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Complimenting Weight Loss

This week I took to Instagram (like most other anti-diet providers) to give my two cents regarding a certain celebrity that’s being lauded publicly for changing their body. But it felt like there was still more to say. I don’t think it’s necessary to name names here; if you know you know, and if you don’t, well honestly good for you because you must be doing a great job limiting your media consumption.

Hear me out, the problem isn't even the change of body shape. Obviously none of us know the story behind this individual’s choices, and none of us know their medical history. You are not a bad person for desiring weight loss, but it’s also no one’s obligation to lose weight (even under the guise of improving health). And that’s just it. You can’t tell anything about a person's health from their appearance alone. And the antiquated notion that weight = health is just BS. And anytime we celebrate weight loss (as innocent or genuine as our intention might be), we are pushing the narrative that weight = health and weight = worth, which evidence-based research shows just isn’t true. Dieting and weight cycling can actually be an independent risk factor for disease. Health promoting behaviors have been shown to improve health outcomes; weight loss simply isn’t a health promoting behavior in and of itself.

These notions also give the idea that someone’s body is the most interesting thing about them and minimizes a person down to their appearance alone. Again, if you know you know this specific celeb has quite an impressive resume regardless of the way they look or looked. Oh and even just typing “celebrate weight loss” felt icky - I love a good celebration (anything that’s gonna provide more cake, music, laughter into my life), but weight loss is just not something you’re gonna see me throwing confetti around for. It’s not you or your body that’s the problem, it is our culture that is the problem.

If you’re still finding that you’re struggling to understand why complimenting or applauding weight loss is problematic, let me narrow it down to a few key points:

  • This reinforces that someone’s more worthy of praise in a smaller body

  • Implies the most important, interesting, lovable, celebratory aspect about a person is their body

  • Can be inadvertently complimenting a health problem or mental health struggle

  • Gives an indirect message to others that bodies are something to be changed, especially if they look similar to an individuals “before”

So can we say “hello to the other side” of this topic and move on to discussing anything else about a person but their body?

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