Why You Should Think Before Complimenting Someone On Their Weight Loss

Let me state firstly, a lot of the time complimenting someone on their weight loss can be a good thing. I’m guilty of doing it. Recently I saw a friend of mine after not seeing him in months and noticed he’d lost some fat from around his stomach. He took the compliment and didn’t seem phased said it was a result of not having anytime to eat with his stressful life. But afterwards, I thought about my strong ‘stable’ friend and thought, yes he always seems so emotionally stable but I honestly don’t know what’s going on in his head. Was my compliment a good thing? Was it worth bringing up? It has made me thing twice about saying this again.

My Weight Loss Journey

So months ago I decided to go on a diet because the pills my doctor had prescribed me for my mental health were working but I had noticed a side effect was weight gain. I wanted to stop gaining more weight and to be honest I didn’t mind loosing some fat as well. I started to loose weight. I was exercising again, I was cooking for the first time in two years from scratch and I had a routine in place which made me feel like I was doing more.

But the thing I was dreading was, when people around me started noticing I had lost weight. The compliments. Sometimes the way people can compliment you can make you feel like before you must have looked rubbish. “You look good, you look like you’ve lost some weight!” What is this person saying? That before I lost the weight I didn’t look good?

The thing about weight loss is not everyone intentionally set out with a positive goal to loose weight. I know it feels like the right thing to do, you see someone you notice the weight loss and you think “How can telling someone I’ve noticed their hard work and they look good as a result be bad?”

Factors That Can Cause Weight Loss

When doing some research on this subject, I learnt that some chronic illnesses can result in the person being limited on what they can eat therefore one of the side effects can be weight loss.

Bowel Rated Illnesses

Crones, IBS and Colitis for example, can result in lots of painful bowel movements which basically means their body is attacking what they eat. The illness can cause malabsorption which is where they are unable to absorb nutrients from their food. There is also nutrient losses due to constant diarrhoea too. A way to tackle this, is to go on a restrictive diet which can feel really depressing and limits their social life as it makes going out so much harder. Going to restaurants can be a nightmare that people would rather avoid because figuring out what you can have on the menu gets so tricky.

So when you see a person after months of not seeing them, you might not know that they have been battling with a stressful illness and that’s why they look thinner.

What Does Complimenting Do When Someone Has an Illness?

It reminds them of the illness they’re struggling with. At this point, they feel torn between correcting you while explaining it wasn’t intentional and it’s actually a bad thing or, accepting the compliment but inside they feel awful because they don’t want to talk about what’s wrong and you have just reminded them about it.

Eating Disorders

Commenting on someone’s weight even though you see it as a good thing can reinforce an eating disorder if that person has one. A compliment would encourage them to keep going, it would show them that everything is alright and that it’s not a problem. It would actually motivate them to keep loosing weight and validate that thinner is better. I spoke to many people in recovery, who all said the same thing.

Change In Medication

Antidepressants, other similar medications like antipsychotics and contraceptive pills for example have side effects of weight gain. Although they are meant to improve the persons life sometimes this side effect can be too much to bare so they have to come off it. As a result they may loose the weight but they don’t feel stable or in control of their life. Other medications taken to control a chronic physical illness can have nasty side effects that can take away a person’s appetite and it this point they maybe struggling to eat anything.

Rachel’s Story

Rachel: “I have very bad health anxiety and recently I was diagnosed with a chronic liver related autoimmune condition. I cut out alcohol immediately and as a result I lost weight. Lots of people complimented me on how slim I was looking. This almost tipped me over the edge, I thought I had lost weight because I might be dying but in any event the references to my weight exacerbated my health. Even now I feel like I have to justify why I have lost weight and inevitably end up talking about the diagnosis which I know doesn’t make for a positive mindset.”

Attention and Social Anxiety

Some people don’t mind attention and enjoy taking compliments. But others may suffer with social anxiety and would prefer to fade into the background when they socialise. Commenting on their weight can lead the to feeling like they are in some kind of spotlight where everyone is looking and judging.

Tom’s Story:

“For me it backfires because then I feel pressure to stick to carrying on loosing weight to justify the compliments. It also makes me realise that people notice my weight, that it’s not just something I do for me. All of which adds pressure to carry on losing weight, and pressure causes me to overanalyse what I eat, which often ends up causing me to stress so much that I give up.”

Backhanded Compliment

What is a backhanded compliment? A compliment which seems to compliment but actually ends up making you feel bad and insulting you.

Family members might say things they think are helpful like, “You’d look so nice if you only lost a bit of weight” or “Why don’t you try and loose some weight, it will probably help you get a boyfriend.” These comments usually leave lots of negative energy in the air.

Life Troubles

Weight loss could be a result of a tragedy like a horrible divorce, grieving a love one, stress of loosing a job. Like an illness they may feel put on the spot to explain why it is. More questions for weight loss tips, like asking them what’s their secret? May actually try an expose their painful secret. You’ve heard the expression, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. 

So What’s The Conclusion?

I bet you’re thinking now, too much political correctness these days and everyone is a bit too sensitive. How was I meant to know the person is going through all this, I just wanted to give them a compliment, everybody likes a compliment!

