I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it many times more:
Why weight-loss praise isn't helpful?
Focus on weight, and talking about weight loss, makes people hyper-focused on it.
If we praise people based on their bodies over other things, that becomes the most important thing about us. That often leads to us putting our energy into that- people arrange their lives around a diet/exercise plan in the hope of weighing a few pounds less. What a waste of our precious time.
When we tell people they are good for losing weight and that those who attempt to lose weight are good people, weight becomes associated with morality (and of course it is not and should not be perceived as such).
We believe in the skinny=heathy myth that tells us weight loss is necessary for health, discussion and praising of weight loss perpetuates this. I've talked about this before in my video "Skinny doesn't equal healthy".
It indicates that weight is an interesting thing about you when it really isn't. What about our achievements, our opinions, our humour, our kindness and basically everything else about us that is more interesting than our body size!
It is nobody's business what you weigh/size of your clothes.
Praising a loss of weight feels like judgement of your body- was it was less aesthetically pleasing before the weight loss? Did that person think less of me before the weight loss? Was I a less "good" person before? It's a backhanded compliment, right?!
In this week's #MondayMoan video (watch below), I discuss the potential seriousness of weight loss.
Our bodies do everything they can to maintain our weight- it is a protective mechanism for the survival of our species. So when there is significant weight loss, it can indicate that something is not right.
Physical ill-health: When we are unwell, hospitalised or suffering from an illness not yet diagnosed, weight loss can occur. Weight loss is a sign or symptom for a range of illnesses, including diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Emotionally strained times: Heart break, grief, loss and stress- these emotional states can lead to periods of weight loss, because at these moments health is not our number one priority.
Mental health challenges: Periods of anxiety, depression, OCD and a range of other mental health issues can lead to weight loss. During times of ill mental health, food and nutrition is often not the health priority. These mental health struggles can lead to issues around food access (E.G. having to leave home to go to supermarket) or challenges cooking for oneself (tiredness, lack of appetite etc).
Weight loss can occur due to any of the circumstances mentioned above, and this weight loss certainly could not be considered "healthy". Yet, people are often complimented for their weight loss following such difficult life periods.
This obviously is not ideal behaviour- surely a good friend would ask how you feel, not how you dropped weight?! But it is most serious when those suffering with disordered eating, exercise compulsion and eating disorders are praised for weight loss.
These disorders are encouraged by weight-based compliments. Supporting the weight loss is supporting the disorder, and that is not helpful for the sufferer. Those in recovery from anorexia nervosa mention that they were praised for looking so good/skinny/healthy at times when they were under-weight, purging, exercising to excess and in general were in a terrible place. But the compliments made them continue, rather than seek any help or support. If your best friend says you look great, you aren't going to tell them how ill you are.
Moral of the story:
Praising weight loss doesn't help anyone, but it may have a negative impact. So why bother?
Lots of love,
Little O x