The first thing my family had to say to me when I visited home from college for the first time was, “You’ve lost too much weight.”
These words, although our society celebrates them, felt like a badge of shame to me. I was reduced to strictly my appearance in a matter of seconds, before a “Hello” or a “How are you?” could even be exchanged.
As most individuals do, I have struggled with my weight fluctuating throughout my life time. In times of stress and anxiety, I can gain or lose a quick 20 pounds. The transition into college life was an extremely hectic time for me, and admittedly, I lost a bit of weight.
I am now dealing with the frustrating reality of my weight loss, and my weight by default, being an unavoidable topic of conversation with family and friends almost constantly.
My weight loss, which is not something I attempted to do or am particularly proud of, is the lead line of questioning. My body and physical appearance always seems to trump in importance how my classes are going, or how I am doing emotionally.
The compliments however, are the most frustrating. “Congrats on your weightloss!” says a family member. “You look so good!” says a friend. These compliments, although well intented, only cause me and many others who have been in this situation before to think- did I not look good before? Is my stress related weight loss really something to be proud of?
What we do when we comment on other’s bodies is reduce them to their appearance. We erase the power their mind’s hold, and we erase the experiences that have led them to the place where they are now.
Bodies are inherently private things. I for one hate when people talk about my body, because it makes me feel like I am on display. I know many people that hate compliments for this exact reason. Body compliments, specifically, can oftentimes feel like an invasion of privacy.
When was the last time someone told you that you “looked good”? When was the last time someone told you that you were intelligent or that you were strong? Which one means more to you?
I challenge you to listen to the way you speak to your friends and family. How often do you comment on aspects of their bodies that are not changeable in the short term even if it is a compliment? How often do you compliment them on their abilities and their achievements?
I think refraining from making comments, positive or negative, about other’s bodies promotes much more meaningful expressions of admiration and gratitude. It also delegitimizes the common thought trap that our appearance is what makes us worthy.
We are worth so much more than our outward appearance. Give someone close to you a compliment that really means something by refraining from discussing their body.