So the point of this article was not to come off as judgemental or telling you what to do. It was to get you to think about the possibilities that resulted from our negative society that views skinny as more desirable and that you don’t know what is going on in people’s heads. I’ve actually received compliments from people I consider very mental health sensitive and who are employed in mental health fields. I did accept the compliment but then quoted my research I was doing for this article, although, these people did know I was trying out Weight Watchers at the time, so with this fact there is room for complimenting people. I think this is ok because that is the intended goal of being on the program, so it shows their hard work is paying off.

So to concluded I would just take a moment to think when you see a person and consider complimenting them, an ask yourself is this coming from a positive and productive place and so do I really know all the facts about what is going on in their life?

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

photo of tape measure - siora photography

Scales photo - I yunmai

Photo by Thought Catalog - all from Unsplash

Names were changed for privacy. 

Anticipation Anxiety – Negative and Racing Thoughts Before an Event and Tips to Help

The more time we have before the event the more scenarios we can imagine. These events can be anything from a job interview to a first date. Maybe it’s the travelling before the holiday or social arrangement you made weeks ago.  It could be a concert you booked a while back or family wedding you have to attend or maybe it’s an impending exam.  Maybe it’s as small as someone you know has asked to go out for drinks. Lots of events can trigger this anticipation anxiety.

My Experience:

When I was younger, in school, I used to commit to performing main roles in plays. I loved the adrenaline and I was good at it. Now I’m too scared to commit to anything like that in advance. I now know the suffering and pain of having anxious racing thoughts when saying yes to an event.

I personally have a hard time planning for future events. Because of having a chronic illness (endometriosis) and suffering from anxiety, it’s hard to know in advance if my body will be up to dealing with the committed event. Over the years I am getting better and I’ve been using CBT therapy tried to commit to more things to conquer this. But usually, I plan my social arrangements a few days before or on the day. This can lead me to feel like I’m missing out and it’s something I’m trying to work on.

Catastrophising 

What are some of my thoughts when someone asks me to commit?

I start thinking of the worst-case scenarios and catastrophise:

  • What if it’s really awkward?
  • What happens if I feel ill and want to leave? Do I have to stay? Will they think I’m rude for needing to leave?
  • What if I want to cancel will they think I’m flaky and get annoyed?
  • What happens if I think I’m ill but really it’s just nerves?
  • What if I think it’s just nerves but I end up getting really ill so far away from my house? How will I get home? Will the journey back feel like hell?
  • What happens if I get overwhelmed, where will I go?
  • Remember that time that awful thing happened, what if it happens again?
  • Remember that time you were sitting around in a group of people but you didn’t feel like you were present or knew what to say?
  • Remember that feeling like you were on the outside looking in?

What Usually Happens Next for Me

All these thoughts run through my head without even being aware that I go through the same process each time and 9 out 10 times the outing goes ok. This is when someone I confided in will usually tell me to “Stop worrying! You’ve done it before. You’re usually ok” which isn’t entirely true, nor do I find this kind of dismissive reaction helpful. The more helpful people around me remind me I have good coping methods and I’m stronger than I give myself credit for, they also remind me I’m only human and human’s get ill so of course I can cancel. 

One of the only ways I cope with committing is it’s easier if the person is a close friend and knows about my anxiety and chronic illness, I feel better falling ill around them or I don’t feel they will end our friendship if I have to cancel. 

Anxiety Symptoms

Thoughts can go round and round your head and it uses up a lot of effort to silence them.  You might feel tightness in your chest and shortness of breath when you think about it. You may even start to sweat with worry. You could be up at night stressing about it.  Your heart might race. You could have trouble concentrating in school or at work.  These are all symptoms of anxiety. And it’s ok, not everyone can recognise when this is happening or have in place a healthy coping method to fix it.

How Can You Reduce Your Anxiety?

  • Talk to someone who you trust, talk over what you are worried is going to happen and how you feel. They should reassure you.
  • If you don’t have anyone you feel you can trust to talk to: ring a helpline like The Samaritans, join a Facebook support group for anxiety or if you’re in therapy bring this up. 
  • Remember that you are stronger than you think and you will get through it
  • Remember about all the times it went right or even something amazing happened.  
  • Distract yourself – spend time with someone you get on with like friends or family. Offer to help someone else because doing something for someone else will give you something good to focus on and you’ll feel needed.
  • Self Care- run a relaxing bath, watch a feel-good film, go for a walk, practise yoga.
  • Exercise- all that pent up stress can be released through a good workout, it will give you endorphins which will make you feel better and also the feel-good high you get from accomplishing something good for you doesn’t hurt either.
  • Preparation – some preparation can make you feel better but you must be mindful to not get obsessive and overplan. But the right amount of planning can be helpful. So take your in-case-of-emergency-kit. If I was going on a long trip my kit would include: a charged tablet, good downloaded films, magazines, music playlist, podcasts. I would also take with me some chocolate as a treat to make myself feel good. As well as this I take my travel mug with my favourite herbal tea in it. All these positive associations can work wonders and you often look forward instead to having time to listen to a good podcast or watch a film. Another way to plan is to choose safe topics to talk about at social events, this helps with awkward silences or changing the subject when discussing a topic you don’t like.
  • Write it down- Sometimes just putting pen to paper can help you work out how you really feel. I’ve often journaled when I’m anxious and managed to process the worry in a healthy way. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

I hope this post has helped reduce some of your worries. Let me know in the comments what events make you sick with worry. 

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Planner photo by Eric Rothermel

Many clocks photo by Jon Tyson