In a recent musical practice, while me and a smaller group of people were doing a catch up practice of the main dance, our dance instructor said this to me in front of everyone. I’ve been in many awkward situations with questions placed to me in the spotlight before (see, my job) but, this comment just made me feel so uncomfortable, I said thanks and hoped we’d move on, but no, it was a run on set of compliments mostly in regards to a physical body that hadn’t improved.
Worst part, it was probably not to do with weight loss that made me look slimmer, but a combo of a recent haircut and clothes that were a better fit than I usually wear there was the most likely source of this barrage of compliments.
This kind of event to probably something people who don’t get these comments a lot don’t understand, and something many a (preferred adjective describing someone of larger size, usually with implications/association with health) person will relate to.
“You’ve lost weight” is a refrain you’ll hear from a lot of people, usually more often those you don’t get to see as often as you might like. It’s a rather sensible compliment, usually larger people are sensitive about their weight, are making an effort to reduce it, and so someone noticing should be a good boost.
But, what about the times, when you either know haven’t lost weight, or have actually gained weight? Suddenly it stops being so positive. It always comes from a good place, but the problem is when you know it’s wrong it is hard to not also think
“How big do you remember me being?”
Now, I am rather quite large. To the point where I can’t weigh myself on standard scales. I am about one size less than the cap at large clothes shops in Japan, and 2 less than Australia often (in retail I’ve found anyway). There is a good chance I have actually lost weight but not in ways that have effective clothing sizes much.
However, in many senses, facts and compliments don’t really have to match. They just have to match ENOUGH for the recipient to feel good, and then the job is done.
Which I guess is why this post came about. Ultimately, it is a little PSA for this compliment. Don’t not use it, but consider what it says.
If someone has been making an effort and you’ve noticed it, (or even if you haven’t but you are sure they probably lost a little) saying that you’ve lost weight might be the sensible thing to say. But usually a “you look good” or “you look well” implies the positive of “you’ve lost weight” without making it all about weight. This is also preferable to because it lessens the importance of the weight itself (which is something that get’s overly focused on).
If you say it when either they haven’t being making an effort, or actively are aware they haven’t lost, or have actually gained weight. It comes off as either being unobservant, or having a misinformed memory of the person’s size. And while usually clear it’s not coming from a bad place, can make people feel incredibly uncomfortable.
I like to say that I am not sensitive about weight, although frankly that is a little bit of a lie. I usually feel extremely sensitive to the comment you’ve lost weight (much more so than being told I am fat). This probably says more about body image problems than I’d like. But please before using this common phrase or compliment, think about it a little more!