How can I get people to stop complimenting my weight loss?

September 9 | meggyfin
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Measuring tape bracelet from Etsy seller BraceletsbyLinda
Measuring tape bracelet from Etsy seller BraceletsbyLinda

I have history of fluctuating weight. I generally go up and down anywhere from 10-25 pounds year to year. My weight fluctuations are attributable to a few different things including emotional eating, depression, normal life changes and illness.

I get tired of people commenting on how great I look when I lose or telling me I look great because I've lost weight. Beside saying, "Please don't comment about my weight," which can come across brisk and invite further questions about why… are there any suggestions on more succinctly letting people know their "complements" are triggering and annoying? -YB

Oh man, I've been there! When I went through a divorce, I dropped a lot of weight — an unhealthy amount of weight. (The kind where the slightest breeze would leave a bruise because I wasn't getting enough nutrients.) And yet, people kept telling me how "great" I looked.

But I didn't feel great. I didn't feel like I looked great. Those "compliments" weren't great. My response, in true Megan-style, was to make an awkward joke. "Oh yeah? I guess trauma looks good on me."

But what methods have YOU found successful too get people to stop complimenting weight loss?

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  1. I tell people that I don't appreciate comments relating to my body. It's hard to deal with this sort of thing, and you !right have to remind people a couple of times not to it, but remember that you do not need to justify (or provide explanations for) the size, shape, or appearance of your body.
    If it makes you uncomfortable to have people comment on it, you have the right to ask them to stop!

    I also think I have read some other articles about this topic elsewhere, I'll scout around for them and share the links if I find them! ­čÖé

    10 agree
  2. Go the direct yet kind route.

    "Thank you, I know you meant that as a compliment. My weight is a sensitive topic for me and I'd rather not discuss it. Please, next time you think about my awesome body, resist the urge to comment on it."

    26 agree
  3. Yeah, I've recently lost weight due to developing type 1 diabetes – I'd much, much rather have kept the weight and not developed the life threatening metabolic disease, but telling people who're complimenting me on it is really hard. I just kind of wait for the inevitable "how did you do it?" and try and grin and make a joke of replying "Illness" and they tend to leave it as that. Obviously I'd rather live in a society where changes in the bodies of women you barely know towards an unattainable ideal aren't a topic of conversation you can bring up round the water cooler but, well, that isn't happening any time soon so this will have to do.

    5 agree
  4. This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I'm not sure you can stop people from complimenting you on your weight, especially when it comes to acquaintances. With close friends / family, you might have the social capital to say, "My weight is a sensitive topic, and I'd prefer that we don't talk about it." But for people who only see you occasionally, and who aren't close to you? I don't think you'll get much traction. Compliments about weight loss are — for better or worse — generally seen as "safe" in North American society. They're a typical conversation opener when you want to make someone feel good about themselves. ("Hey! Haven't seen you in years! You're lookin' great! Have you lost weight?")

    At times like that, I think you can't change the outer world, you can only change your reaction to it. I'm not a therapist and I don't have any good answers for how to do so, but working on your internal response will probably net you a better result then trying to tell people not to "compliment" you.

    40 agree
    • I agree and I'd like to add to this…Yes, our society is way too fixated on appearance. However, for those of us who struggle to lose weight, the complements really help keep us motivated. It might be healthier for us if we didn't need external validation but we do. Folks who comment on another person's weight loss are trying to be supportive. I think explaining to those who you are close to why the comments aren't helpful to you is fine as it brings you closer together to share these kinds of things. However, trying to explain to acquaintances would be TMI and not worth the effort unless you want their entire social circle to know what is going on with you.

      Really, I think people are just trying to be nice. If they are told that comments that have always been accepted as nice or kind really aren't for some then why should they make the effort at all. Everyone has some sort of pain that is outside the norm for their particular issue. It becomes too confusing trying to figure out what topics are safe. Every conversation becomes a potential mine field. (Even the weather causes pain for those of us with arthritis.) Being nice becomes a bad thing. For me, there isn't enough niceness in the world, so I will always try to err on the side of kindness.

