Do you ever feel like gaining or losing weight has become some kind of spectator sport? While your family and friends may hesitate before commenting on someone's hair loss or wrinkles, they may have no qualms about vocalizing their observations about that person's weight, cheering on weight loss or sympathizing with weight gain.
We've been pretty much brainwashed to think it is appropriate and even appreciated to applaud someone's weight loss. But I challenge you to stop and think about it. It's pretty strange. Why should something so personal be open for public comment?
Weight-watching is particularly damaging to someone with an eating disorder, as it reinforces harmful beliefs and behaviors and can make it more difficult to recover. But complimenting weight loss can be entirely off base in many other situations as well.
Losing weight is not always the result of a "successful diet". There are many, many reasons why someone may have lost weight and these reasons aren't always the kinds of things that others feel comfortable sharing with you. Complimenting weight loss might just remind the person of the reason for it and instead of making her feel good, it can make her feel worse.
Likewise, weight gain has numerous causes, many of which are stressful in the first place. Commenting on weight gain can make a hard situation even more challenging.
That neighbor of yours who suddenly looks different? Here's what might be going on that she isn't telling you:
I have an eating disorder.
I have an anxiety disorder.
I have depression.
I have Crohn's disease.
I have a thyroid condition.
I have type 1 diabetes.
I have cancer.
I am grieving.
I am under extreme stress.
I am caring for a family member in crisis.
I am taking medication for a physical health condition.
I am taking medication for a mental health condition.
I am taking fertility drugs.
I cut down on exercise in order to get my period back.
I quit yo-yo dieting because it was sucking the life out of me.
I am starting to feel my feelings instead of using unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Please don't compliment my weight loss because I've never felt worse.
Please don't comment on my weight gain because I've never been healthier.
As you can see, a lot may be going on beneath the surface. Your safest bet is to find another topic of conversation. You'll probably have a more satisfying chat that way, anyway. And if you have an urge to cheer, find another sport. I'm a fan of that. ;)