fine as I was.
But I loved my food with passion and when I returned home over the holidays, acquaintances (again “well meant”) never forgot to remind me how “chubby” I was or how my double chin was still there.
It took me a while to get over it the and of course it doesn’t take a mind reader to conclude that it still happens more often than it does sometimes. Recently people were telling me about how I’d lost weight (some were kind enough to scale it to one to ten) and didn’t even realize it might be due to a mild COVID-19 attack earlier in the year. a bad few months of mental health and the stresses of living in a pandemic.
All bodies are different
We forget that losing weight is not exclusive, at least not in all cases. Sometimes it comes with and as an extension of underlying health problems, stress, or chronic illness.
“Culturally, greeting someone with unsolicited comments about their weight has become almost normal. This is not limited to family or friends, but also to neighbors or acquaintances. When compliments are only about weight loss and how that relates to who a person looks, the message gets internalized that appearance is the most important characteristic. It can also spread the idea that a certain body type is “worthy”. It can naturally feel reductive when a person has deeper, more complex layers than just weight and appearance, ”says Dishaa Desai, Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower – The Center, Mumbai.
Comments about weight have an impact on mental health
At best, great praise for losing weight comes unsolicited. In a more sane world, it would be rude. Someone might enjoy the attention, but it doesn’t make it any less greasy anyway – you’re telling a person that their “new” version is better than the old one based on looks.
There are other implications associated with body weight comments as well. Desai explains, “It can affect a person’s mental health in more than just mood. Deeper associations are made between one’s worthiness and weight or a particular body type that can affect their self-perception and even exacerbate existing mental health problems. In addition, compliments on weight loss can also reinforce a disturbed diet in order to maintain a certain weight or to lose further. “
It promotes a fat phobic narrative
Image source: Instagram / lizzobeeating
Airbrushed images on social media have only promoted the narration of a certain type of body that is beautiful. Nor does it help that even today, when an oversized person is right to claim their place, they are upset.
Singer and songwriter Lizzo recently broke down on Instagram talking about the racist and anti-fat comments she received following the release of her new single, Rumors. Earlier, at an awards ceremony, she had expressed her feelings about the harassment she’s exposed to: “I don’t mind the fat comments. I sometimes just find it unfair … the treatment people like me get.”
Image source: Instagram / billieeilish
Last year, a viral paparazzi snapshot of singer Billie Eilish in a camisole and shorts earned her unwarranted hatred from strangers on the internet. At the beginning of 2020, the singer had herself in a short film during the ‘Where Do We Go?’ engaged in body shaming. Trip. “Do you want me to be smaller? Weaker? Softer? Greater? Do you want me to be quiet Are you provoking my shoulders? Provokes my chest? Am i my belly My hips The body I was born with, right? said part of the voiceover.
How a person looks can tell you whether they have lost or gained weight, comments based on both are harmful, but it doesn’t give you any insight into what someone has been through in their life. For many of us, the pandemic has changed our relationship with our bodies, and now is a good time to come forward with more empathy and remember that we have gone through more than appearances alone could ever explain. Let’s not compliment the weight loss.
Lead Image Credit: Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Yash Raj Films and iStock