      As for how to deal with it internally, I've commented about this in posts about infertility, because that is my issue. Acquaintances have no way of knowing a simple question can cause pain for me. I found that when I tried explaining it to an acquaintance it just made us both feel bad. Sharing details made me uncomfortable and made them feel guilty, even thought they never meant to cause me pain. Life became much easier for me when I learned to accept questions, comments, and complements as they were intended. Instead of thinking, "this person is hurting me and I need to make them stop right now!", I think, "OK, they don't know and are just trying to be helpful." (The best was when I recently heard the comment "You still have plenty of time to have kids" as "You look 10 years younger!") The questions and comments actually cause a lot less pain now that I can appreciate the goodwill behind them. I can respond accordingly without oversharing. Sometimes a simple "Thank you" is appropriate. I am not thanking them for hurting me but for their efforts to be kind.

      For those experiencing pain on this issue for various reasons, I genuinely hope that your situation will be resolved the way you would choose so that you will be pain free.

      15 agree
      • Whew, I think I needed to hear this! Thanks. I am hardest on the people closest to me, because I (for some reason) expect them to know how everything they say to me will make me feel. I need to get back to giving them a bit more credit for their intentions.

    • I agree. For me, the issue is being a 6'4" woman. Not a day goes by (unless I don't leave the house) where I don't get some type of comment. Being tall is generally perceived as a "good thing", although it's been the bane of my existence for my entire life, and I hate the comments but I can't stop them. People think they're being complimentary and they mean it in a good way (so I've been told), but there's nothing I can do except ignore it or be snarky if I'm in a bad mood or just over it. My close friends and family know not to discuss it, but rando strangers will always be obnoxious and comment on physical appearance, and with acquaintances I don't know well, I just kind of laugh and say "haha yeah, I hate it" and change the subject. A lot of "rules" that have been ingrained in society (like how weight loss is always a good thing and worth complimenting someone) are stupid, because bodies are the business of their owner. I try to make an effort to not mention other people's bodies unless I know it's warranted (if I know a friend has been actively trying to lose weight and is excited to show her new size, for example) because I hate it so much when people comment on mine every damn day.

      3 agree
  5. It's been a while since I lost weight for people to comment on but I usually just says 'oh, thanks' in an embarrassed way and change the subject. It's hard to change society one conversation at a time. Some people are seriously indoctrinated into the whole weight monitoring thing and life does not make sense to them without it. I've had the blank stares when I say that I try not to pay attention to itthese things. They think I'm strange.

    Keep telling yourself that your way is better for your mental health.

    4 agree
  6. My Mom has gone through a lot of this in the past year. Due to gastroparesis and small intestine polyps, she's not eating much and absorbing even less. She's gone from a petite 4/6 to being able to wear girl's size 14 jeans. People still comment that she "looks great," and she typically either ignores the comment completely, or depending on the relationship with the commenter, takes a couple of minutes to explain that she's really quite ill. Our society (American, at least) is so ingrained with the idea that thinner is better, that they can't tell when it starts to look sickly. Sorry for the TMI, i don't think that's the OP's problem, but damn if i don't feel the pain through my Mom's story!

    My best advice would be to just ignore the weight comment like it didn't happen. Most people, i think, will get the point that it's not sonething you want to discuss. For those who don't get it on the first try, add a pause and a glare before moving on in conversation. For peoplle who you think you can have that conversation with, a quick, "thank you, but you know things fluctuate with me, and I'd really rather not talk about it or have my attention brought to it" should be more than acceptable. If your friends can't repect that and move on with you, maybe they should occupy less space in your life.

