3 Reasons Why You Should Never Comment on Someone’s WeightSep 04, 2021
As I walked into the kitchen this morning to make myself a cup of tea, my cleaner put down his spray bottle, pointed his finger straight at my face and exclaimed in broken English: “Double chin! You have double chin!”
Confused, I looked back at him and responded: “OK… so what?”
Again, he repeated: “Double chin! Double chin!”
“Yes,” I answered, “I have a double chin but… what’s the problem?”
He started to look a little uncomfortable, yet continued: “You more fat now. Is no good.” Nodding his head, he again mumbled: No good. No good.”
Thoughts started flooding through my mind. I wanted to scream at him. Yowl, even. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders, look him straight in the eye and shout: “How can you possibly think it’s OK for you to comment on my weight? Who gives you the right? This is MY body. MINE. And mine alone.”
Frustration overwhelmed me. How did we get here? How did we come to live in a world where it’s socially acceptable to comment on other people’s bodies? When did it become the norm to provide each other with the latest status update on our external appearance before we even say hi?
What if I still felt incredibly insecure about my weight, like I used to only a few years ago? A comment like this could have easily sent me into a month-long tailspin of dieting and binging — and the extreme self-loathing that came with that.
What if I had a severe medical condition that caused me to gain weight? Research has shown that people who feel ashamed about their weight are much less likely to seek out the health care they need.
There are so many reasons why it should never be OK to comment on someone else’s weight, but here are three of the most important ones.
1. You don’t know what they’ve been through
No matter how well you think you know someone, you never truly know what’s happening behind the scenes. Some people are really great at putting up a perfect facade while inside, they’re crumbling.
I talk from experience. For years I pretended that everything was great when I was secretly struggling with an eating disorder.
I’d make healthy food choices in front of others only to go home and binge on everything I’d felt deprived of. To keep up appearances, I’d even force myself to eat dinner with my partner even though I still felt completely stuffed from an earlier binge.
Occasionally he’d say something like: ”I don’t understand how you are so fat when you eat so healthy and work out every day. Because of how ashamed I felt, it took me 4 years to open up to him and share what’d really been going on.
2. Weight-related comments can be extremely triggering, with devastating consequences
While some people happily poke fun at their own love handles, others can really take weight-related comments to heart. When the lines between our body and our soul get blurred, it’s easy to believe there isn’t just something wrong with our bodies — there’s something wrong with us. And because people’s innate need to be liked and accepted by others is so overwhelming, they’ll do anything to avoid rejection.
This could lead to extreme dieting, eating disorders, depression, social isolation and even suicide. The research is very clear that weight stigma harms people — both psychologically and physically.
While your comments may be well-intentioned, you just never know how they will land.
3. It could stop someone from getting the help they need
While our society regards weight as the simple consequence of eating too much or proof of someone’s laziness and lack of willpower, weight could actually be a symptom of a much deeper issue.
It could be the side-effect of an undiagnosed medical condition, a sign of an eating disorder, or it could be a psychosomatic symptom.
In my hypnotherapy practice, I’ve helped many women see the underlying cause of their physical weight, and I’m yet to find a case where food alone was the culprit. For some, weight offered protection from physical or sexual abuse in childhood. For others, it was an unconscious attempt to be seen by others when all they wanted to do was hide.
Turned out that for me, weight protected me from the relentless pressure I felt had been put on me since birth — it was a cry for unconditional love.
Regardless of the reasons why someone may struggle with weight, the idea that the problem will be solved if someone just “eats less and exercises more” stops people from getting the help they may truly need. They’ll either turn to yet another extreme diet that will just exacerbate the problem, or they’ll seek out refuge in food. Because, unlike most of our fatphobic society, food doesn’t judge.
Luckily for my cleaner, I’ve worked incredibly hard these past three years on healing my relationship with food, my body and myself — so instead of taking my frustration at the world out on him, I took a deep breath in and again repeated: ”Sure, I may have gained some weight, but what’s the problem? I love and accept myself exactly as I am.”
I don’t blame him for what he said. After all, he’s been conditioned by our society’s female beauty standards just like the rest of us. As twisted as it is, I’m sure his concerns were well-intentioned. Plus, it gave me a great excuse to reaffirm my own worth and self-acceptance.
But while I’m all about taking personal responsibility and making the most out of a shitty situation, this still doesn’t make it OK.
What you think of me is none of my business. But please, just keep it to yourself.