    4 agree
  7. I feel this. I recently had a baby and dropped the weight without much effort and very quickly, but I am still struggling 8 months later with an excruciatingly painful birth injury that I will be getting surgery for in a couple weeks. Many people commented on how great I looked, but I would've much rather had an extra 20 pounds and not be in pain. I took the route the commenter suggested above. With people I didn't know well, I'd just say "thanks" and move on. With close friends/family, I'd say, "Well, I don't feel great." And explain what was going on.

    3 agree
  8. You could try the half-joking approach:
    -"Are you saying I didn't look great before?"
    … embarrassment ensues and people will drop the topic.
    … or people will awkwardly try to justify themselves and you can start from there to explain why you don't welcome weight-related comments, if you feel so inclined.

    16 agree
  9. I have lost and gained much weight over my adult life as I have struggled to gain control over my metabolism and have undergone hormonal treatments for varying gynaecological issues. I had to ask my mother explicitly not to comment on my weight changes either way.

    With others though I just don't react. It sounds harsh because that "oh thanks" response is so ingrained but we really are not obligated to thank for something we didn't want to receive in the first place and it does send a mixed message. I just utterly ignore what's been said and try and politely ask a reasonable boundaried question about their life that shows I am interested. Sometimes modelling can be more effective than saying.

    The other thing I have had to adress is my own urge to give a compliment to female friends and relatives I want to show love to. Swapping "you look great" to " it's so good to see you!" for instance. I have noticed this being picked up and said back to me, I suppose again it's modelling.

    6 agree
    • I like to swap the emphasis from their body to their clothes or hair – something they chose, rather than something that may be a function of biology. "That outfit looks great on you!" or "I love your shoes!" or even "your makeup looks amazing today!" Then you're complimenting a choice they made of how to present themselves and the skill that goes into that presentation.

      14 agree
      • Yes! I love receiving compliments on things that I specifically chose. I love when people comment that they like the purple and pink and blue stripes I put in my hair. But eff you to the people who gush on and on about my being super tall. That wasn't a choice!

        2 agree
  10. I get co-workers asking if I am eating enough or am I on a diet, whenever I lose weight. It's so rude, but I think it's because weight loss shows first in my face, and worries people. It's none of their business though. My response is usually to tell them I'm not doing anything differently, but thanks, I guess. Then I look their body up and down and turn the tables; "Do you drink alcohol? Your body will feel so much better if you cut it completely. I did that a long time ago." Or I tell them how much I love green smoothies and yoga. Nobody wants to hear that shit. Just as much as I don't want to hear their views on my body. Typically the same person won't comment more than once anyway, so there's no real point to telling them not to, unless it's a friend or family that doesn't quit.

    2 agree
  11. Uugh. THIS! I lost a lot of weight three years ago. I was on a mission to do so, but only to resolve some other major health issues and manage my depression. It was SO frustrating to me psychologically when people mentioned my weight loss, because it almost always reminded me of how unhealthy I was before.

    Also, I became very self conscious because people who never used to give me the time of day, were now noticing me. I got cat-called a lot more, which made me feel super icky.

    1 agrees
  12. Before my sister died from cancer, the first sign that she was out of remission was some pretty drastic loss of weight she had been carrying since her recovery from her first round of chemo – the kind where her body looked like she was fit and healthy, but her face looked skeletal and haunted. Part of why the recurrence killed her was that people (doctors included) didn't realize that the weight loss was actually a symptom of her cancer returning. She herself was super pleased that she had finally shed the 20 pounds she had been working on for five years or more. Probably 6 months later, she was dead.

    You can imagine, then, how I feel about that 'compliment'.

    I prefer to take the time and really pick apart why I'm not okay with someone complimenting my weight loss. I let them see my pain and anxiety, and if they feel embarrassed by my sharing, good. THEY brought up something which in my opinion should be considered rude in our society but isn't. Let them carry the emotional fallout of that.

    I also don't care how well I know them. I'm the type to jump on the awkward grenade; THEY made it awkward, THEY can deal.

    9 agree
    • This is exactly why I usually hesitate to say anything at all about a person's weight loss, until they do. I always have kind of a nagging "I hope they're doing that on purpose" worry if I see something really drastic.

      3 agree
  13. Turn it around with, "Oh, why do you say I look great NOW?" But say it with a ridiculous amount of sweetness. Make them have to explain this nonsense.

    3 agree
  14. Huh. It hadn't occurred to me yet to try! But I am also losing weight, for reasons of eating differently and exercising a LOT because it makes me feel better (I'm chronically ill). Unsurprisingly, this has led to a drop in the number on the scale, but that's not why I did it.

    The one thing that I *have* done is make sure I'm very careful how I speak about it around my kids. It's interesting that the weight is going down, in particular because sleep apnea runs in my family and can be closely related to extra weight. BUT I make sure that the kids know that I am very happy with my body image at my old weight as well as my shrinking weight (an I am!).

    As for other people, well… I'll just tell them that I was doing it for health reasons, and hope they shut up.

    1 agrees
  15. "I hope I still look great when I put it back on."
    "Why do you think you'll put it back on?"
    "My weight always fluctuates due to medical stuff. I'd like to think I look great when I gain weight, too, since it's inevitable."

    It's hard not to tell people they look good whwn they lose weight. I was actually talking to a friend recently about her running and weight loss and I ended it with "well you look great" even though I think she looked better before. Because what else do you say?

    2 agree
    • Because what else do you say (once you've determined it isn't because of a health problem or something they're upset or worried about)?

      1 agrees
  16. I also had this issue, having lost weight dramatically because of 1) a relationship that turned emotionally abusive and the subsequent divorce, and 2) a series of deaths of people close to me. Sometimes I would say, "really? Because it's been a terrible year…" but mostly I didn't have a good response either. It's so sad that our society has been taught to read our weight rather than the expression on our face as a sign of how we are….

    1 agrees
  17. At dinner at my parents' house a few weeks ago, my mom commented to my brother that he looked like he lost some weight, because his face was looking more "fit". And then continued to talk about how our other brother (not present) looked like he put one some pounds.

    I looked across at my sister and said bluntly, "Wow, I forgot that some people still think it's OK to comment on others' bodies…"

    That worked.

    14 agree
  18. I've always been really careful about these sort of comments, especially after a difficult year in college where I either had a eating disorder, or nearly had one. The positive comments fed into it, and since they all were so positive, made me fear gaining any weight back. (I went from 120lbs at 5'6" to 105lbs, still boggles my mind that I got WAY more positive remarks on my appearance than worried ones.) It doesn't take much for a simple diet to turn really dark and potentially dangerous. My husband's family (mostly his mom, but these things trickle down) have an incredibly hostile view of fat, and he used to complimenting by saying "have you lost weight?" Drove me crazy, especially since his sister is constantly going on these extreme diets, which always fail, and gets SUCH PRAISE when she loses the weight, and TONS of criticism when she gains it back. I know have educated him on how terrible it is to do that, and how it's actually REALLY SURPRISING that the sister never developed an eating disorder from the pressure they (espeically the mother) puts on her.

    2 agree
  19. I lost a lot of weight after having twins (and nursing them both for 2+ years while going through a horrifyingly stressful period of financial and personal insecurity), and can't hear comments about my weight without flashing to memories of days when I had to feed my kids instead of myself, or nights when my husband and I tried to strategize getting through the month without losing our jobs or going crazy. When I get those comments, I try to bring up something that I DO want people to pay attention to instead. "Thanks, but can I tell you about the great book I'm reading?" "Yes, I have lost weight, but I'm really excited about the grad school I started last month!" It shifts the topic almost instantly, and especially when there is no way I can push a serious conversation, it saves me feeling miserable and bitter.

    2 agree
  20. My response to that remark after I had dropped 30lbs was, "I got really ill. I do not recommend the swine flu diet. It was awful."

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